The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

Walter Richard Sickert Dieppe, Study No. 2; Facade of St Jacques c.1899

This drawing of the fourteenth-century Gothic cathedral of St Jacques in Dieppe shows its western façade from the Rue Saint-Jacques, with part of the adjacent Hôtel du Commerce dwarfed in the left background. The church was Sickert’s most frequently depicted subject. This reproduced image, made using typewriter carbon paper, may have been part of a series of tinted ‘commercial drawings’ Sickert made to capitalise on his repertoire of Dieppe views. Watercolour washes emphasised the lighting of the sky and buildings cast in shadow below, as well as certain architectural details, but are now difficult to apprehend owing to the paper’s discolouration.
Walter Richard Sickert 1860–1942
Dieppe, Study No.2; Façade of St Jacques
c.1899
Carbon paper tracing and watercolour on paper
323 x 234 mm
Inscribed by the artist ‘Sickert’ in black bottom right
Bequeathed by Lady Henry Cavendish-Bentinck 1940
N05094

Entry

Walter Richard Sickert 'The Façade of St Jacques, Dieppe' c.1899–1900
Fig.1
Walter Richard Sickert
The Façade of St Jacques, Dieppe c.1899–1900
Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester
© Estate of Walter R. Sickert / DACS
Photo © Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester
The fourteenth-century church of St Jacques, which stands to the west of the harbour and south of the Place Nationale in Dieppe, was Sickert’s most frequently depicted subject. He portrayed it from various angles and in different lights, painting variously on canvas, panel and board, as well as in numerous related drawings and sketches on paper (although, perhaps surprisingly, no prints). Although his use of the church as a motif spans from the early 1890s to the early 1930s,1 the majority of images date from 1899–1900 when Sickert was a permanent resident in the town.2 It also formed the subject of one of six large-scale canvases commissioned in 1902 by the owner of the Hôtel de la Plage in Dieppe, Monsieur Mantren, as decorations for his restaurant (private collection).3 Tate’s drawing depicts the western façade of the church from the Rue Saint-Jacques with part of the Hôtel du Commerce and a small circular kiosk visible in the background to the left, a compositional arrangement which closely reflects several oil paintings including the 1902 café version.4 The most fully realised version is The Façade of St Jacques, Dieppe c.1899–1900 (fig.1),5 which shows the same view enclosed on the left by a flanking wall. Although each individual rendering of the theme is slightly different, a unifying aspect is Sickert’s interest in the effects of light upon the dramatic Gothic architecture, and in particular the tonal contrast between the bottom half of the church, plunged into shadow by the surrounding streets, and the top half, drenched in evening sunlight.
Sickert once described Dieppe as his ‘goldmine’ which provided him with ‘a little decent comfort’.6 Following the advice of Ernest Brown of the Fine Art Society who proposed that ‘watercolours sold always like fire’, the artist seems to have tried to capitalise on his repertory of Dieppe views by making ‘tinted drawings’ of many of the same subjects.7 The art historian Wendy Baron has described these works on paper as ‘commercial drawings’, saleable products which were traced from a primary document and quickly worked up into different permutations of the same theme.8 This view of St Jacques is a transfer drawing made using typewriter carbon paper with watercolour applied over the transferred design. It is not known whether this unusual use of media constituted an innovative form of printmaking (similar to monotype) or whether the artist was simply experimenting with ways of manufacturing multiple images. However, Sickert may have been influenced by Edgar Degas’s practice of making coloured variations from multiple traced images (see the discussion for Tate N03810).
There is a defined series of five other variations related to the subject matter and composition of Tate’s work, all of which are unique in colouring and execution.9 One example is The Façade of St Jacques (British Council, London),10 which in turn reflects the arrangement of a squared-up drawing, St Jacques, Dieppe (Hatton Gallery, University of Newcastle upon Tyne),11 with the vista enclosed by buildings on the left. Tate’s drawing, however, which is open on the left, appears to have evolved from an un-squared preparatory sketch, Dieppe (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa).12 This study contains the same figurative arrangement across the foreground: the couple on the left in front of the kiosk; the small group loitering on the pavement on the right; and the small collection of figures in between, including a pair of nuns and a man wearing a flat cap. In the Tate drawing the nuns have been reduced to indistinct dark outline forms. Other examples of the carbon tracing technique in Tate’s collection are The Piazzetta and the Old Campanile, Venice c.1901 (Tate N03810) and Sketch for ‘The Statue of Duquesne, Dieppe’ c.1902 (Tate N05096).
An artistic precedent for paintings and drawings of St Jacques’s western façade can be found in the work of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century topographers, such as David Roberts (1796–1864) (Museum of New Zealand),13 and John Sell Cotman (1782–1842) who made a detailed drawing (Birmingham City Art Gallery) which was later published in Architectural Antiquities of Normandy (1822).14 The French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) also painted the church during a visit to Dieppe in 1901 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris).15 For other paintings of Dieppe by Sickert see Café des Tribunaux, Dieppe (Tate N03182) and Les Arcades de la Poissonnerie (Tate N05045).

Nicola Moorby
September 2009

Notes

1
See Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.87 and no.539.
2
Ibid., nos.130–4.
3
Reproduced ibid., no.130.10 and Sickert: Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1992 (30).
4
See Baron 2006, nos.130.5, 131.2, 131.3, 131.4.
5
Ibid., no.130.
6
Walter Sickert, letter to Mrs Humphrey; quoted in Baron 2006, [p.37].
7
Quoted ibid., p.39.
8
Ibid., p.39 and p.236 under nos.125.10–12.
9
Ibid., nos.134–134.4.
10
Ibid., no.134; reproduced at British Council, http://collection.britishcouncil.org/collection/artist/5/17966/object/44158/, accessed September 2009 (reproduced wrong way round).
11
See Baron 2006, no.132; reproduced in Walter Sickert: ‘drawing is the thing’, exhibition catalogue, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester 2004 (3.02).
12
Baron 2006, no.133.2; reproduced at http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/search/artwork_e.jsp?mkey=4190, accessed September 2009.
13
See a watercolour in the Museum of New Zealand, http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/objectdetails.aspx?oid=39469&page=15&imagesonly=true, accessed September 2009.
14
See John Willett, Anna Gruetzner Robins and Sophie Bowness, The Dieppe Connection: The Town and its Artists from Turner to Braque, exhibition catalogue, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery (17, reproduced).
15
Ibid. (54, reproduced).

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Dieppe, Study No.2; Façade of St Jacques c.1899 by Walter Richard Sickert’, catalogue entry, September 2009, 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/walter-richard-sickert-dieppe-study-no2-facade-of-st-jacques-r1139030, accessed 21 May 2019.