Biography on Walter Sickert

Walter Richard Sickert was born in Germany in 1860 to a wealthy family with a long lineage of artists, and he is a famous British painter and printmaker who is known for many of his paintings and artworks. He has artistic works published in The Yellow Nineties Book vol. 2, which is fitting, as he was considered to be an iconic figure in the Avant-guard art scene (Rough, 17). Sickert worked as an actor for a while before transitioning to the fine arts and painting, however, his history in theater performance remained part of his focus as an artist. He is notorious for his interest in theatrical depictions and music hall ‘subjects’ (patrons), and his desire to capture live performances, which at the time, was considered ‘vulgar’ and against Victorian puritanism. Further, there was a stigma surrounding female music hall performers for being sexualized and akin to prostitutes. Sickert’s choice to have captured not only these performers but also the movement of the hall and the expression of the audience member was strange. The audience members were in fact a large appeal to the aesthetic appearance of his music hall paintings and sketches. This was because music halls towards the end of the 1800s were becoming increasingly diverse, the crowds attracted both young and old people, and they were most often working-class people. Sickert’s efforts to memorialize the day to day life of working-class people was equally concerning and uncommon. He was a leader of the ‘urban realist’ movements, and associated meaning to ordinary life, particularly during the period of his life when he was living in Camden Town, London (Daniels, 58). He wanted to ‘shock the real’, and legitimize urban realism as an art form, advocating for a subtle social shift that was less derogatorily assumptive of working-class people and domestic life. He often did sketches of the boisterous environments as they were happening, and later replicated the sketches through painting or prints. 

Strangely enough, people have made bold assumptions that his interest in Jack the Ripper murders, was really a ploy for him actually being Jack the Ripper. It became a rumor in the literary scene that he was somehow an accomplice or the culprit to Jack the Ripper. 

Works Cited

Daniels , Rebecca. The British Art Journal , vol. 3, no. 2, 2002, pp. 58–69. (Spring 2002) .

Rough, William W. “Walter Richard Sickert and the Theatre, C.1880-C.1940.” University of St Andrews, September, 2010.