Walter Sickert was the single most significant figure to bestride the British art scene for the half-century that separated the 1880s &m the 1930s. He liked bestriding and declaiming - activities he had readily engaged in during hs early years on the stage with Henry Irving and Ellen Terry at the Lyceum. He was reckless, feckless, profligate, selfish, witty, provocative and promiscuous - part enfant terrible, part overgrown schoolboy. Born in Munich, the son of a Danish father and a French-educated English mother, he always regarded hmself as an outsider. As the eldest and most charismatic of the six children of Oswald and Nellie Sickert (who was the illegitimate daughter of the Reverend Richard Sheepshanks), he was regarded by his siblings, and others, as - 'a fickle leader with no sense of responsibility to hs followers' - early traits which grew more exaggerated as the years passed.
There has been no biography of Sickert since Denys Sutton's rather unsatisfactory life was published in 1976, but in the intervening years there have been major exhibitions of his work at the Hayward Gallery, the Royal Academy, Abbot Hall, the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Fine Art Society, accompanied by