Walter Richard Sickert

Roquefort

c.1919–20

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 409 x 328 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1924
Reference
N03847

Display caption

From the ending of World War One until 1920, Sickert painted a series of still lifes in his house at Envermeu, outside Dieppe. They arose out of his domestic happiness with his second wife Christine after the privations of the war. The fresh handling of the paint suggests that Roquefort was carried out directly in front of the subject. After the death of his wife in 1920, Sickert gave up still-life painting. He wrote later that 'When Christine was alive, I loved the landscapes there [at Envermeu], because they seemed to belong to her, and the still lifes too, because they were seen in her house'.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Entry

Background

Roquefort is one of a series of still life subjects that Walter Sickert painted at home in Envermeu in Normandy between 1919 and 1920. The painting comprises the top of a plain wooden table seen slightly from above, upon which sits a plate of Roquefort cheese covered with a circular glass lid. A bone or wooden handled knife lies on the table partially hidden under the plate. The composition is completed by a bottle of white wine with one glass poured out beside it.
During the summer months Sickert liked to escape from London and take a break from his exhausting schedule of writing, teaching and exhibiting by painting landscapes in Dieppe. In 1912, he and his second wife Christine found a permanent base at Envermeu, a village around ten miles south-east of Dieppe, ‘ideal, sheltered & sunny’.1 The Villa d’Aumale was ‘a beautiful little house, nice proportions’ with separate, quiet work rooms which Sickert used as a studio.2 The house and location were well suited to his needs, being within easy reach of Dieppe and the Channel but also somewhat secluded, situated in a charming valley close to the picturesque forest of Arques. He wrote to his friend Ethel Sands:
You can’t think the change it is after the noisy streets of Dieppe working enervated by a crowd passing or shaking hands, perfect hell for the nerves, now sitting in perfect solitude in a farm yard or field with my work & my own thoughts.3
The Sickerts sojourned at the Villa d’Aumale during the summers of 1913 and 1914 and intended to repeat this pattern each year, but the outbreak of war interrupted their regime and they were not able to return for five years, the longest period Sickert had spent away from France in his adult life. In 1919 they made plans to settle near Dieppe permanently. Sickert was finding it increasingly expensive to live in London, and wished to be able to paint unhindered by his busy city lifestyle and to complete work in his own time without being pressed by his dealers. To this end, in early 1920 Christine bought the Maison Mouton at Envermeu, ‘an old house constructed of timber & cowpats ... which has been a gendarmerie, a horse-dealer’s, an Inn & has till Easter a farmer as tenant’.4 Sickert immortalised the moment of purchase in a painting, Christine Drummond Sickert, Née Angus, Buys a Gendarmerie 1920 (whereabouts unknown).5 For him it represented liberation from the pressures of London:

Still life

Ownership

Nicola Moorby
January 2005

Notes

1
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, undated [?1918], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.81.
2
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, undated [1913], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.64.
3
Ibid.
4
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, undated [?1920], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.148.
5
Reproduced in Marjorie Lilly, Sickert: The Painter and his Circle, London 1971, pl.19; Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.541.
6
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, undated [?1920], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.148.
7
Reproduced in Baron 2006, no.542.
8
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, undated [?Winter 1915], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.48.
9
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, undated [?1920], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.148.
10
Helen Lessore, Walter Sickert 1860–1942: Sketch for a Portrait, 10 February 1961, BBC recording LP 26655, Side 2.
11
Wendy Baron, Sickert, London 1973, p.159.
12
Reproduced in The Painters of Camden Town 1905–1920, exhibition catalogue, Christie’s, London 1988 (192); Baron 2006, no.507.
13
Reproduced in Baron 2006, no.501.
14
Reproduced ibid., no.504.
15
Ibid., no.506; reproduced in Witt Library, Courtauld Institute of Art, London.
16
Ibid., no.508; reproduced ibid.
17
See ibid., pp.456–9.
18
Reproduced in Image, no.7, 1952, p.42.
19
Walter Sickert, letter to Mrs Andrina Schweder, 18 August 1922, Tate Archive TGA 8120/1/12.
20
J.B. Manson, ‘Walter Richard Sickert, A.R.A.’, Drawing and Design, no.3, 1927, p.3.

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