Censorship, or good taste? (ctd.)

February 5 2018

Image of Censorship, or good taste? (ctd.)

Picture: Manchester City Art Gallery

After all that, they've put the picture back on display.

Update - a reader writes:

My Manchester-based brother mentioned that something had happened but I hadn’t realised it was THAT painting. It is a sad day when the greatest masterpiece by one of Britain’s greatest painters (and he really was the best pure painter active in the UK after Turner) can no longer be seen by the British public. We’ve become used to arts education and funding being under threat from people like Michael Gove, who have the excuse of not ‘belonging’ to the arts; but for the threat to accessibility to come from WITHIN one of the UK’s major art institutions beggars belief. We could forgive the curators if it were purely a clever ruse to promote the still under-publicised genius of Waterhouse, but Clare Gannaway’s commentary suggests that the decision really was motivated by a moral objection to the supposed content of the work — as though taking the picture off view would somehow punish the artist for his non-adherence to the moral standards of a later century, or protect contemporary viewers from the insidious effects of his perceived mysogeny.

The great irony, of course, which nobody seems to have mentioned, is that the subject of the painting is the sexual objectification of a MALE body, NOT a female body; in the ancient myth, the nymphs are the predatory aggressors; Hylas is the helpless, lusted-after victim. They are immortal; HE is underage. There is nothing to suggest that Waterhouse intended the nymphs to look like children, and until I read this article that thought would never have entered my mind. Viewers of his time would have recognised the subject and all of its relatively innocent connotations instantly, as an episode in one of the most famous mythological stories (Jason’s Argonauts and the Golden Fleece). Gannaway’s statements reveal her to be uninformed about the very painting she takes the authority to discuss (it isn’t clear why a contemporary art curator is involved — do her views outweigh those of her colleagues responsible for the Victorian pictures?), lacking the basic education that should be indispensable for any humanist professional, and ultimately confused about the very real social problems that she claims to be helping address.

Update II - after all that (part II), it was all a piece of performance art.

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