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Walter Richard Sickert

1860 – 1942

Venice, The Horses of St.Mark’s (4th version) by Walter Richard Sickert

Venice, The Horses of St.Mark’s (4th version)   1915

  Original etching.
Bromberg 173 i-ii/iii; Troyen 90
S 307 x 246 mm; P 191 x 145 mm; I 143 x 111 mm
Previously unrecorded proof state between Bromberg’s first and second states – before reduction of the plate and before all letters. This early proof impression shows the additional engraved lines on the second horse from the left (these are not found in Bromberg’s first state), but is before the engraved lines which were added to the fourth horse from the left to create Bromberg’s second state. Bromberg records the existence of only one example in each of the first and second states of the plate (Private collection ex Ethel Sands & Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Center for British Art), although the existence of another second state impression is now known (private collection).

This etching was the successful product of an image which took Walter Sickert some 15 years to develop. It is the fourth and final version of this subject in etching. Walter Sickert’s first plate of the subject dates from 1901 (Bromberg 119). W.R.Sickert made numerous paintings and drawings of this subject and continued to work on his second and third etched attempts during 1902-3 after his return to Dieppe. This fourth plate is by far the most successful version, with the broken etched lines of the lunette creating the effect of sunlight reflected from a myriad of panes of glass.

Walter Sickert is widely considered to be the greatest of the British Impressionists. Early in his career, W.R.Sickert had been a devout follower of Whistler; however, by the time he embarked on the subject of Venice, The Horses of St.Mark’s in 1901-02, he had broken away entirely from Whistler’s style and influence and had begun to produce works which explored the treatment of light in an entirely novel way.

This image depicts the four bronze horses of St. Mark’s below the central lunette of the west portico. At the right is the balcony from which spectators could watch festivals or events taking place in the Piazza below. From the variety of work found in his various versions of this subject, it is clear that Walter Sickert was determined to convey the impressionistic effects of light on the horses and windows behind them. In the first version he experimented with aquatint, an experiment which he attempted again for the second plate of the subject. The third plate was a heavy and granular etched version which lacks the subtlety of Walter Sickert’s normal work. In this final, most successful, version of the image, Sickert introduced a background of etched sky.

This impression was a gift “With best wishes from Doreen & Geoffrey Agnew” (per accompanying card) of Thos.Agnew & Sons Ltd., London (accompanying label gives their stock ref.20896).

Very fine, delicate impression on cream laid paper, with full margins and deckle edge. Very fine condition.