Tate Britain is holding a retrospective of Walter Sickert, the German-born British painter and print maker who some theorists suspect was the infamous serial-killer Jack the Ripper. Sickert took a radically modern approach to painting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, transforming how everyday life was captured on canvas. This major exhibition features over 150 of his works, from scenes of rowdy music halls to ground-breaking nudes and narrative subjects. Spanning Sickert’s six-decade career, it uncovers the people, places and subjects that inspired him and explores his legacy as one of Britain’s most distinctive, provocative, and influential artists.
The exhibition examines Sickert’s British and French music hall subjects together through over 30 atmospheric paintings and drawings of halls in London and Paris, including The Old Bedford 1894-5, Gaité Montparnasse 1907 and Théâtre de Montmartre c.1906 as well as depictions of famous performers such as Birmingham born singer and dancer Minnie Cunningham and Little Dot Hetherington. Sickert took inspiration from the café-concert subjects of French artists such as Edouard Manet and the ballet subjects of Edgar Degas, a close friend and major influence on Sickert after they met in Paris in the 1880s.
Sickert’s nudes were admired in France but disapproved of in Britain, where they were considered immoral. His Camden Town Murder series, which was completed 20 years after Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, is said to be inspired by the artist’s obsession with the serial killer. Author Patricia Cornwell proposed that Sickert himself was the Ripper, though most experts believe he was in France when the crimes took place.
Conspiracy, murder, music halls and provocative paintings —- what more do you want from an art exhibition?
Walter Sickert is on at the Tate Britain until 18th September 2022: https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/walter-sickert