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Sickert passionately wanted to show the naked female form without idealisation. This is one of several paintings showing a naked woman in poor surroundings: on an iron bed in a dimly-lit room. The painting does not reveal the woman’s identity, but the title (‘The Dutch Girl’) may refer to the nickname of a prostitute in a novel by the nineteenth-century French author, Honoré de Balzac. The seedy feeling of the painting is reinforced by the way Sickert has made it. The brushmarks form a surface so rough that, if you look at it closely, the image seems to fragment.

May 2011