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Walter Sickert, the artist who dragged Modern Art into Victorian Britain

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Walter Sickert introduced Victorian Britain to Modern art, yet is best known for his drab-toned nudes on iron bedsteads. Mary Miers considers the career of an individualist who was both radical and charming.

When, in the late 1880s, Walter Sickert began painting London music halls, he brought to a genre made fashionable in the 18th century a unique insight, as well as a daringly modern focus. For, unlike his famous predecessors who painted theatrical subjects, such as Zoffany and Hogarth, Sickert had actually worked as an actor, playing minor roles in London theatres and on tour.

By then a full-time painter, he was drawn to the raucous world of what was a cult attraction of Victorian working-class life. Returning each night to venues such as the Bedford Music Hall and Gatti’s Hungerford Palace of Varieties, he made discreet sketches and befriended the artistes.

Pic: Walter Richard Sickert's The Façade of St Jacques c.1899–1900. Courtesy of the Whitworth Art Gallery (Manchester), featured in the Tate's summer 2022 exhibition. Credit: Whitworth Art Gallery

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