‘There is no such thing as modern art. There is no such thing as ancient art… History is one unbroken stream. If we know Degas, Degas knew Ingres, and so on, ad infinitum.’ So claimed Walter Sickert, whose careers bridged the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Just as Sickert was influenced by Whistler and Degas, in turn his own pervasive influence is still felt in British figurative painting today.
David Bomberg attended Sickert’s life drawing classes at Westminster Technical College between 1909 and 1910, and later students and assistants included Sylvia Gosse, Thérèse Lessore and Edward Morland-Lewis, who assimilated his teachings on art, particularly in terms of his tonal approach to painting, use of squaring-up, and choice of subject matter.
Although Sickert died in 1942 his artistic legacy on Post-war art was particularly strong. His engagement with inner-city London had a profound effect on young artists such as Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, Carel Weight and Ruskin Spear, as did his writings in ‘A Free House’ which was published in 1942. Sickert’s use of press photographs as source material for late works, such as ‘Gwen Ffrangçon-Davies in ‘The Lady with the Lamp’, also provided a stimulus for artists such as Michael Andrews, RB Kitaj and Francis Bacon. More recently his approach has been an inspiration to contemporary painters including Celia Paul, Keith Coventry and Clare Woods.