Walter Sickert

Matthew Sturgis

Walter Richard Sickert is perhaps the outstanding figure of British art during the last hundred years. Many contemporary painters, from Hodgkin and Bacon to Auerbach and Kossof, acknowledge a debt to his influence. His career spanned six decades of unceasing experiment and achievement. As a young artist, he was welcomed and encouraged by Degas. He was the disciple of Whistler and mentor of Beardsley. He founded the London Impressionists and the Camden Town Group. He was taken up by both the Woolfs and the Sitwells. He gave painting lessons to Winston Churchill.

His energy was prodigious and his personality fascinating: he was also an illustrator, cartoonist, writer, polemicist, teacher and wit. He relished controversy: his early paintings of London music halls and his late works, based on 18th-century etchings and contemporary news photographs, provoked outraged criticism from conventional commentators.

Sturgis also devotes an appendix to charting in detail Sickert’s posthumous life as a player in the ‘Jack the Ripper’ circus, assessing (and demolishing) the arguments of Patricia Cornwell and others in the light of his own discoveries.

Reviews of Walter Sickert

  • ‘[Sturgis] clearly has a profound sense of the paradoxes underlying the man and his work. Meticulous, heartfelt and thoroughly convincing.’ Times Literary Supplement

    ‘A truly comprehensive, grandsweep biography. Detailed, amusing and moving. Brilliantly done, an outstanding achievement. At last Sickert has the biography he deserves.” Spectator

    ‘Excellent and authoritative, Sturgis’s scholarship is exemplary.’ Guardian

    ‘A fine biography.’ Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

    ‘A biography that is as sure in its chronicling of artistic movements and trends as in its acute attention to the life of its subject.’ Financial Times

    ‘Magisterial, taut and fresh, it is a measure of how impressive Sickert’s life, career and influence is that it feels more apt to argue that the artist has been fortunate in his biographer.’ Independent