Tuesday 19 July 2016

Not Sickert

While I was in Derbyshire, my cousin and I crossed the border to spend a (grey) day in Sheffield, a city that is quite transformed - for the better - from the one I knew in the early Seventies. It was good to revisit the Graves Art Gallery (housed in a grand art deco / classical building), where I spent many a lunch hour browsing. The permanent collection is manageably small, with a particularly well chosen selection of British works from the early 20th century - among them the picture shown above, Homeward Bound, Rue St Remy, Dieppe, which I instantly identified as a Sickert. But it isn't: it's by one Sylvia Gosse, a name new to me, who was a friend, pupil, colleague, 'firm friend and guardian angel' of Sickert. She shared his fascination with the streets of Dieppe and other urban scenes, and her pictorial technique owed much to her master, to the point where her pictures were sometimes mistaken for his, even in their lifetimes.
Sylvia Gosse was the daughter of the eminent man of letters Sir Edmund Gosse and therefore extremely well connected. Her mother was a pupil of the painter Ford Madox Brown (Ford Madox Ford's grandfather), her uncle was Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema , and she was acquainted with most of the literary and artistic lions of her day. And yet her demeanour was shy, shrinking and self-effacing, and she was happy to remain in the background of the Camden Town, Fitzroy Street and London Group circles, with all of which she was closely associated. A portrait by Harold Gilman (below) conveys the retiring character of this considerable artist, who surely deserves to be better known. I'l be looking out for her - and remembering that what looks like a Sickert isn't always a Sickert...

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