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:
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.