Music Hall: Sickert and the Three Graces
At the turn of the 20th century, entertainment by and for the people was at its peak in Britain. Audiences jostled, boozed and sang along in over 500 music halls. Music halls were a result of Britain’s expanding commercial power, and for newly affluent workers they provided an escape from working life. For women performers, they offered the promise of an independent career. Popular song and comedy reflected the complexities of a changing industrialised society – a world that saw greater class mobility and the emancipation of women.
Walter Sickert’s painting The Gallery of the Old Bedford is an evocative depiction of a music hall. Sickert immersed himself in the world of the halls in his desire to capture modern life. For Sickert the music halls were a serious subject for art – a spectacle of light, colour, movement and sound, with female performers who were a never-ending source of artistic inspiration.
This display brings together Sickert’s paintings with objects and ephemera from the V&A’s collections to explore the culture of the music halls. At the heart of the story are the women performers.