In 1908 Sylvia Gosse began studying engraving after meeting Walter Sickert. She was taught by him first at the Westminster School of Art and then at his new art school at 209 Hampstead Road (later moving to number 140, see Tate N05088). She began teaching at the school in 1910 when she also became an associate (it was renamed the ‘Sickert and Gosse School of Painting and Etching’). In 1926 she was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers. There are collections of her prints and drawings in the British Museum, London and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
In this etching Gosse depicts a man nicknamed Old Heffel playing a violin in a domestic interior. Sickert made a series of paintings and etchings c.1916–19 of the same man, including Old Heffel of Rowton House c.1916 (York Art Gallery, reproduced in Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, London 2006, no.457.1). Gosse and Sickert probably drew Old Heffel in the same sittings at one of the Rowton House hostels, which had been set up in the late nineteenth century by the philanthropist Lord Rowton. One of the hostels, Arlington House, was built in 1905 in Camden Town; it is likely that this is the location depicted.
The print is dated 1919 in the Michael Parkin Gallery catalogue and 1918 in an annotated edition of the P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. catalogue in the Tate Library.
Exhibition of Etchings and Lithography by Miss Sylvia Gosse, A.R.E., exhibition catalogue, P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London 1925. Sylvia Gosse 1881–1968: Paintings and Prints, exhibition catalogue, Michael Parkin Gallery, London 1989.
Sylvia Gosse, The Old Violinist, c.1918-19, in Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt, Jennifer Mundy (eds.), The Camden Town Group in Context, Tate Research Publication, May 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/sylvia-gosse-the-old-violinist-r1104723, accessed 26 February 2021.