Artist biography

Walter Richard Sickert with his Head Shaved c.1920
Fig.1
Walter Richard Sickert with his Head Shaved c.1920
Unlike the majority of the Camden Town Group, Walter Richard Sickert (figs.1 and 2) was recognised during his own lifetime as an important artist, and in the years since his death has increasingly gained a reputation as one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century British art. He was universally acknowledged throughout his life as a colourful, charming and fascinating character, a catalyst for progress and modernity, yet someone who remained independent of groups, cliques and categories. As a younger man he was widely reported to be an entertaining and skilled raconteur, popular within cultural and social circles and friendly with numerous famous personalities of the era. In his old age he cultivated his many eccentric habits and courted a level of celebrity, frequently appearing in the newspapers for having changed his appearance, his name, or for his latest controversial painting stunt. His art, like his personality, is multifaceted, complex and compelling.
Sickert was a cosmopolitan figure. The eldest of six children, he was born in Munich on 31 May 1860 to a Danish father (with German nationality) and an Anglo-Irish mother. His early years were spent in Germany, but in 1868 the family moved to England. London remained his principal home for the rest of his life, although he also lived for periods in France and Italy. He spoke fluent English, German and French, and had a good command of Italian. His father, Oswald Adalbert Sickert, was a painter and woodcut illustrator for a comic paper, the Fliegende Blätter, and although his young son received no early formal training, art and culture formed an integral part of his upbringing. His schooling was undertaken in a variety of establishments including the King’s College School, London.

Nicola Moorby
May 2006

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