Walter Richard Sickert

Ennui

1914–5, published 1929

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
Walter Richard Sickert 1860–1942
Medium
Etching on paper
Dimensions
Image: 226 x 162 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Mrs E. West 1982
Reference
P11050

Catalogue entry

Entry

Printmaking was an extremely important part of Walter Sickert’s oeuvre. A comprehensive understanding and appreciation of Sickert’s achievements has only recently become possible through the research of certain scholars, particularly Aimée Troyen and Ruth Bromberg.1 Sickert learned the craft of etching from his mentor, James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), and over his lifetime produced at least 226 prints.
In 1914 Sickert’s straitened financial circumstances led to him brokering a deal with Arthur Clifton of the Carfax Gallery. In exchange for a fixed maintenance of £200 per annum, the Carfax became Sickert’s sole dealer and, in addition, the artist was commissioned to produce a series of sixteen etchings published exclusively by the gallery. With the exception of three prints, which were newly conceived designs created especially for the series, the Carfax etchings were based upon Sickert’s paintings, drawings or earlier etchings. Given the immediate success of his oil painting, Ennui (Tate N03846, fig.1), when it was first exhibited at the New English Art Club in the summer of 1914 and immediately purchased by the Contemporary Art Society, it is not surprising that Sickert decided to include an etched version in the Carfax series. However, he continued to revise the design and the print was later published by the Leicester Galleries.
Sickert produced three separate sized etched versions of his most famous image, Ennui: a large plate, a medium plate and a small plate.2 The appearance and details of all three sizes of print are derived from Tate’s version of Ennui, by way of a working drawing in pencil, pen and brown ink, blue and red chalks (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester).3 The dimensions of the Whitworth drawing correspond to those of the large etched plate that Ruth Bromberg maintains was a preparatory study for the two smaller versions.4 Bromberg’s catalogue raisonné of prints by Sickert reveals Tate’s etching to be an impression of the sixth state of the second size, the medium plate. In this version, the figure of Hubby is more upright and turned slightly more towards the viewer than in the painting or the other etchings. There is also more stubble on his face. The figure of Marie seems to lean on her right arm more than the chest and she lacks her black belt. There is also no wine glass beside the decanter on the mantelpiece.

Nicola Moorby
May 2004

Notes

1
Aimée Troyen, Walter Sickert as Printmaker, exhibition catalogue, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 1979 and Ruth Bromberg, Walter Sickert Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London 2000.
2
Reproduced in Bromberg 2000, nos.155, 156 and 157 respectively.
3
Reproduced ibid., no.155a; Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.418.7.
4
Bromberg 2000, p.184.
5
Ibid., p.185.

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