‘Brighton Pierrots’

 

Detail from 'Brighton Pierrots': pierrette in pink playing piano

At first sight this painting illustrates popular British seaside entertainment at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Sickert has painted the scene of a pierrot show as the setting sun turns the sky a dusky pink. The pierrots perform on a wooden stage on the beach with a background of houses on Brighton seafront. Two performers in red suits and straw boaters stand rather stiffly at the front of the stage. They face a sparse audience seated in deckchairs. This may look awkward but Sickert wants us to focus on the pierrette in pink playing the piano at the back of the stage – she stares directly back at us. Both she and the pierrot in green are wearing traditional costumes with ruffles round the neck and a conical shaped hat.

Has Sickert deliberately arranged the figures on the stage in an awkward way to undermine the perceived joviality of their performance? The stage is lit by footlights and by lamps hanging above the stage and the acid colours of the scene created by the artificial stage lights add to the unsettling sense of all not being well.