Walter Richard Sickert

Study for ‘L’Armoire à glace’


Not on display

Walter Richard Sickert 1860–1942
Graphite, ink, watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 260 × 187 mm
Purchased 1941

Catalogue entry


In common with Ennui c.1914 (Tate N03846) and other earlier paintings of domestic interiors, the visual appearance of the oil painting L’Armoire à glace 1924 (Tate N05313, fig.1) developed across a series of related images. Walter Sickert first produced the subject as a 1922 etching of the same title,1 and a sequence of studies was also produced to facilitate the print.2 It is likely that Sickert referred to and in some cases reworked these drawings and watercolours for the oil version, completed in London. There are two preparatory sketches in Tate’s collection (Tate N05312 and N06087, fig.2).

Study for ‘L’Armoire à glace’ is a full compositional colour study which has been first sketched lightly in pencil and then overlaid with pen and ink and washes of watercolour. There are also touches of white gouache in places, for example around the edge of the mirror and the reflected light on the panels of the door. In appearance it is closer to the etched version than the painting, because it includes the view of the edge of the bedroom door and doorknob on the far right of the picture. In addition, some of the drawn pen and ink lines are echoed within areas of line and cross-hatching in the etching. Furthermore, the receding perspective of the mirrored door is more oblique in the painting. Nevertheless, the fact that Sickert troubled to complete the study in watercolour suggests that he was always intending to paint a version in oil.
The work bears the inscription ‘Picture Stevenson [sic] collection Southport’, which refers to the first owner of the oil painting, William Henry Stephenson (see Tate N05313). Sickert presumably annotated the drawing at a later date, after Stephenson had purchased the oil version of the painting (which is signed and dated 1924). In size and appearance the work is very close to another study, Study for ‘L’Armoire à glace’ 1922 (pen and ink and wash on paper, private collection), which Sickert also gave to Stephenson. The author of the catalogue raisonné of Sickert’s prints, Ruth Bromberg, believes that this study formed the basis for an intermediate tracing which was then used to transfer the image to a copper plate etching. She suggests the pink watercolour wash was only added to the drawing after the etching was complete, possibly at the time when Sickert sent the work to Stephenson.3 By contrast, another compositional colour study, Mon Rêve: Study for ‘L’Armoire à glace’ 1922 (ink, watercolour and pencil, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, inscribed ‘Moi depuis que j’ai mon armoire à glace je suis contente’ [Since I have had my mirrored wardrobe I am content]), exhibits similar use of watercolour wash but without the same level of detail added in pen and ink. Tate’s study is therefore the most complete and highly worked preparatory study for the painting.

Nicola Moorby
April 2005


Reproduced in Ruth Bromberg, Walter Sickert Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London 2000, no.200.
A full list can be found in Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, nos.557.1–11.
Bromberg 2000, p.253.

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