Last time I saw much of Walter Sickert was at the Tate’s exhibition of the Camden Town Group which I briefly commented on here. I didn’t enjoy that show much: lots of dingy grey-brown cityscapes and interiors which, whatever their other qualities, were not exactly full of joy. Still, Venice, city of Canaletto, all Mediterranean light and sparkling water: surely that will be a bit more jolly?
Umm… no. It’s hard to believe, but Sickert’s paintings of Venice are even darker and dingier than his paintings of Camden. He did a bunch of very Whistler-influenced evening and night paintings; but where Whistler managed to make his paintings of the Thames shimmering and luminous, Sickert just makes Venice look dark. His paintings are like walking around a city at night with sunglasses on.
He also did some interiors featuring sickly-looking prostitutes that are rather like the pictures of sickly-looking prostitutes he did in Camden. Only in slightly different clothes.
Interestingly, in the shop they had some postcards and prints of the works in the exhibition that made them look glowing and vibrant, like La Giuseppina against a Map of Venice above, which I’ve taken from the Tate website for a previous exhibition but which is currently in Dulwich. Looks great, doesn’t it? Well, I don’t care what they look like in carefully tweaked reproduction; in the flesh they look gloomy and frankly a bit rubbish.