Just In Case Someone May Be Offended

Here we go again:

A leading art gallery is facing a furious backlash after taking down a Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece in a bid to “provoke debate”.
Hylas and the Nymphs, completed in 1896, depicts the ancient Greek warrior Hyalas being lured to his doom by a group of naked water nymphs in the myth Jason and the Argonauts — and has hung in Manchester Art Gallery.
It has been temporarily removed John William Waterhouse’s masterpiece in an attempt to rethink historical artwork that “presents the female body as either a ‘passive decorative form’ or a ‘femme fatale’.”

And it gets worse:

Postcards of the painting will also be removed from sale in the gallery shop.
Clare Gannaway, Manchester Art Gallery’s curator of contemporary art, said the debates around Time’s Up and #MeToo had spurned the decision.

Just so we’re clear on the topic, this is the painting in question:

I’m not a huge fan of Victorian art, but I do like Waterhouse, and this painting in particular.

Here’s what you need to know about Victorian art. Because of the age’s well-known attitude towards nudity and sexuality, artists of the time couldn’t paint or sculpt pieces that were graphic or sexual, with one important exception: if the artwork referred to a classical- or mythic theme (such as Hylas and the Nymphs), such depictions were allowed. Which is why you find so many Greek- and Roman mythical characters and situations in Victorian art which contained nudity. Here’s another example, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s A Favourite Custom:

…in which can be seen nude women, albeit chastely displayed, at a Roman bath house. (For anyone interested, here’s a decent book on the topic: Tell Me, Pretty Maiden).

As this is a weekend, I’m not going to rant about the Manchester Art Gallery’s idiocy because it deserves a Two-Minute Hate post. Next week, however…





  1. Yep, the destruction of England appears to be ahead of schedule and under budget. Glad I got to spend time there while there was still some left.

  2. This smells a lot like the September Morn flap, in which a gallery owner induced street urchins to goggle at a similar (newly painted) picture, causing the Watch And Ward Society to denounce it, which raised awareness (and the price) of the picture. Hugh Troy, where are you now that we need you?

  3. This nekkid ladies in a bath may have been a virus going ’round the world.
    Check out the several Japanese woodblock print artists from around the same period:
    Chikanobu, Kunichika, Yoshitoshi.
    I tried to put an example in the reply box, but my Victorian machine just wouldn’t allow it.

  4. It it funny, just a couple of days ago I was asking myself when they would start going after classic art.

    That didn’t take long.

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