Walter Richard Sickert
Sir Alec Martin, KBE 1935

Artwork details

Artist
Title
Sir Alec Martin, KBE
Date 1935
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 1397 x 1079 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Presented by Sir Alec Martin KBE through the Art Fund 1958
Reference
T00221
Not on display

Catalogue entry

Entry

Subject

In 1935 Sir Alec Martin (1884–1971) commissioned Walter Sickert to paint portraits of himself, his wife Ada, Lady Martin, and their youngest son, Claude. Martin later admitted: ‘We treated the whole thing as a bit of fun. I wasn’t really expecting a great deal from him.’1 However, the seventy-five-year-old Sickert astounded him by producing three significant portraits, which justified and confirmed his reputation as one of Britain’s greatest living artists (see also Tate T00222 and T00223, figs.1 and 2).
Walter Richard Sickert 'Lady Martin' 1935
Fig.1
Walter Richard Sickert
Lady Martin 1935
Tate T00222
© Tate
Walter Richard Sickert 'Claude Phillip Martin' 1935
Fig.2
Walter Richard Sickert
Claude Phillip Martin 1935
Tate T00223
© Tate

Sickert’s portrait of the fifty-one-year-old Martin depicts him wearing a light grey suit with a waistcoat and jacket sitting cross-legged in a blue armchair with his head slightly turned to his right in order to face the viewer. The interior shown in the background is one of the rooms at Hauteville, Sickert’s house at St Peter’s-in-Thanet, near Broadstairs in Kent.2 Martin is seated in front of a large fireplace and beside his chair on a side table on the right there is a structure made of wood and metal, possibly a reading stand, and the base and bulb of an electric lamp without a shade. The assortment of items arranged along the mantelpiece, such as the gilt-framed mirror, the paintings and prints, and the domed glass bell-jar, are typical of the type of domestic interior Sickert had become famous for painting. The framed painting partially visible on the wall on the right-hand side appears to be the same long landscape-format picture fully apparent in the portrait of Lady Martin (Tate T00222).

Sir Alec Martin

Photography

Reception

Nicola Moorby
January 2006

Notes

1
Sir Alec Martin, Walter Sickert 1860–1942: Sketch for a Portrait, 10 February 1961, BBC Home Service, LP 26657, side 1.
2
Sir Alec Martin, letter to Tate Gallery, 1 January 1958, Tate Catalogue file.
3
‘Obituary: Sir Alec Martin’, Times, 17 April 1971, p.16.
4
Ibid.
5
Martin 1961, LP 26657, side 1.
6
Ibid.
7
Ibid.
8
Photograph of Sickert’s eightieth tea party, reproduced in Sylvia Gosse 1881–1968: Paintings and Prints, exhibition catalogue, Parkin Gallery, London 1989, [p.15].
9
Henry Tonks, letter to D.S. MacColl, 5 April 1934, MacColl Archive T347, Glasgow University Library.
10
Walter Sickert, letter to Alec Martin, copied to J.B. Manson, 29 October 1934, Tate Archive TGA 806/1/604–9.
11
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, Tate Gallery Catalogues: The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, vol.2, London 1964, p.639.
12
‘A Portrait I Never Sat For – Miss Ffrangcon-Davies’, Manchester Evening News, 6 September 1932.
13
Ibid.
14
Sir Alec Martin, letter to Tate Gallery, 1 January 1958, Tate Catalogue file.
15
Christie’s, London, 30 July 1987 (lot 206); Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.719.1.
16
Richard Morphet, ‘The Modernity of Late Sickert’, Studio International, vol.190, no.976, July–August 1975, p.35, reproduced.
17
Ibid., p.36.
18
David Sylvester, ‘Walter Sickert: More about the Englishness of English Art’, Artforum, vol.5, no.9, May 1967, p.43.
19
Ibid., p.45.

About this artwork