Walter Sickert, The Camden Town Murder
( I consider Walter Sickert one of my favourite painters. Despair and despondence exert their tension through every rough-and-brisk brushstroke, whilst danger lurks. Sickert often capitalised on the outcome or aftermath of an incident, rather than detailing the narrative. Although outward emotions are shown, sentimentalism, I assume, is only playing a bit role in Sickert’s paintings. Therefore they often read more like non-fictions, but with the pathos of a Russian epic.)
As the lamplights grow dimmer each day the sign of an imminent end of everything looms. To economize what precious little the villagers have left, many of them were reduced to raw victuals. But supper is still an indispensible ritual of the day, despite how coarsely the contents are now rendered. When the last trail of a radiant sun is lost within the pervasive blue-grey of the sky, the men can be seen gathering about their equipments and heading home, faces still drenched by the morning sweats. The villagers leave their working sites almost silently, except for an odd one who carries about him everywhere an antique radio and listens to the latest news he will press his ear to it, since the sound coming out is audibly muffled and weather-bitten. The old radio is the man’s only means to communicating with the outside world; the other villagers dismiss such technology. There is also an overseer of the working sites, shuffling back to the scene and judging emotionlessly a pile of dusts, which have been growing high.
Silence again reigns the table during supper. Seating themselves in a semi-circle, the villagers half-whisper their prayer, appreciating the Holy Jesus for bringing cold potatoes onto the table. The children bite their lips resentfully to keep back the tears- the innocent ones are rather slow on realizing what is nigh, but the abnormally small rations of food are what accounted for the bloody lips. Distress is not so easily concealed by the adults, whose brows are slightly yet visibly furrowed. The decrepit lamplight intermittently gives out noises that are akin to the fizzle of a prelude before fireworks. Apprehension and a paroxysm of horror make the family dilate their eyes slightly, and onto the dying lamplight their eyes stare.
The dusts travel in aids of a crispy gust of wind unknown to the villagers. This horde of dusty particles is soon disbanded, and a large amount of them lodge themselves under the windowsills of the houses. And into the windows they peer. An old man who is recently aware of his dotage, kneeling on the bare ground, deep in prayers. Leaning toward more closely the dusts can somewhat make out the dotard’s ceaseless mutterings, which contain mostly his confession of past guilt. Drops of tears stream down the old man’s sallow cheeks whenever the words he utters dredge up memories too bitter to ruminate. The earth suddenly gives a gentle shake from underneath the old man’s reddened knees. The start does not last long, before the old man prostrate at once to the ground, and letting out a prolonged, heartrending wail that can only be described as hog cries.
There is also a man thumping the dust-bespattered earth with his fist, seemingly giving vent of his inexpressible anger to something lifeless. The village is in apparent fluster, everybody is restless, although the silence is still menacingly unassailable. The dusts gather for their last dance. The agitated movement lure in the villagers, who trail along one another as if in somnolence. No sooner will the difference between the villagers and the dancing dusts finally dissolve, and on knowing the predictable outcome one of the gawkers gives a wan smile.