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Back in 2002, I remember one day when I was browsing a new releases table at my local bookstore and a particular book caught my eye. What I noticed first was the dust jacket- its background was an old, handwritten letter, across which a huge font, in bright red letters, the color of blood, trumpeted the author’s name- Patricia Cornwell-across the cover. It seemed like yet another crime novel, one among hundreds. And so, I moved on, until I saw the subtitle of the book:
Jack the Ripper: Case Closed.
Now, I am as intrigued by unsolved crimes as much as the next person, so I cracked the cover of the book and began to read the dust jacket’s accompanying description. In it, the author released a bombshell statement: she had purportedly solved the mystery of Jack the Ripper’s identity, which had evaded researchers, historians, and police for over one hundred years. And to those of us in the art world, her suspected killer hit a bit too close to home. A painter-- and a well-known and much praised one, at that-- had committed the famous murders, she wrote.
Jack the Ripper, she said, was the English painter Walter Sickert.
In this second half of our special two-part Halloween episode, we are going to get into the nitty-gritty details of the Sickert-as-Ripper theory. If you’re just tuning in to the ArtCurious Podcast for the first time, please stop and listen to Part One of this Halloween segment first and get the backstory on Jack the Ripper’s crimes, as well as a brief biography of Walter Sickert.
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