Sickert’s London

DirectorJake Auerbach
One line synopsisThe work of British Impressionist painter, Walter Sickert (1860-1942) with particular regard to his depictions of life in north London.

Photographs of Walter Sickert. Frank Auerbach, Painter, suggests the reason he looks different in each one is that the British environment was so hostile to art that artists had to disguise themselves in order to survive, and London a good place to hide in. London at night. VO reading "London is spiffing! Such evil, racy little faces, and such a comfortable feeling of the solid basis of beef and beer." London at dawn. BBC announcer’s VO introducing programme on Walter Sickert in series "As I knew him". Blue plaque for Sickert. VO over of Sir Alex Martin in 1960. Interior of Sickert’s house. Self Portrait (1896). Self Portrait (1907) (The Juvenile Lead). Self Portrait (1907) (The Painter in his Studio). Self Portrait (1927) (Lazarus Breaks his Fast). Self Portrait (1929) (The Servant of Abraham). Self Portrait (1937). Commentary gives some brief biographical details and lists James Whistler and Paul Gauguin as major influences. Photographs. Caption: "The Sickert Archive, Islington Library." Commentary refers to Sickert as "one of the undiscovered heroes of modern art". Howard Hodgkin, Painter, looking through scrapbooks of newspaper cuttings on Sickert, reads a piece from 1932 which notes that Sickert has shaved off his beard as well as changing the use of his name from Richard to Walter to W.R. Barber’s shop. Man being shaved. Street scenes in Islington and Camden Town. Auerbach describes Sickert as the greatest painter of London. Houses in Barnsbury Park, Highbury Place, Gloucester Crescent, Brecknock Road, Noel Road, in all of which Sickert had a studio at some time or another. The Royal Academy of Arts, London. Workmen moving paintings. Commentary says Sickert’s paintings of nudes sold in Paris, but "too hot" for the London market. Augustus John’s Lyric Fantasy (c.1913). Auerbach being uncomplimentary about John’s attitude to Sickert’s work. Nudes. Unpacking paintings. Richard Shone, Writer, quoting criticism of Sickert’s work. La Hollandaise (c.1906). Another nude. Mornington Crescent Nude, Contre-jour (1907). Auberbach VO. The Studio: Painting of a Nude (c.1906). Details of La Hollandaise. Bedford Hotel; Sickert’s words on getting the model "out of the studio". La Maigre Adeline (1906). L’Affaire de Camden Town (1909); Auerbach believes it’s a composite, part from life, part from drawing. Detail from Dawn, Camden Town (c.1909); Jack Ashore (1911); Auerbach VO. Nude. VO of Cicely Hey in 1960, (sketch of her, The Large Plate (1923)) describing herself as "the last occupant of the iron bedstead". Her diary showing appointments for sittings. Photograph of Sickert. Hey’s VO describes their association. Driving through Islington; VO of Prof. Quentin Bell, Writer, recalling Sickert’s advice on painting by capturing fleeting moments. Ennui (1914). Sickert’s words over "The practice of art … is not a natural thing…". Details of Ennui; sketches of same. John Wonnacott, Painter, talking about how Sickert planned his paintings, and how he believed that the greatest artists were those who worked from small drawings. Peter Ackroyd, Writer, talking about Sickert’s subjects and their settings, "places of anxiety". Bar-room scene; Bell says Sickert "delighted in squalor… at the down-at-heel achievements of the not very well off". Brothel scene. Ennui.

Street scenes. Hairdressers. Sickert’s words over talking about everyday "magic and poetry". Shone on Sickert’s observation of the poor. Auerbach in Camden Town; VO talking about Sickert’s contemporaries. Photographs including Degas. Sickert’s words VO describing him and other painters. Copy of Sickert’s book, A Free House! Photograph of Sickert. Bell on Sickert’s writing. Sickert’s words VO, "Take the afternoon…" and talking about the light and how painters must capture images. Sir David Napley replicating pose in one of the paintings. Victor Lecour (1922-1924). Bell on his first meeting with Sickert, and on sitting for him. Photographs of Sickert. Bell describing Sickert’s reaction to a Salvation Army band. Sketches by Sickert on a calendar (1929). Shone talking, in Highbury, about Sickert’s preference for the shabbiness of north London, even though he moved in much grander circles in London and in Dieppe. Casino scene. Bathers, Dieppe (1892).

Photographs of Winston and Clementine Churchill. Lady Mary Soames, Writer, talking about her family’s connections with Sickert. Photographs of Churchill; letter from Sickert to Churchill conveying a lesson in painting. Sickert’s words VO. Hodgkin looking through items in the Islington collection; finds two palettes. Photograph of Sickert. Commentary says his later paintings "frequently exploited other people’s work". High Steppers (1938). Brighton Pierrots (1915). Portrait; William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook (1935). Photograph of Beaverbrook in same pose. Auerbach VO says these works were often criticised. Victorian engraving; painting. Portrait of Sir Hugh Walpole (1928). Auerbach suggests that Sickert was always experimenting with styles and methods, and that the painting is done from a photograph. Shone talking about Sickert catching sitters in unguarded moments. Cicely Hey; other paintings: "A page torn from the book of life" says Shone. Claude Phillip Martin (1935). Miss Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as Isabella of France (1932). Auerbach talking about hand-painted cinema posters (queue for Gone With the Wind (1939)) as being "urgent and definite". Painting. Gavin Henderson, The 2nd Lord Faringdon (c.1935). Portrait. Portrait of Duke of Windsor. Details of the Faringdon, Beaverbrook and Windsor portraits.

Photographs of Sickert with Windsor painting and with portrait of A Conversation Piece at Aintree (c.1927-1930). Hodgkin looking at cutting about this painting (of George V and Major Featherstonehaugh) which makes clear its photographic source. The Raising of Lazarus (1929). VO of describing seeing the photographic source for this being set up. Photograph of Sickert with "corpse" and young woman. Wonnacott talking about the photograph and how Sickert (seen in one photograph in chef’s hat) transferred this to the painting. Hodgkin on the publicity that followed the painting – cuttings and photograph of Sickert with the paintings. Hodgkin says Sicert wanted to communicate with the public. The Camden Town Murder (1907) (also known as What Shall We Do For Rent? Gas ring and kettle. Sir David Napley, Solicitor, talks about the Camden Town murder case of 1907 in which Robert Wood was acquitted of the murder of Emily Dimmock. L’Affaire de Camden Town in which Wood was the model for the male figure. Ackroyd talking about Sickert’s fascination with the Whitechapel murders. Shone talking about the Jack the Ripper case, Sickert’s fascination with murder in general, and his penchant for dressing up. Summer Afternoon (1908-1909). Setting sun.

Production companyHannah Rothschild, Jake Auerbach
Running time49 minutes
Full credits

Sickert’s writings read by Alan Bennett;
Music Jools Holland.
With thanks to The Royal Academy of Arts, London,
The Sickert Archive, Islington Library,
Henry Lessore,
The Quality Chop House,
London Borough of Camden,
Parsons Restaurant,
Jeremy Gawade,
Jane Willoughby.
Graphics Keith Haynes,
Richard Maclay;
Lighting Peter Arnold;
Sound John Tellick;
Assistant Cameraman Keith Thomas;
Dubbing Mixer Michael Narduzzo;
VT Editor Nick Ames;
Rostrum Camera Ken Morse;
Assistant Film Editor Sara Boggon;
Production Manager Heather Dunthorne;
Film Editor Guy Bensley;
Photography Ian Punter;
Executive Producers Rodney Wilson,
Roly Keating;
Producers Robert McNab,
Hannah Rothschild;
Director Jake Auerbach.
A Hannah Rothschild Jake Auerbach Production for BBC TV and the Arts Council of Great Britain.
© BBC & the Arts Council of Great Britain MCMXCII.

Film segmentSickert’s London - ACE247.2
Sickert’s London - ACE247.3
Sickert’s London - ACE247.4
Sickert’s London - ACE247.5
Sickert’s London - ACE247.6
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