Walter Richard Sickert

Off to the Pub

1911

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 508 x 406 mm
frame: 695 x 595 x 45 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Howard Bliss 1943
Reference
N05430

Display caption

Through the poses of the figures and title, Sickert evokes the aftermath of a domestic row. The woman’s clasped hands and steady gaze suggest hurt emotions and resignation, while her husband takes refuge by leaving for the pub.

The male model is ‘Hubby’, whose real name is unknown. A reformed alcoholic, he joined Sickert in 1911 to help around the studio and modelled for a number of pictures. When Hubby turned to drink again in 1914, Sickert had to dismiss him. He wrote ‘It is like death, only worse, and I will miss his kind silly old face and his sympathetic pomposity’.

Gallery label, February 2004

Catalogue entry

Entry

In the winter of 1903, during his time living in Venice, Sickert began painting a number of indoor scenes featuring two women in varying compositional arrangements (see Tate N03621 and N05296).1 Back in London, between 1907 and 1914, he once again experimented with figurative interiors but this time his images more usually combined a man and a woman. Initially, these paintings focused on the juxtaposition between a naked female and a fully dressed male, invoking the psychological tensions created by their association with the recent Camden Town murder in 1907. In later years, he went on to explore less controversial pairings of two clothed models, which nevertheless stimulated similar feelings of claustrophobic unease and anxiety within the viewer. He defined these works as ‘the dramatic truth in the modern conversation piece or genre picture’,2 and gave them titles suggestive of domestic disturbance and angst, for example, The Argument 1911 (Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand),3 ‘That Boy Will Be The Death of Me’ c.1912 (private collection),4 My Awful Dad c.1912 (fig.1)5 and Ticking Him Off c.1913 (private collection).6 The series culminated with the quintessential image of dysfunctional home life, Ennui c.1914 (Tate N03846).
Walter Richard Sickert 'My Awful Dad' c.1912
Fig.1
Walter Richard Sickert
My Awful Dad c.1912
The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London
© Estate of Walter R. Sickert / DACS
Photo © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Off to the Pub explores a similar subject. The painting depicts a man in a doorway, ostensibly leaving the room for the purpose indicated by the title. Seated behind him on an iron bedstead is a woman wearing the characteristic flat boater hat of the London costermonger. The body language of the two figures, coupled with their working class appearance, suggests a household in crisis: a husband leaving his dejected and maltreated wife to waste his earnings on drink. As the art historian David Peters Corbett has suggested, ‘there is an alienated quality to ... Sickert’s study of marital troubles ... that speaks directly to a sense that urban life is melancholy, burdensome and doomladen’.7

Nicola Moorby
June 2009

Notes

1
See Robert Upstone, Sickert in Venice, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 2009.
2
Walter Sickert, ‘A Monthly Chronicle. Maurice Asselin’, Burlington Magazine, 28 December 1915; quoted in Wendy Baron, ‘The Domestic Theatre’, in Walter Sickert: ‘drawing is the thing’, exhibition catalogue, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester 2004, p.6.
3
Reproduced in Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.375.
4
Reproduced ibid., no.394.
5
Ibid., no.398.1.
6
Reproduced ibid., no.404.
7
David Peters Corbett, ‘Modern Themes in Camden Town painting’, in Modern Painters: The Camden Town Group, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2008, p.35.
8
See Nicola Moorby, ‘Portrait / Figure / Type’, in Tate Britain 2008, p.97.
9
Walter Sickert, letter to Nan Hudson and Ethel Sands, [August/September 1908], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.36.
10
Walter Sickert, letter to Nan Hudson, 6 October 1913, Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.29.
11
Donald Read, Edwardian England 1901–15: Society and Politics, London 1972, p.52.
12
Walter Sickert, letter to Nan Hudson, undated [Summer 1914], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.8.
13
Ibid.
14
Wendy Baron and Richard Shone (eds.), Sickert: Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1992, p.216.
15
Wendy Baron, Sickert, London 1973, pp.117–8.
16
Baron 2006, no.367.
17
Ibid.
18
Essex Herald, 21 November 1911; quoted in Baron 2006, p.380.
19
Baron 2006, no.367.1.
20
Ibid., no.391.
21
Reproduced ibid., no.392.
22
Ibid., nos.391.1–3 and 392.1–3.

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