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Sickert painted this work during the early part of the First World War, and it has a pervasive atmosphere of strangeness and melancholy. A party of vaudeville entertainers perform on the Brighton seafront under the setting sun and artificial stage lights. Many of the deckchairs are empty, perhaps hinting at the absence of so many men in the war; the gunfire of the Western Front could sometimes be heard along the south coast of England. Against that and the deep pink of the sky, the performers seem a bit ridiculous, if not pathetic.

September 2016