In the 1920s, Clowns, Harlequins and Pierrots were often subjects for artists. There was interest in Commedia Dell’ Arte and its tradition as well as the Circus version of the Clown. Richard owned a book on the history of Clowns, and he called his dalmatian dog after the Swiss clown Grock. He loved inserting a ‘surprise’ clown into his narrative pictures, where they often appear out of place but perhaps serve as an obscure reminder of our common humanity.
This is a remarkable picture done when Richard was still at the Slade but presumably painted in his lodgings as he declared that he never painted at school but only drew.
Richard sometimes introduced clowns or Pierrots into a busy scene where they mix with the crowd. Here there are two clowns standing on the beach with all the other characters looking out to sea. But we will never know what they are watching.
The Pierrot seems to mourn the loss of his girl who appears in a vision behind him. The scene is set in Whitby harbour.