Walter Sickert was born in Munich to a Danish father and Anglo-Irish mother; the family moved to England in 1868. An early career on the stage under the name Mr Nemo was abandoned after four years in favour of painting and he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London. As a pupil and assistant to Whistler he learnt the art of etching, as well as a subtle tonal approach to painting that he was to draw on throughout his life. The influence of Degas, whom he met in 1883, was greater, bringing him into contact with the modern movement in France and forcing him to see the restrictions of contemporary art in England. From the late 1880s he regularly visited Dieppe, and later Venice, where the architectural views formed his principal subject. In England, he was drawn to theatres and to vaudeville, which combined his love of drama with a feeling for the tawdriness of urban interiors. An outspoken and forceful protagonist for painting, Sickert became the leader of a group of urban realist painters who gathered in his studio in Fitzroy Street, the nucleus of which was to become the Camden Town Group, named after the district of London in which he lived. They became renowned for their depiction of the seedy London world of this run-down area. Female nudes, couples in bedrooms and domestic scenes in front parlours dominate Sickert's painting of this period. An important teacher (one of whose pupils was Sir Winston Churchill), both Sickert's early and late work - based on photography and newspapers - have influenced successive generations of painters, particularly those artists grouped as 'School of London' (Auerbach, Bacon, Kitaj, Kossoff and Freud). As a printmaker Sickert produced over 266 prints, comprising etchings, engravings, drypoint, lithographs and a mixture of different media. He was ‘taught’ by the American artist, James McNeil Whistler, and following in his example drew directly on the plate in the same way as he might draw in a sketchbook.
Lillian Browse, Sickert, Rupert Hart-Davis, London 1960
Wendy Baron, Sickert, Phaidon, London 1973
Ruth Bromberg, Walter Sickert Prints, Yale University Press, New Haven and London 2000