Sickert, Walter Richard
A Weak Defence
In 1882, Walter Sickert became an assistant to James Abbott McNeill Whistler. The following year, he met Edgar Degas. Both of these artist’s influenced Sickert’s work. In particular, Sickert was indebted to Degas for the ability to establish a situation merely through the attitudes of his figures, a visual scenario that applies to his etching A Weak Defence produced around 1911. As an artist who pushed the boundaries of Victorian moral conventions, Sickert often focused on depicting shadowy interiors and lower class Victorian subjects, including scenes that suggested violence. In A Weak Defence, a male and female figure sit on a bed. Although they are fully clothed, the sense of menace and sexual vulnerability is present. The woman holds the bedframe with her right hand and seems uninterested in the man’s advances, but perhaps, as the title suggests, she will not be able to reject his sexual prowess. A preparatory drawing of the same subject exists, and both the drawing and etching relate to a larger group of works that Sickert produced in association to the Camden Town Murder (1907).