During the summer of 1920, while on an extended stay in Dieppe, Sickert spent many evenings making sketches at the Casino. Built in 1886, this moorish-style building was at the far end of the Rue Aguado, and the fashionable characters that he found in its opulent gaming rooms inspired a series of pictures. He focused on the well-regarded game of Baccarat, which allowed him to observe the elegant silhouettes of the players in their stylish hats and clothing.
The activity of the players appealed to Sickert, and he captured them as they hunched over the table in concentration, lit up by the lamps overhead. In the present work several of the figures have their backs to us, and the croupier at the left of the composition has been cut off by the edge of the canvas.
Initially Sickert was left to watch and sketch unobserved, however following a complaint from his friend, Lady Blanche Hozier, he was forced to continue sketching on small cards which he held, in secret, beneath the gaming tables. Several of these cards are now in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Baron, nos. 543.3). Other oils of this subject hang in the collections of Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand (Baron, no. 544) and Tate, London (Baron, no. 545).
In 1920 Sickert and his wife Christine dedicated and gifted Baccarat to Mademoiselle Livache. The painting was later owned by Sylvia Gosse (1881-1968), Sickert’s lifelong friend and fellow artist, who sold it in these Rooms in 1932. It was purchased from the Christie’s sale by Major Lessore, presumably the sculptor Major Frederick Lessore (1879-1951), brother of Sickert’s third wife Thérèse. Robert Emmons, author of The Life and Opinions of Walter Richard Sickert, subsequently owned Baccarat as well as ’48 (lot 131), which have been passed by descent to the present owner.