Jack Ashore, Walter Richard Sickert
In many ways this scene is remarkably ordinary. Set in a dingy interior, a nude woman sits on a piece of furniture with her head turned towards a male figure behind. The couple appear to be in conversation. However, this scene of a clothed man and a naked woman would have been shocking to a pre-war English audience.
Sickert has chosen an unusual perspective for this painting. He cuts off the top of the man’s head and he positions us, the viewer, as if we are the third person in the room. The artist’s technique is also unusual. Instead of painting the woman’s flesh along the natural contours of her body, Sickert has painted across her arms and legs in a striped effect that highlights the different tones of paint and accentuates the natural lumps and bumps of the human body. This work belongs to a group of paintings of female nudes that Sickert produced in the Camden Town area of London between 1905 and 1913. These works have become collectively known as the Camden Town Nudes and ‘Jack Ashore’ is one of the last works in this series to be completed by the artist.
Marie Hayes is the woman in the foreground of this painting. She worked as Sickert’s part-time housekeeper as well as an artist’s model. Hubby is the man sat behind Marie. He was a childhood friend of Sickert and a former sailor who had fallen on hard times. Like Marie, Hubby modelled for Sickert a number of times in the artist’s studio at 247 Hampstead Road, and was also Sickert’s odd-job man. The title of this work, ‘Jack Ashore’ is thought to relate to Hubby’s past profession as a sailor. ‘Jack’ was the familiar term for a seaman and ‘Ashore’ refers to the sailor’s leave. Taking this title into consideration, this work could be interpreted as a sailor visiting a prostitute during his time on shore.
Walter Sickert was one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. He trained with James Abbott McNeill Whistler and was a prominent member of the Camden Town Group – a group of 16 Post-Impressionist artists that controversially excluded women.