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Record Image
Sickert, Walter Richard (British, b.1860, d.1942)
Old Heffel, The Fiddler
oil on canvas
740 x 620 mm sight size; 955 x 830 mm frame size
5-1955
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1955 with funds from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society through the National Art Collections Fund, London.
The son and grandson of professional artists, and a pupil and assistant to James McNeill Whistler, Sickert was a painter, printmaker, teacher and writer. Of German birth, he moved between France and England, and remained in England for the duration of World War I. He is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century and his innovative techniques have in some way influenced most British figurative painters since that time.
He had a lasting influence on the Camden Town Group formed in 1911, the decade in which Old Heffel, The Fiddler was painted. Sickert made several paintings, drawings and etchings of Old Heffel. One of those paintings is inscribed ‘Paganini of Soho’, which suggests the subject was a violinist of some talent. Another is inscribed ‘Old Heffel of Rowton House’ and, as with the Dunedin portrait, depicts the fiddler seated in a rather dim interior.
Sickert wrote in 1913: ‘London is spiffing! Such evil little racy faces and such a comfortable feeling of the solid basis of beef and beer. O the whiff of leather and stout from the swing-doors of the pubs!’ This aspect of London life had not changed a great deal since the 17th century, when people gathered in small taverns, drinking beer and sometimes spirits, entertaining themselves with home-made music and dancing. The artist adapted the free brushwork of French Impressionism to his own delight in picturing the vitality of the circus and music halls and the seamier side of life within darkened London interiors.

not on view

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