Maureen Connett, honorary research fellow at Slade and an expert on Walter Sickert, casts her eye over Charleston’s exhibition In Colour
Sickert’s large canvas, L’Hotel Royal, Dieppe (1894) dominates this exhibition.
The palette of lime green and soft mauve with the two figures in dazzling white in the foreground is as arresting and dramatic as Sickert himself was. A brilliant, charismatic figure, he was welcomed at every level of society, a European and a cosmopolitan who dined with the rich and powerful in Dieppe, as well as Venice and London. He taught Winston Churchill to paint, and demanded the same disciplined application from his famous pupil as he imposed on himself. The great man chafed at his teacher’s emphasis on drawing and colour studies, wanting to splash about with bright colours from the start. But these two strong characters became firm friends. Churchill recognised that Sickert was, above all, a dedicated, professional painter, well known in Paris, an associate of the Impressionists and a lifelong friend of the great Degas.
Vanessa Bell, like all the Bloomsbury group, was a Francophile and revered the Impressionists and the great artists who came after. She was the central nurturing figure at Charleston and an inspiration to her whole ‘family’ of artists, particularly to Duncan Grant and to Roger Fry who was deeply in love with her.
All three painters have striking work in this exhibition. It is interesting to see how they naturally influenced each other, often painting side by side in the colourful gardens around them which were designed by Roger.
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