Fifty-five

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The Camden Town Murder

c1907-09 by Walter Sickert
Estate of Walter R. Sickert

Sickert’s provocatively named Camden Town Murder paintings are dark. Painted in the year Emily Dimmock, a Camden Town prostitute, was murdered, they are hugely evocative of an atmosphere of uneasy fear as this story gripped London like the tales of Jack the Ripper. But even without this directive and contextual title, Sickert’s paintings would surely speak for themselves. A man sits over a woman very much exposed, her arms stretched above her head. Although in many of Sickert’s other paintings his figures lie naked, almost grotesquely exposed, in this painting she lies clothed but outstretched. Her head is turned towards us, shying from his, and the sense of danger or question of motive becomes more subtle, more chilling. It is eerily that she lies still and waiting, while he gazes, arms crossed, pausing before what is made deliberately unclear. Sickert gives us no clues, facial expression is lost in the blur of his distinctive painterly style. The painting is a blur, a snapshot of a moment seen through the haze of uncertainty. Perhaps the most expressive element of the painting is the light, which moves with an Impressionist-like quality across the walls from the window, bringing a much-needed brightness into this room of unknown intention. Significantly, this light illuminates the lain-out woman, as she becomes one of the brightest parts of the painting. The man is left in the dark, a figure deceptive in shadows, hat still on, covering what we can make out of his face.

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Filed under Twentieth-Century

One response to “Fifty-five

  1. Pingback: Three hundred and seventeen | postcardwall

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