Walter Sickert, Serial Killer

Walter Sickert…. bloodthirsty maniac!

To the best of my knowledge, Walter Sickert is the only painter accused of being a serial killer. Patricia Cornwell, with her overheated homegrown American imagination of the kind that puts witches to death in Salem and groups of grade school teachers in jail for performing Satanic rituals on their students, has devoted a whole book to proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jack the Ripper was  a student of Degas and Whistler and a genius in his own right named Walter Sickert.

Embarrassingly enough, I actually read the book.  I’ve always been a sucker for True Crime books. I probably shouldn’t admit my penchant for an interest in gruesome murders since it could no doubt leave me open to suspicions of serial killing myself… particularly if one has looked at some of my drawings and paintings. No doubt the Berlin police could put case closed on some unsolved murders from the Weimar period if they were to investigate the proximity to the murder scenes of artists like George Grosz, Rudolf Schlichter and Otto Dix.

And Daumier is clearly another suspicious person that these historical detectives should take a close look at:

Honore Daumier


Otto Dix


Otto Dix


Rudolf Schlichter


George Grosz

The painting below by Rene Magritte seems to me as close to a clear confession as any artist has come to laying bare his sordid activities. Magritte is no doubt depicting himself as a young man who, having just satiated his blood lust, turns to the solace of music. No doubt Sickert, Grosz and the rest worked out their guilt feelings by depicting the brutality of their acts. It’s only Magritte who has managed to find a kind of detachment from his crimes by escaping into his surreal fantasy world.  The coldness of the mountain peaks represent the emotional distancing and extreme solitude…. and also his preference for a certain kind of female breast shape, revealing his fixation with underage girls.

I hope Patricia Cornwell can get her team working on some of these other maniacs. It hardly seems right that Sickert has been pegged as the Ripper while these other artists have their reputations relatively intact.

Ah, Yes…. below we have the Sickert paintings … so cleverly disguised as an exploration of the dark underbelly of Victorian society… But not cleverly enough for the intrepid Patricia who sees them as the exact Confessions of the Ripper himself.,, reliving and relishing his sexual excitement over having dispatched all these women. It’s still a mystery why Sickert didn’t set up his easel at the scene to give us  a much more realistic interpretation of his murders. But no doubt he felt the ghosts of his teachers Degas and Whistler looking over his shoulder with disapproval every time he tried to get into the gory details.

The images below are from Sickert’s series of Camden Town Nudes… or the Camden Town Murders for the more credulous.



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6 Responses to Walter Sickert, Serial Killer

  1. Jackdaw says:

    If you really wish to see the true meaning of Sickert’s art?……….and the clues he painted re the case of Jack the Ripper and the Royal Conspiracy theory?……….. then maybe you should take a peek at the Unexplained Mysteries website – the thead ‘Jack the Ripper : Sickert & The Art of Murder’
    The images of the painter’s works in particular from page 20 of the thread maybe of interest to yourself…….and your followers.

    Jackdaw 🙂

  2. trueoutsider says:

    Greetings, Jackdaw! Thanks very much for that link. I’m on the case! I’ll take a look at the link and see what I can make of it… We have to get to the bottom of this Ripper/Sickert thing! It’s bad enough that I haven’t been able to solve the Kennedy case…. and that right here in my own neck of the woods. Not to mention the Black Dahlia— but that gets us into Duchamp and Man Ray and the seamy underbelly of the Los Angeles… and things are bad enough exploring the seamy underbelly of the Contemporary Art World…

    I’m still trying to figure out the mystery of who my followers are but any light that can be shed on any of these conundrums is always more than welcome. So thanks much!

  3. Jackdaw says:

    Thankyou for replying.
    I hope my research and findings into JtR help you in your quest.
    However one has to join the site – which is free by the way – to see the images of art I have posted.
    I think you will enjoy the views 🙂

  4. trueoutsider says:

    Jackdaw, I certainly did enjoy seeing the Sickert paintings you posted, the quality of which are superior to what I managed to find to post.

    I did notice that you’d labelled one form a “breast” much as I jokingly referred to the mountain in the Magritte painting above a “breast.” I did so to illustrate not only the difficulty in trying to interpret paintings as expressions of any particular painters psyche by interpreting symbols. We have Sigmund Freud to thank for all this, of course. This kind of Freudianism is rife throughout the academic world and while it makes for great comic moments (in fact, Roger Kimball in The Rape of the Masters gets great mileage from them) I don’t find them very useful in bringing me close to paintings. This is of course my own obsession and not yours. But I think if you tried to look at Sickert for what he was–a painter–you’d come to the conclusion that he wasn’t Jack the Ripper. And to come to look at Sickert as a painter you have to try to look at paintings as paintings…. not as forensic evidence.

    I think that your photoshopping out the painter’s palette in The Painter in his Studio was very clever. And it does make it appear that he’s holding a knife. But I’m afraid that I don’t see what you see in the painting, nor would I be looking for it.

    I don’t even know what you’re suggesting. Do you think that Sickert was encoding all those specific images in his work or are you making Freudian interpretations…In other words do you subscribe to Freudian notions of the subconscious revealing itself in jokes, dreams, paint blobs, etc. so that you imagine Sickert’s subconscious was revealing his crimes by producing grisly imagery in barely recognizable shapes? Or are you saying that Sickert was deviously and intentionally painting clues to his crimes? The latter is out of the question. That I know from 40 plus years of painting myself. As to the former–Freudian revelations–I’m as highly skeptical as can be imagined but wouldn’t see any point in arguing my own point of view because I’m perfectly content for you to believe one thing and me another.

    As far as what I see I’m afraid I don’t see shadowy figures locked in a struggle. What I see is a larger sculpture with another about 2/3 size behind it. There’s nothing indicating that they’re interlocked in any way whatsoever, much less a violent struggle. There’s plenty of ambiguity in the painting, as there are in many paintings and there are various ways they can be read. (e.g., the jumble of objects behind the painter’s left arm could be read in a number of ways). As far as the sculpture with the missing arm, those were ubiquitous in any artist studio who came from the Beaux Arts tradition. Greek and Roman statues were often missing limbs because that’s what was vulnerable to breakage, leaving the torso. And it would most likely have been made out of plaster, not marble or clay. Plaster casts were made from the originals.

    Here’s a picture of the plaster casts at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin. You can note the broken limbs on the statuary. I include this since you said you’d never seen such a piece of art moulded out of clay or marble. What you see in the studio in the Sickert painting isn”t a piece of art molded out of clay or marble. It’s a typical plaster cast:

    Below is one of the drawings from the Charles Bargue instructional drawings that all good Academy students were trained on. Even Vincent van Gogh describes doing drawings from Bargue in one of his late letters to Theo. The statues have nothing to do with severed limbs or mutilated corpses. Like I say, they were ubiquitous and part of the studio “furniture” of the time that artists used to learn the fundamentals of drawing and painting, as well as try to keep the classical tradition alive. Sickert is locating himself as part of the grand tradition of Western painting, not confessing to mutilating corpses… Anyway, that’s my opinion at this point.

    Below is a Paul Cezanne painting. Even painters, like Sickert or Cezanne who moved far away from their associations with the French Academy, still incorporated elements of their earlier experiences. Cezanne did a number of paintings and drawings incorporating plaster casts with the typical broken off limbs.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to belabor this point… or even to prove a point. I’m just hoping that this might at least clear up why there’s a statue missing limbs in the artist’s studio depicted by Sickert. While you may still want to believe Sickert is painting this to allude to his crimes, at least you can drop the notion that he’s creating it out of a fever dream.

    Here’s another beautiful Sickert painting that I thought I’d throw in just for viewing pleasure (and hoping that you won’t see the red dress as a kind of Stanley Kubrick / The Shiniing torrent of blood!). It’s wonderfully painted and so reminiscent of Degas. Perhaps I’m naive, but I can’t bring myself to imagine that an artist capable of such graceful poetic evocations, which is a matter of the most intense study and effort, was in his spare time running around carving women up.

    Now a minimalist artist like Carl Andre throwing his wife out the window to her death? I have little trouble believing that at all. The book Naked by the Window by Robert Katz provides an overpowering amount of circumstantial evidence that points directly to Andre. If you were going after Carl Andre…. well then that’s a different story… I just say this so you won’t think that I defend artists in some knee jerk way. I go where the evidence leads…. And I’ve seen no substantial evidence whatsoever that Sickert was the Ripper.

  5. Jackdaw says:

    Try opening your eyes and visit –


    Jackdaw 🙂

  6. trueoutsider says:

    Jack, you’re going to have to be more specific about what my open eyes are supposed to be looking for or what they might find on the Historum Forum.

    When I pull up something like the Jack the Ripper thread all I find are various speculations about the Ripper’s identity … James Kelly, James Maybrick, Aaron Kosminsky, Francis Thompson, Francis Tumblety and so on. … without any argument or evidence to go along with the suppositions.

    Cicero says: “I read the Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper–Case Closed by Patrician Cornwell awhile back and she says the culprit was Walter Sickert. All of her evidence was circumstantial and I didn’t find it compelling.”

    That’s all I’m pointing out on my post above.

    If you have a link to what you want me to look at it, I’ll do so.

    Too bad Robert Anton Wilson never got on the case.


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