ROUSSEL, Theodore
(b. 1847, Lorient, d. 1926, St Leonards-on-Sea)

The Reading Girl

c. 1887
Oil on canvas, 152 x 161 cm
Tate Gallery, London

Whistler's followers included Theodore Roussel, Paul Maitland, Walter Richard Sickert and the young Wilson Steer - that is, the artists widely considered the leading British Impressionists. With Sidney Starr they split off from the New English Art Club. This sub-group used the label London Impressionists. The driving force was Sickert who outlined the task facing British Impressionism: to record the magic and poesy that lay all around in everyday life. London, the great metropolis, provided all the stimulating subject-matter that was necessary.

The concentration on London subject-matter was apparent in the work of Sickert, Starr, Roussel and the latter's pupil Maitland. Urban problems resulting from 19th-century expansion in the cities - such as unemployment, poverty, child labour, alcoholism and prostitution - were almost totally absent from this art. The city was being viewed as a predominantly middle-class thing.