Harvard to Get Paintings by Artist Controversially Linked to Ripper

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The crime novelist Patricia Cornwell has promised to donate 82 works by the English Impressionist painter Walter Sickert to Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum, The Art Newspaper reports. The collection, which the British newspaper says is worth millions of dollars, was assembled while Ms. Cornwell was writing a controversial book in which she concludes that Sickert was Jack the Ripper. The book, Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed, was published in 2002.

Ms. Cornwell, who lives in the Boston area and is planning an updated version of the book, had turned to experts at the museum’s Straus Center for Conservation to see if they could assist her investigation into a connection between Sickert and the Ripper. A conservator from the center traveled with Ms. Cornwell to London last October, where they viewed and scanned correspondence allegedly written by Jack the Ripper. Research on Sickert and Ripper letters was later conducted at Harvard. A spokesman for Harvard University Art Museums confirmed to the newspaper that “although no conclusions have been drawn, the Straus Center compared Sickert’s paintings and prints to the Ripper letters.”

In addition to the promised Sickert donation, Ms. Cornwell has given the Fogg 23 prints and two drawings by Whistler, and five prints and a major painting by Augustus John.

Ms. Cornwell’s identification of Sickert, who was 28 in 1888, as Jack the Ripper has caused a storm in the art world. The theory has been vigorously rejected by Sickert specialists, including Matthew Sturgis, the author of a definitive biography of the artist.

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