On the Censorship of Art

Χαίρετε ἀναγνώστες!

Today I read an article that I would like to discuss with you. It concerns art censorship in a museum in Manchester. You can find the original article I read here.

According to the article, the Manchester Art Gallery has taken down a well-known painting by John William Waterhouse, from 1896. The painting in questions is “Hylas and the Nymphs”, depicting the myth of Hylas, a lover of Herakles, who is lured to his death by the nymph Nomia and her fellow nymphs. The reason for taking the painting down is to spark a debate about the depiction and presentation of female nudity in art, in the context of the #MeToo movement. Many people have not taken kindly to the removal, however, viewing it as censoring art. Which it is, in my opinion.



Hylas and the Nymphs. John William Waterhouse, 1896 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Manchester Art Gallery.

The removal also seems to kind of indicate that the staff at the museum don’t fully understand the painting and what it depicts. The nymphs are divine beings and thus are of greater power and status than the mortal man Hylas. And they are the ones luring him to his death. This is not a depiction of women as femme fatale of using women’s bodies as passive decoration. The nymphs are the active party in this painting. This is not in some way a depiction of the exploitation of women. Rather, this is a depiction of the power of the feminine and the subjugation of man to nature, as a friend on Facebook pointed out. And as she also pointed out, if you lose sight of the forest through the trees, or boobies and buttocks, in this case, you’re bound to share Hylas fate and be drawn to your doom into swampy, murky depths.

Hopefully, I have given you some food for thought.


4 comments on “On the Censorship of Art

  1. Wyrd Designs says:

    *rolls eyes* And the Puri-tyrannical heritage of America strikes again. My god they are breasts. The most natural thing in the world, that before the era of breast pumps and fake formula we all suckled at. Ye GODS, the stupidity. I have no desire to walk around topless, but it’s stupid shit like this that makes me support the free the nipple movement.

    Sometimes I think we’d have far less problems with gun violence, if like our European counterparts, we had less of a hangup about human sexuality. Maybe if impressionable minds saw more people engaged in relationships, and being loving, they’d think less about blowing people to smithereens in their school cafeteria.

    Now, I have no problem when are is viscerally, graphically horrendous or truly pornographic in having it pulled to a side area so people who’d prefer not to see it (or children who may be too young to view it) don’t go stumbling across it. But censorship of art as a whole? That’s asinine, and ridiculous.

    Censorship is why many of the early ‘explorers of Egyptian tombs vandalized their discoveries because they couldn’t talk about the sexual practices and mores of the Egyptians without ruining their careers, so it was better to make it disappear. Assholes.

    Art is our collected human history. They need to be liberated from the artwork, as they obviously aren’t good stewards for it. I think it should come to my home museum, the Kimbell Art Museum, they’d treat it with the respect it was due.


  2. […] awoke this morning to a post by Agathokles Martinios, On the Censorship of Art. His post is a response to a report that the Manchester Art Gallery has removed a painting by John […]


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