Walter Richard Sickert, ‘Miss Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as Isabella of France’ 1932
Walter Richard Sickert
Miss Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as Isabella of France 1932
Tate

I admire Sickert’s ability to describe a lot with very little. His mark-making often appears sparse and rough, graduating the tone from dark to light, working from the darkness at the back of the painting forwards into the light. Brown staining and dull dirty pinks become radiant. The blue-black hollow eyes mirror the blue-black background, turning her face into a mask – an impossibly pallid lead-white facade of a face. Her skin blends in with the colour of the voluminous gown that occupies half of the canvas: a strange, claustrophobic and awkward composition choice. This awkwardness is a regular feature in Sickert’s work. The imperfections and approximations lend his paintings a sense of urgency, and seem to describe the flawed, complex and brutal nature of the world he worked in.