Walter Sickert, The Blind Sea Captain, 1914, oil on canvas, 109 x 63.3cm, Private Collection Belgium
In Dieppe Sickert was in the habit of taking several different studio spaces, which he chose deliberately for the distinct atmosphere of their locations. Whilst he kept rooms on the elegant seafront he also favoured the area around the Quai Henri IV for its proximity to the activity of the harbour and the ancient fishing quarter, Le Pollet. It was here that Sickert first met his mistress, the prominent fisherwoman Augustine Villain, who lived and worked at the fish market close to the Arcades de la Poissonnerie at the western end of the harbour.
Sickert seemed to revel in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the harbour. He regularly dined with his fellow bohemians under the arches of the Café Suisse and he represented the narrow roads leading from the Arcades de la Poissonnerie, which connected the harbour with the picturesque streets surrounding St Jacques and the commercial thoroughfare of the Grand Rue.
The harbour became the focus of Sickert's attention again in 1913-14 when he bought a house in the countryside around Dieppe. Following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 he was obliged to move back to the centre of Dieppe where he finished several paintings, including ‘The Blind Sea Captain'. In this presentation of an elderly sea captain and his partner, he evoked the everyday struggles of working people in Dieppe, an approach that is comparable to his anecdotal depictions of couples in shabby tenements in London's Camden Town.