The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Walter Richard Sickert, 1860-1942

Nationality: British
Date of Birth: 1860.05.31
Place of Birth: Munich
Date of Death: 1942.01.22
Place of Death:


Oswald Adalbert Sickert (b. ca 1828), an artist and musician, and Eleanor ('Ellen') Louisa Moravia, his wife (b. ca 1831 - d. 1922), were born in Germany (Oswald became a naturalised British subject). Their children included Walter Richard (b. 1860), Robert (b. 1861), Bernhard (b. 1862), Helena (b. 1864), Oswald Valentine (b. ca 1871) and Leanhard (b. ca 1873). In 1881 they were all, except for W. R. Sickert, living at 12 Pembroke Gardens in London.

Walter Richard Sickert, artist and writer on art, came to live in Britain in 1868. He married Ellen Cobden on 10 June 1885 but they were divorced in 1899.


Sickert met JW in 1879 when he was a student at the Slade School of Art. He left there in 1882 to become JW's pupil and studio assistant throughout the 1880s. In January 1884, Sickert visited St Ives, Cornwall, with JW and Menpes, and in September 1885, JW stayed with Sickert and his wife at the Maison Goude, 21 rue de Sygogne, Dieppe, where they painted together.

JW and Sickert often worked from the same model, for example, Théodore Duret, Laura Barr and Stephen Manuel. Sickert commissioned JW to paint portraits of both himself (Portrait of Walter Sickert (YMSM 349), Sketch Portrait of Walter Sickert (YMSM 350), Portrait Sketch of Walter Sickert (YMSM 351)) and his wife (see Arrangement in Violet and Pink: Mrs Walter Sickert (YMSM 337), Green and Violet: Portrait of Mrs Walter Sickert (YMSM 338)), and JW made a lithograph of Sickert in 1895 showing him seated (Lady in an armchair (K.79)). A drawing in Chicago which was said to be of Sickert is in fact of Pollitt (see H. C. Pollitt (M.1454)). The Sickerts owned several oils (A White Note (YMSM 44), A Portrait: Maud (YMSM 186), Portrait of H. R. Eldon (3) (YMSM 245), Harmony in Black, No. 10 (YMSM 357)), watercolours (Resting in Bed (M.901), Milly Finch (M.907), Penthouse of the public house in St Ives, Cornwall (M.921), Nocturne (M.943), Flower market: Dieppe (M.1026)) and pastels (Studies of poppies (M.1109)).

Sickert was a member of The Arts Club (of which Whistler was also an occasional member) from 1888-93.

In May 1889, Sickert rather inefficiently organised [Exhibition of the work of J. McN. Whistler], College for Working Men and Women, London, 1889, where JW exhibited shop-fronts and some major portraits.

On 12 October 1896, Sickert failed to apologise to JW for associating with Sir William Eden and they became estranged. JW then took sides with Joseph Pennell against Sickert when Pennell successfully brought a libel action against Sickert in 1897 for an article he wrote in the Saturday Review, which argued that lithographs drawn on lithographic paper and transferred to the lithographic stone mislead 'the purchaser on the vital point of commercial value'. During JW's lawsuit with Eden, Sickert was seen to associate with the baronet and this marked the real end of their association.

Sickert for his part had grown independent of JW, and was able to view his master with both affection and at times devastating clarity of judgment. Sickert probably understood JW's aims and achievements more than any other artist, and was able to develop from it his own powerful vision.

In later years, Sickert, who had as little respect for art historians as JW, was rather free with his authentications of paintings and drawings by JW. Sickert and Pennell were two of the artists who admired JW most and knew him best, but either through a lack of judgement, scrupulousness, or, in Sickert's case, from sheer devilment, authentications by them are by no means reliable.


UK census 1881 at (accessed 2004.9); Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764-1914, Aldershot, 1994; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Sickert, Walter Richard, A Free House! or The Artist as Craftsman, being the Writings of Walter Richard Sickert, London, 1947; Robins, Anna Gruetzner, 'Degas and Sickert,' The Burlington Magazine, March 1988.