Sunday, July 27, 2008
The Camden Town Nudes
This is a post which I wanted to write a long time back.
It has been in my mind ever since I went to "Walter Sickert : The Camden Town Nudes" at The Courtauld Gallery, London with my son and daughter Rajani last winter .There were about 25 works on show by Sicket-a name not very familier to our public.But Sicket was a prominent figure in the world of art in Britain at the turn of 19th century.He was counted amoung the impressionist painters of England, yet he was different from the run of the mill impressionists as we can see from the almost 'naturalistic' and dark works he is famous for.
His paintings look sinister, and have a disquiting feel about them.In these paintings he showed the seedy-shaby side of London life.He criticized van-Gogh's technic and Cezzane ,he said is over rated.So one can see how very different his ideas were.
He was the leader of the 'Camden Town Group' of young artists.These artists were more interested in capturing the ephemeral in urban life .They were not interested in painting'nature' or country side in brilliant colors on their canvas.
In early 19th century Sickert set up home in a run down part of the city, at Camden amoung the Irish laboring class( who were engaged in buiding the railway stations of King's Cross,St Pancras, and Euston) after coming back from Paris where he had worked with the old french master -Degas.It was here that he painted these nudes .The nudes of Sickert unlike Degas are hardly erotic or colorful.These were lower class women often prostitutes of the area.
It is curious that he had writen-- "Compositions consisting solely of nudes are usually (I have not forgotten certain exceptional flights of genius, such as the Rubens, in Munich, of the Descent into Hell) not only repellent,but slightly absurd. Even the picture or two (I think there are two) of the master Ingres, which is a conglomeration of nudes, has something absurd and repellent, a suggestion of a dish of macaroni, something wriggling and distasteful." :-)
Virginia Woolf who knew Sickert has written at lenght about this intrigueing artist.He was a' literary painter 'to her.An artist whose paintings had a tale to tell--straight forward.Sickert was one of the first artist to paint from photographs.
It is not very surprising ,given the narrative nature of "The Camden Town Nudes" and the timing of these works, they became associated with the famous "Ripper" case...who, murdered prostitutes---the Whitechapel murders.,made famous also by Patricia Cromwell's novel 'Portrait Of A Killer'. "I do believe hundered percent that the artist Walter Sickert was Jack The Ripper" Cromwell said!! Ok here are some of the works that were on display.
The first clockwise is 'Despair' followed by 'What shall we do for rent'or The Camden Town Murder,followed by 'The Rose Shoe', 'The La Hollandaise' ,then 'The Iron Bed Stead'. The painting down below is 'Ennui' a couple sitting facing the opposite directions...:-).