Friday, August 26, 2005


One of the most intriquing paintings I have ever seen is "ENNUI" by Walter Sickert. It is filed with imagery,some of which could be,and possibly is, projections from the mind of the viewer. But that is a function of art, and this painting is no exception. At first glance,there is nothing particularly attractive about it. Until you look at it carefully.

The woman stands near a mantle, apparently bored, daydreaming as she looks past some bric-a-brac on the mantle by which she stands, gazing at something on the wall that is out of sight of the viewer. A decanter of wine and brandy sits at the edge of a mantle at another wall, and casts a shadow which is to me reminiscent of a bat hanging upside down.

An older gentleman, apparrently older than the woman though we can't be certain, sits at a table, drinking what has been described as a beer, though it looks more to me like water, while he smokes what has been described as a cigar, though to me it looks more like a cigarrette. Interestingly, he seems to be holding it not to his mouth, but to his nose.

You see a slight bulge in the crotch of his pants as he tries to assume a posture of relaxed casualness-yet he seems to be very tense as he seems to be looking out the corner of his eyes.

But it is the shadow that he casts that seems to reveal his inner turmoil. He sems almost compelled to spring into action. The shadow is full of the life of his secret thoughts. But thoughts about what?

The shadow seems to be a prominent artifice in Sickerts work, which to great extent delves into the dark, hidden side of ordinary everyday life. Sickert was quite taken by the macabre aspects of human nature, with all it's propensity for filth, degradation, and violence. Yet, he could produce art of breathtaking scenic beauty as well.

A good many have come to know him in this day and age through the work of Patricia Cornwell, who recently asserted in a book that Sickert was none other than Jack The Ripper. Though she makes a compelling case insofar as certain items of forensic evidence, in addition to his possible motivations, she herself seems to have become as obsessed at the prospect as the true Ripper may have been at the opportunity for his next victim.

In an efort to produce evidence to support her theory, she purchased a Sickert work and, in the process of searching for evidence, destroyed it. Hopefully, this travesty will never be repeated, nor will it be permitted the chance to occur. Even if Sickert was theRipper, there is no excuse for destroying great art. For another thing, the evidence against Sickert being the Ripper is considerable, and not easily discounted.

*Sickert was in places known to be far from the sight of a number of the Ripper murders, apparrently at the time they were committed.

*So far as I know, Sickert had no connection to the Masons. In point of fact, the Ripper was either a former mason who had been kicked out of the Order, for whatever reason, or he was otherwise in a position to know a great deal of Masonic lore.

*Jack the Ripper was an American, probably attached to the American embassy for at least some time during the last year of the first Grover Cleveland administration, after which, upon the advent of the succeeding Harrison administration, he was among those recaled. No, I can't prove this. But it is what I think.

In fact, I have thought of other potential suspects, among them Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker. And there is also the possibility that Sickert himself, who was reportedly obsessed with the case, may have been the culprit after all,or somehow otherwise involved with it. But again, this doesn't justify destroying great art.

I would suggest however that careful research into Sickert's personal relationships and business ones, particularly what art students he may have taught at the time, may go a long way toward finding the true identity of the Ripper, assumming Sickert had a relationship with him, and of further discovering just what Sickert's connection to the case may have been, if anything. But I wouldn't count on it one way or another.