Art History Lab

Breaking the Mold: the Fascinating Life of Walter Sickert

Walter Sickert: A Biography of the Controversial Artist

Walter Richard Sickert was a German-born artist who in the early 20th century made an indelible mark in the British art world. From his early life and education to his artistic development, themes, and controversies, this article seeks to provide insight into the life of the artist and his celebrated work.

Early Life and Education

Walter Sickert was born in Munich, Germany, in 1860. His father, Oswald Sickert, was a Danish-German painter who moved to Munich to study art.

His mother was English. At the time of Walter’s birth, his father was teaching at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.

Walter Sickert received his British citizenship through his English mother. The family moved back to London when Walter was six years old.

He went to King’s College School and later went to live in Paris to begin his artistic development. Despite his artistic leanings,

Walter Sickert began his career as an actor.

He was a student of acting under Sir Henry Irving at the Lyceum Theatre. Later, he decided to pursue his passion for painting and enrolled in the Slade School of Art in London.

Artistic Development and Influences

At the Slade School of Art,

Walter Sickert met James Whistler, who became a great influence on his work. Whistler was known for his use of muted colors and adoption of Japanese art.

This influence is seen in

Walter Sickert’s later work. He went on to associate with other artists and movements, which inspired him further.

These movements included Post-Impressionism, Modernism, and Expressionism.

Walter Sickert is known to have been part of the British Avant-Garde movement, which sought to break away from traditional forms of art and create new art forms. He was also influenced by Impressionism while living in France and the works of Edgar Degas.

In addition,

Walter Sickert became a member of the New English Art Club, which exposed him to Realist artists and their works.

Artistic Themes and Controversies

Walter Sickert’s art is known for exploring the human condition, and this exploration is evident in the themes of his artwork.

Urban Culture and the Camden Town Murder

Walter Sickert’s association with the Camden Town group is centered on his most controversial work. This group of artists explored the realities of urban life in London in the early 20th century.

One of

Walter Sickert’s most controversial pieces was his depiction of the Camden Town murder, which had taken place in 1907. The painting was of a murdered prostitute, and it caused a stir in the art world for its lurid subject matter.

In addition to the controversy surrounding this painting,

Walter Sickert was also known for his depictions of female nudes. His choice of models raised eyebrows, with elements of voyeurism and what would now be considered sexual harassment.

Involvement in Avant-Garde and Teaching

Walter Sickert was an influential teacher and member of the avant-garde circle. Among his pupils were Jacob Epstein, Lucien Pissarro, Augustus John, and Wyndham Lewis, who would go on to achieve fame in their own right.

Walter Sickert’s art influenced a generation of artists, including the Camden Town group, who were drawn to his expressionistic use of color and form. He himself was noted for his portrayal of banal suburbia, a subject that was considered unusual at the time.


Walter Sickert was an artist who had a significant impact on the British art world. From his early life and education to his artistic development, themes, and controversies, his work remains relevant today.

He explored the human condition through his art, and his influence can be seen in the works of many contemporary artists.

Walter Sickert’s Later Years and Legacy

Walter Sickert’s later years were marked by a decline in his health and a change in his style of art-making. Despite this, his influence and legacy remain important to this day.

Decline in Health and Style Change

Walter Sickert suffered a stroke in 1922, which greatly affected his mobility and artistic style. His work shifted from oil painting to etching, which he found easier to execute.

Also, his work became more introspective and personal. During this period,

Walter Sickert was supported by his son, Richard Sickert, who assisted him in his artistic endeavors.

Richard Sickert was also an artist in his own right, and the two shared a close bond.

Influence and Popular Works

Walter Sickert’s influence can be seen in the popularity of his works, which continue to attract art lovers worldwide. One of his famous fans was none other than Winston Churchill, who purchased one of his paintings for his wife as a birthday gift.

One of

Walter Sickert’s most famous works is “Bath, Somerset,” which depicts a busy street in the English city of Bath. The painting is filled with lively movement and vivid colors, showcasing

Walter Sickert’s talent in capturing the essence of everyday life.


Walter Sickert Paintings

Cafe des Tribunaux, Dieppe

Walter Sickert’s “Cafe des Tribunaux, Dieppe” is a beautiful landscape painting that captures the many charms of the seaside resort town. The painting shows a bustling cafe filled with people enjoying themselves and sipping their drinks while looking out at the stunning view of the sea.

La Hollandaise

La Hollandaise” is perhaps one of

Walter Sickert’s most controversial works. It depicts a female nude who is believed to have been a sex worker.

The identity of the model is unknown, but

Walter Sickert’s expressive use of Impressionist brushwork suggests a sense of immediacy and intimacy. Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom

“Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom” is a painting that captures the eerie atmosphere of one of London’s most notorious crime scenes.

The painting was inspired by

Walter Sickert’s fascination with the case and his research into the life of the infamous murderer.


Ennui” is a haunting painting that captures the sense of boredom and listlessness that we can all feel from time to time. The painting features a male and female figure sitting on a bed, and the subdued colors and contemplative mood help to create a sense of quietness and serenity.

Miss Earhart’s Arrival

Finally, “Miss Earhart’s Arrival” is a painting that captures the excitement and fan culture surrounding the arrival of aviation pioneer, Amelia Earhart. The painting shows a mass of spectators gathered to welcome her at Hanworth, and the image captures the sense of awe and reverence that she inspired in people.


Walter Sickert’s influence on the art world cannot be overstated. His unique style and creative vision continue to inspire artists and audiences alike, and his legacy will continue to shape the art world for years to come.

Book Recommendations About

Walter Sickert

Walter Sickert’s life and works have inspired countless books and articles over the years. Here are some of the most recommended books about the artist:

Walter Sickert and the Camden Town Group

Maureen Connett’s “

Walter Sickert and the Camden Town Group” is a must-read for anyone interested in

Walter Sickert’s association with the Camden Town group. The book explores the art collective’s teachings and the admiration that

Walter Sickert had for his cohort.

With detailed analysis and stunning visuals, Connett provides an in-depth look into this pivotal moment in

Walter Sickert’s career.

Walter Sickert: A Life

Matthew Sturgis’s “

Walter Sickert: A Life” is a comprehensive biography of the artist. Sturgis, also a cartoonist and illustrator, provides a detailed and engaging look into the life of the artist.

In addition to tracing

Walter Sickert’s life, Sturgis also delves into his teaching career and his fascination with Jack the Ripper. The book is a must-read for anyone who seeks a comprehensive understanding of the artist and his works.

Walter Sickert

“Emma Chambers’s “

Walter Sickert” is a retrospective exhibition of the artist’s work that includes scholarly essays from experts in the field. The book provides a wealth of insights into the artist’s life and works.

The essays provide a comprehensive look into

Walter Sickert’s artistic process, and the illustrations bring the artist’s works to life.


The books about

Walter Sickert leave no stone unturned in exploring the artist’s life and works. The diverse perspectives they offer provide different insights into the complex and vivid career of

Walter Sickert.

From his early life and education to his artistic development and themes and controversies, these books help deepen the understanding of the artist and his influence on modern art. In conclusion,

Walter Sickert was a prolific artist who made significant contributions to the British art world.

His life and works were marked by different themes, controversies, and artistic styles that continue to inspire artists and art enthusiasts today. Through his association with various artistic movements and the Camden Town group,

Walter Sickert was an important influence in the development of modern art.

The range of his works, from landscape painting to haunting portraits, continues to fascinate and engage viewers. The recommended books reflect different aspects of

Walter Sickert’s life and works, each providing unique insights that are illuminating for anyone interested in the artist.


Walter Sickert’s legacy as an artist endures today, and his importance cannot be overstated.

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