Walter Richard Sickert

Study for ‘The Little Tea Party’


Not on display

Walter Richard Sickert 1860–1942
Chalk on paper
Support: 228 × 357 mm
frame: 423 × 513 × 34 mm
Purchased 1945

Catalogue entry


This drawing is a preliminary study for the painting, The Little Tea Party: Nina Hamnett and Roald Kristian 1915–16 (Tate N05288, fig.1). The focus is the seated pose of Edgar de Bergen, also known as Roald Kristian, recording the position of his arms and legs and the shadows made by the folds in his clothes. His face is sketched in a very cursory fashion, as is the headless figure of Nina Hamnett seated beside him on the chaise-longue. To the right there is the suggestion of a side table with a cup or mug on it. The background has been left completely blank.
Another sketch, The Little Tea Party c.1915–16 (Huddersfield Art Gallery),1 in pencil, pen and ink, is a fuller description of the compositional elements of the picture and the individual sitters. In that drawing, Sickert has overlaid an initial blue pencil layout with finer detail in pen and ink. The appearance of the sofa and the vertical stripes of the wallpaper are recorded, but the still-life objects on the table on the right are not described.
Other known studies related to the painting include a watercolour (private collection),2 and a pencil drawing on buff paper of Edgar de Bergen (private collection).3 The latter is inscribed ‘De Bergen’ and is a detailed transcription of the appearance of the sitter, particularly his face and arms. In the drawing, de Bergen looks directly at the artist or viewer whereas in the final painting he stares away into space, suggesting the same sense of isolation present in Ennui c.1914 (Tate N03846). There is no known corresponding sketch of Hamnett, perhaps because Sickert was more familiar with her and had sketched her on previous occasions.4 There is also a watercolour study (private collection)5 of a couple seated side by side on a couch that has a similar compositional format.

Nicola Moorby
January 2005


Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.454.1; reproduced in Walter Sickert: ‘drawing is the thing’, exhibition catalogue, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester 2004 (4.24) and Sickert: Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1992, fig.176, p.256.
Baron 2006, no.454.3.
Baron 2006, no.454.4; reproduced in Royal Academy 1992, fig.177, p.256.
See, for example, the three-quarter-length nude study, Baron 2006, no.454.6.
Reproduced in Baron 2006, no.454.5.
Nina Hamnett, Laughing Torso: Reminiscences of Nina Hamnett, London 1932, pp.81–2.

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