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Walter Sickert's Camden Town nudes, denounced as "slum art," are surely among the greatest political works in the history of British painting

By Ben Lewis   January 2008

Dingy, seedy and gloomy are three adjectives not normally read in conjunction with a fourth, “beautiful,” but the British post-impressionist Walter Sickert brings them all together in the series of paintings he made from 1905-12, known as “The Camden Town nudes.” Executed in a lusciously morbid palette dominated by dark purples and greens, their bleak subject matter—prostitutes in grubby rooms—floats into vision through a dense texture of oil paint as crumbly as Wensleydale cheese. Women lie naked on old beds, sinking exhausted into their bedcovers, lit only by shards of streetlights coming through cracks in the blinds or curtains, their…

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