Walter Richard Sickert and the theatre c.1880-c.1940
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Prior to his career as a painter, Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1940) was employed for a number of years as an actor. Indeed the muse of the theatre was a constant influence throughout Sickert’s life and work yet this relationship is curiously neglected in studies of his career. The following thesis, therefore, is an attempt to address this vital aspect of Sickert’s œuvre. Chapter one (Act I: The Duality of Performance and the Art of the Music-Hall) explores Sickert’s acting career and its influence on his music-hall paintings from the 1880s and 1890s, particularly how this experience helps to differentiate his work from Whistler and Degas. Chapter two (Act II: Restaging Camden Town: Walter Sickert and the theatre c.1905-c.1915) examines the influence of the developing New Drama on Sickert’s works from his Fitzroy Street/Camden Town period. Chapter three (Act III: Sickert and Shakespeare: Interpreting the Theatre c.1920-1940) details Sickert’s interest in the rediscovery of Shakespeare as a metaphor for his solution to the crisis in modern art. Finally, chapter four (Act IV: Sickert’s Simulacrum: Representations and Characterisations of the Artist in Texts, Portraits and Self-Portraits c.1880-c.1940) discusses his interest in the concept of theatrical identity, both in terms of an interest in acting and the “character” of artist and self-publicity. Each chapter analyses the influence of the theatre on Sickert’s work, both in terms of his interest in theatrical subject matter but also in a more general sense of the theatrical milieu of his interpretations. Consequently Sickert’s paintings tell us much about changing fashions, traditions and interests in the British theatre during his period. The history of the British stage is therefore the backdrop for the study of a single artist’s obsession with theatricality and visual modernity.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Electronic version restricted until 2nd September 2020
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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