The Camden Town Murder

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Walter Sickert, The Camden Town Murder, originally titled, What Shall We Do for the Rent?, alternatively, What Shall We Do to Pay the Rent

The Camden Town Murder is a title given to a group of four paintings by Walter Sickert painted in 1908. The paintings have specific titles, such as the problem picture What Shall We Do for the Rent or What Shall We Do to Pay the Rent.[1][2][better source needed][dead link]

The title of the group refers to the Camden Town Murder case of 1907.[3] On 11 September Emily Dimmock, a part-time prostitute cheating on her partner, was murdered in her home at Agar Grove (then St Paul's Road), Camden, having gone there from The Eagle public house, Royal College Street. After sex, the man had cut her throat while she was asleep, then left in the morning.[1] The murder became a source of prurient sensationalism in the press.[1] For several years Sickert had been painting lugubrious female nudes on beds, and continued to do so, challenging the conventional approach to life painting—"The modern flood of representations of vacuous images dignified by the name of 'the nude' represents an artistic and intellectual bankruptcy"—giving four of them, which included a male figure, the title, The Camden Town Murder, and causing a controversy which ensured attention for his work.[1][better source needed]

The paintings do not show violence, but a sad thoughtfulness, explained by the fact that three of them were originally exhibited with completely different titles, one more appropriately being What Shall We Do for the Rent?, and the first in the series, Summer Afternoon.

Sickert's treatment of the murder can be connected with his obsession with the serial killer Jack the Ripper, who murdered five prostitutes in London 20 years earlier. Patricia Cornwell argued that Sickert himself was the Ripper, though this theory is not taken seriously by most experts, in part because Sickert was probably in France when the murders took place.[3][4][5]

Sickert's earlier depiction of Jack the Ripper's Bedroom, which he believed he had lodged in


  1. ^ a b c d Januszczak, Waldemar. "Walter Sickert – murderous monster or sly self-promoter?" The Times, 4 November 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2008.
  2. ^ "The Camden Town Murder", Fisher Fine Arts Library Image Collection. Retrieved 13 September 2008.
  3. ^ a b Wendy Baron, Sickert: paintings and drawings, Yale University Press, 2006, ISBN 0-300-11129-0, p. 73
  4. ^ Ryder, Stephen P. "Patricia Cornwell and Walter Sickert: A Primer". Casebook: Jack the Ripper. Retrieved 10 March 2008.
  5. ^ Sturgis, Matthew (3 November 2002). "Making a killing from the Ripper". The Sunday Times

Further reading[edit]

  • Wright, Barnaby, et al., Walter Sickert: The Camden Town Nudes, The Courtauld Gallery, London, 2007. ISBN 978-1-903470-59-6

External links[edit]