Gallery of the Old Bedford
Following the example of Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883) and Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) and their paintings of Parisian cafes and theatres, Sickert painted the more raucous nightlife of London’s music halls throughout his career. He was a regular visitor at the Bedford Music Hall in Camden Town, the subject of this painting. Sickert may have intended it as a sequel to his earlier picture of the child performer Little Dot Hetherington on the stage of the Bedford, in which she is shown pointing to this spot while singing the popular song, “The Boy I Love is up in the Gallery”. As well as recording vividly the atmosphere and setting of a late 19th century performance, this is a brilliant exercise in lighting and composition. Sickert exploits the contrast between the shadowy auditorium and the reflected glare of the stage, and creates tricks of space and perspective by means of the giant mirror on the left.