An Intriguing Artwork: “The Old Bedford Music Hall” by Walter Sickert

While studying various artworks in The Yellow Book,  specifically by Walter Sickert, it was surprising to see such art represented in a popular magazine of the 19th century due to the “ordinary” subject matters his art consists. His artwork depicts the essence of decadence – in the sense that they beautify subject matter that were not considered art worthy; lives of ordinary people. In his sketch, “The Old Bedford Music Hall” , Sickert depicts the scenes of a theatrical performance of a female, which is drawn from the audience’s perspective. Firstly, the perspective in itself is a an avant-grand point of view-  he is inviting the viewer into his artwork, he is giving authority to the viewer. This perspective also works well with the intentions of the editors of The Yellow Book, to make it accessible and relatable to a broader, more general audience. Moreover, the concept of intermediality is prevalent in this artwork, this also speaks about  the intentions of the editors, to showcase something new!

Furthering the idea of an avant-grand artwork, interestingly, the sketch depicts a moment in time, it is as if it is a diary entry. However, the controversial aspect of this artwork is hidden in the point of view; upon closer examination it is notable that instead of the performance being emphasized or the stage, the individual female figure who is performing is prominent through the mirrored image. The adoration of the female figure here reminds me of the male gaze- ‘staring’ at the female body as an object. Therefore, this idea of promoting the male gaze in a mainstream media not only fascinates me but makes me curious as to what degree did popular art/literature works like The Yellow Book influenced the society in terms of viewing female as an object. Did these artworks- unintentionally or otherwise – promoted the notion of the male gaze?

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