Walter Sickert

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One of the most influential figures of the twentieth century British Art scene, Walter Sickert is the only one of the Camden Town Groups artists who was able to make a mark during his living years. Sickert founded the Camden group himself which celebrated the work of avant garde artists during the challenging Victorian times. Sickert was celebrated due to his successful transitioning from the Impressionism style to the Modern era. Sickert’s work had strong characteristics of modernity, and hard work and despite being quite popular in the art scene during those times Sickert always distanced himself from various cliques and groups. He also gained a reputation for being friends with famous personalities like Winston Churchill – who soon became a solid painting buddy. Just like his art, Sickert was a compelling and complex personality.

Walter Richard Sickert was born in 1860 in Munich, Germany to an artist and his home-maker wife. Sickert belonged to a strong line of artists with his grandfather and great grandfather both being artists as well. His father moved the family to England on the recommendation of a friend in order to get more of his paintings noticed. Success for his father was followed by Sickert enrolling into King’s College in London. After a brief and bizarre stint as an actor the young Sickert travelling to Paris where he properly developed his love for art. This was soon followed by a trip to Venice, Italy to gain more knowledge about the artistic world. Throughout his life as an artist, despite calling London home Sickert developed a strong affinity for Paris and Venice and continued to visit both places until his death. Both cities are credited for igniting the artistic flair in Sickert. Sickert was also an artist who liked pushing boundaries that era’s challenging times – his paintings were often set against violent scenes and show cased the poor and working class society which many other artists chose to ignore during that time. He was deeply interested in the darker side of that Victorian age, especially the dark atmosphere surround the Jack the Ripper cases which had enveloped London. His most famous or infamous – depending on who you ask – work titled ‘Jack the Rippers Bedroom’ features a shadowy tall faceless figure standing in a dark melancholy room. This work of Sickerts was painted soon after the artist questioned the landlady of a hotel who claimed to have housed the infamous murderer himself. His infatuation with the Ripper murders was a cause of concern and disconcertion for many in the artistic circles. His keen interest in the Ripper murder case have led many to believe that Sickert may have been either involved in the Ripper cases as an accomplice or may have been the infamous murderer himself. This wild theory has been the subject matter of many books, it has also been refuted many times by detectives and Sickert scholars.

Walter Sickert was faced with criticism from the art circles for painting the dark side of the era he lived in, his subject matters often contained beggars, prostitutes and actresses – all of which were considered to be below the social circles of those times. In certain ways his paintings unsettled the upper classes during those times.

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