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
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