Tate Etc

Walter Richard Sickert's Miss Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as Isabella of France 1932 Tate Britain Rehang

Tate Etc. invited a selection of contemporary artists featured in the new rehang of British art at Tate Britain to choose a favoured work from a fellow artist – past or present – also on display. Here, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye discusses Walter Richard Sickert’s Miss Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as Isabella of France 1932

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.

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