Walter Richard Sickert

Tipperary

1914

Artist
Walter Richard Sickert 1860–1942
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 508 x 406 mm
frame: 600 x 500 x 55 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Lady Henry Cavendish-Bentinck 1940
Reference
N05092

Not on display

Display caption

Sickert's model 'Chicken' is playing 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary', one of the popular songs British troops sang as they marched away to the trenches in the First World War. Although born in Munich, Sickert was appalled by Germany's agression and much regretted being too old to enlist.
This is one of a number of similar piano subjects made early in the war in Sickert's studio at 26 Red Lion Square. They are all briskly and informally painted, Sickert telling his friend Ethel Sands how he used 'thin free hard rubs of paint mixed with turpentine'. As with so many of his works Sickert's use of an evocative title transforms the picture, here making the viewer imagine the tune and emotion of the moment.

Gallery label, April 1996

Catalogue entry

Entry

Background

In late 1914 and early 1915 Walter Sickert produced a number of images of women sitting at pianos, a variation of his visual exploration of the arrangement of figures within a Camden Town interior. As much prominence is given in the painting to the piano itself as to the player, reversing the usual balance of a concert picture. The model in Tipperary is a young woman dressed in a simple skirt and blouse with her face largely concealed by a wide-brimmed hat. She is sitting on a stool with her hands on the keyboard as though in the middle of playing. She sits at a grand piano which has ornate legs and a highly polished veneer; but this hint of luxury is not matched by the surroundings, which are plain and unremarkable. Little further information can be gleaned from the pictorial details, but Sickert introduces a wealth of evocative context by titling the painting Tipperary.
The title clearly refers to the famous wartime song It’s a Long Way to Tipperary and the viewer is positioned looking down at the pianist as though standing among a crowd grouped around for a sing-song in a pub or a private room. The song was written and published in 1912 by Jack Judge and Harry Williams, but it achieved lasting fame during the First World War after it was adopted by the 7th Battalion of the Connaught Rangers, an Irish regiment in the British army. It quickly became a favourite marching tune throughout the armed forces at the Front, probably because of its jaunty melody, the references in the lyrics to familiar London place names, and the song’s sentiment of being far from home and loved ones. In Sickert’s painting the lone female figure is a suggestive visual reminder of the absence of many young men at this time. The song has three verses interspersed with the chorus:
Up to mighty London came an Irishman one day,
As the streets are paved with gold, sure ev’ryone was gay;
Singing songs of Piccadilly, Strand and Leicester Square,
’Til Paddy got excited, then he shouted to them there:–
 
[Chorus]
It’s a long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go;
It’s a long way to Tipperary, to the sweetest girl I know;
Goodbye Piccadilly, farewell Leicester Square,
It’s a long, long way to Tipperary, but my heart’s right there.

Sickert and the First World War

‘Chicken’

Related works

Ownership

Nicola Moorby
October 2004

Notes

1
Walter Sickert, letter to Nan Hudson, undated [October 1914?], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.35.
2
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, undated [August or September 1914], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.146.
3
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, [August 1914], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.90.
4
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, [after August 1915], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.47.
5
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, [1915 – late December?], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.49.
6
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, [late 1915?], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.92.
7
Sue Malvern, Modern Britain and the Great War, New Haven and London 2004, p.78.
8
Reproduced in Sickert: Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1992 (82).
9
Reproduced ibid. (83).
10
Reproduced in Ruth Bromberg, Walter Sickert Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London 2000, no.162.
11
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, [late 1914–15?], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.83.
12
Ernest Short, Fifty Years of Vaudeville, London 1946, p.229.
13
Royal Academy 1992, p.234.
14
Walter Sickert, ‘The Study of Drawing’, New Age, 16 June 1910, p.156, in Anna Greutzner Robins (ed.), Walter Sickert: The Complete Writings on Art, Oxford 2000, p.247.
15
Reproduced in Royal Academy 1992 (81).
16
Kathleen Fisher, Conversations with Sylvia, London and Edinburgh 1975, p.82.
17
Ibid.
18
Ibid.
19
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, [September or October 1914], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.55.
20
Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.447; reproduced in Royal Academy 1992, fig.169, p.244.
21
Walter Sickert, letter to Nan Hudson, [First World War – 1914 October?], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.35.
22
Walter Sickert, letter to Nan Hudson, undated, Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.88.
23
Baron 2006, no.411.
24
Baron 2006, no.447.5.
25
Ibid., no.447.6; reproduced in Sickert: Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth 1979, fig.58.
26
Walter Sickert, letter to Nan Hudson, [October 1914?], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.35.
27
Sunday Dispatch, 25 November 1928.
28
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, [August 1914], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.90.
29
New Age, 29 January 1914, p.401.
30
‘Chicken’, Girl at a Piano c.1914–15, pen, ink and black chalk on paper; reproduced in Osbert Sitwell (ed.), A Free House! Or The Artist as Craftsman: Being the Writings of Walter Richard Sickert, London 1947, between pp.xvi–xvii.
31
Reproduced in Baron 2006, no.447.2 and Modern British and Irish Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Sculpture, Christie’s, London, 23 November 1993 (lot 49).
32
Baron 2006, no.447.7; reproduced in Walter Sickert: ‘drawing is the thing’, exhibition catalogue, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester 2004 (2.21).
33
Reproduced in Bromberg 2000, nos.164 and 195.
34
Reproduced in Baron 2006, no.410.
35
Baron 2006, no.410.2; reproduced at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, http://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/collection/.
36
Reproduced in British and Irish Modernist and Contemporary Paintings, etc., Christie’s, London, 9 March 1990 (lot 203).
37
Serial number 22,429. Information supplied by Dr A.D. Laurence, John Broadwood and Sons Ltd., October 2004.
38
Walter Sickert, letter to Nan Hudson, 10 October 1913, Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.69.
39
Twentieth Century British Art, Christie’s, London (lot 115, reproduced).
40
Reproduced in Wendy Baron, Perfect Moderns: A History of the Camden Town Group, Aldershot and Vermont 2000, p.107.
41
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, [1913–14], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.133.
42
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, [August–November? 1914], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.130.
43
Robert Gathorne-Hardy (ed.), Ottoline at Garsington Manor: Memoirs of Lady Ottoline Morrell 1915–1918, London 1974, p.46.

Read full Catalogue entry

Features

Tate Paper

Paintings on Canvas: Lining and Alternatives

This paper catalogues major changes in attitude during the last thirty years to conservation practice for the treatment of degraded ...

You might like