For the British painter Walter Sickert (1860-1942) the picturesque French seaside resort of Dieppe was a significant setting for the development of his work. A draw for many artists and writers, Dieppe held Sickert's attention for over four decades, during which he was a permanent resident there from 1898-1905.He developed a vivid interest in everyday life, depicting the town's architecture, harbour and fishing quarter, its shops, cafes and inhabitants.
Walter Sickert, L’Hôtel Royal, Dieppe, 1894, oil on canvas, 50.2 x 61 cm, Museums Sheffield
It was in Dieppe that Sickert became affiliated with French Impressionists such as Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, and where he forged longstanding friendships with the painters Jacques-Émile Blanche and Edgar Degas, both of whom were to have a formative influence on his career. Whilst these connections established Sickert as a leading proponent of Modern painting in Britain, he continued to nurture professional links during his summers in Dieppe. Throughout the 1890s he mixed with ‘decadent' artists and writers such as Aubrey Beardsley, Arthur Symons and Oscar Wilde. Later he played host to a younger generation of painters including Spencer Gore, Harold Gilman and Albert Rutherston, whose visits to Sickert's home in Dieppe were instrumental to the formation of the Fitzroy Street Group and later the Camden Town Group in London between 1907 and 1912.
Sickert's personal relationships defined his distinct periods of engagement with Dieppe. Having spent family holidays in the town as a child, his first significant visit as a practising artist was in 1885 while on honeymoon with his first wife, Ellen Cobden. During the early 1900s his relationship with the prominent fisherwoman Augustine Villain inspired him to explore the experiences of the local fishing community. The landscape around Dieppe had strong associations with the painter's second wife Christine Angus, whose death in 1920 marked a change in his feelings towards the town.
This exhibition is the first in forty years to focus on Sickert's prolonged engagement with Dieppe. Featuring related prints and drawings alongside paintings, the exhibition demonstrates that it was in Dieppe that Sickert formulated some of his most important painterly techniques and pictorial strategies. We are hugely grateful to all the lenders, sponsors and supporters of this exhibition. A catalogue written by the exhibition's curator Katy Norris is available from the Pallant Bookshop.