Sickert and the Camden Town Group of artists

Thursday, June 17, 2021 - 10:30




10.30 to 13.00. 2 lectures and a Q& A session

Lecturer: Julian Halsby

Cost: £20

1030 – 1130 Lecture one

Highly educated and well read, witty, outspoken, a natural leader and an excellent artist, Walter Sickert 1860-1942 is one of the most fascinating figures in British art. Born in Munich of a Danish father who was a commercial artist, Sickert was brought up in London. Unable to attend university for financial reasons, he briefly joined the theatre before becoming an apprentice to Whistler. In 1885 he accompanied Whistler’s ‘Portrait of the Artist’s Mother’ to Paris where he met Edgar Degas and his career as an Impressionist painter began. Back in London Sickert regularly attended music hall events and painted the stars and audience of The Old Bedford, Gatti’s and many other venues. For many years he was based in Dieppe and exhibited in Paris alongside the Impressionists, but he also visited Venice regularly between 1895 and 1905, before returning to London in 1906 to paint and work in Camden Town and Mornington Crescent. He became the centre of a young group of artists who were to form the Camden Town Group under his leadership. Sickert’s method of painting was unusual, never painting on the spot, but working from drawings. He uses dark brooding colours and creates thick impasto with his paint. He created a personal style which is unique and instantly recognizable. In the inter- war years he developed a different style often based on photographs, but in addition to painting Sickert was a brilliant etcher and teacher. He was also a very capable art critic with strongly expressed views. He has probably had more influence on current figurative painters such as Ken Howard, Diana Armfield and Bernard Dunstan and a whole generation of younger British artists than any other single artist.

1130 – 1145 Short break

1145-1245 Lecture two

Many younger artists looked to Sickert for leadership in the years after 1900 as he was one of the few English artists with an international reputation. In 1904 Spencer Gore visited Sickert in Dieppe and suggested that he returned to London. After some meetings in London, Sickert declared that ‘We have made history’ when the Camden Town Group was formed and in 1911 they held their first exhibition at the Carfax Gallery in Bury Street. The leading artists of the group were Spencer Gore, Harold Gilman, Charles Ginner, Robert Bevan, Malcolm Drummond, and William Ratcliffe, although other artists such as Henry Lamb and Lucien Pissarro were at times involved. These young artists ‘modernised’ Sickert’s work by using brighter colours and modern subjects such as trains, London buses, railway stations, cinemas and even the early Underground stations. They lived and worked in North London hence their name and were determined to paint modern life in the capital. The Camden Town painters have been described by Wendy Baron as ‘The Perfect Moderns’ in their 2008 retrospective at Tate Britain.

1245 – 1300 Q&A

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The Zoom link will be sent out just before the event.

Please note that for copyright reasons we are not able to record the lecture for later viewing.