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BBC Radio Wales | The Newport Nude


The Art of the Nude
Artists Explore the Human Form

John Wilson, Guest Curator

Newport Museum & Art Gallery
July - Sept 2008


Press coverage



THE ART OF THE NUDE exhibition made for sensationalist headlines in the UK daily press when it opened in July 2007 as a result of the "Newport Nude" controversy that continues to surround Royal Academy President Sir Gerald Festus Kelly's 1924 study of a nude model in the artist's studio. Above: Listen to BBC Radio Wales The Newport Nude, which probes the story behind the sensationalist headlines. The exhibition was also featured by the BBC World Service Brazil. Global exposure on the Web included an American glossy magazine and a Chinese Ministry of Culture art portal.  


A note on press coverage 






  

Whilst the ART OF THE NUDE exhibition received sensationalist press coverage upon opening, the exhibition proved a popular hanging and the reception of the public in the gallery and during my gallery talk demonstrates that there is little controversy to be found in these images nowadays.

There has been a steady flow of public visitors to the exhibition at Newport Museum and Art Gallery, including a number of artists. Some artists have even visited the gallery with their sketchbooks to make studies from some of the pieces of sculpture on display. 

Hence the public reception confirmed our curatorial aim for the exhibition to serve as a starting point for further engagement with the history of art. Several of the people who attended the gallery talk were themselves members of life drawing classes. I also note that several people who visited the exhibition did so as a result of first viewing the exhibition online. I have received a number of enquiries through users of the photo gallery on flickr. I gather that THE ART OF THE ART OF THE NUDE is now featured as part of an art history course at a University in Washington (USA).   



Immediately following its opening to the public, THE ART OF THE NUDE exhibition resulted in sensationalist headlines in the national daily press on 22 July 2008. A BBC Radio Wales news interview later that day with Guest Curators John Wilson and Roger Cucksey probed behind the sensationalist headlines courted by the daily press, to focus upon the factual history of Sir Gerald Festus Kelly's controversial "Newport Nude" painting. See a video clip of the exhibition opening here.

The ART OF THE NUDE  exhibition had entered the media-sphere. The 48 hour window of press interest saw enquiries flood into the Newport Museum and Art Gallery, including the Press Association and Worldwide Books, New York and from as far afield as Mexico and the BBC World Service in Brazil. "Thank you for smoking Miss DD" said BlackBook Magazine, an American glossy, where the Kelly nude appeared alongside features on Amy Sacco and Prada. The surreal flow of imagery continued as Thomas Rathmell's seated nude appeared in between Tracey Emin and Elvis on artdaily.com. With this widespread press coverage, THE ART OF THE NUDE and the Festus Kelly "Newport Nude" also entered the blogsphere on 22-23 July: see google blog search results for "newport nude kelly" for the dates 21-24 July here. [Note: Digital literacy & safety online advice: see Google Search Preferences  and SafeSearch filtering]. 

A first art review appeared in Metro Magazine  on 23 July. "Nudes have generated their fair share of controversy over the years. The bronze version of Rodin's The Kiss, presented here, was once considered unsuitable for general display in America. Newport's gallery itself came under fire in 1947 when the purchase and public display of Sir Gerald Festus Kelly's Nude Study was described as 'an affront' by the Bishop Of Caerleon. The subsequent press coverage resulted in hordes of people flocking to see the work", concludes the Metro review, "It's unlikely this exhibition will attract similar criticism, though the high calibre of work on display should certainly draw the crowds". 

John Wilson, Guest Curator | Note added: 24 July 2008. 



1947 & 2008 

Sir Gerald Festus Kelly and the "Newport Nude" controversy 

 


  • In 1947 the Daily Mirror covered the story "A bishop objects to "Nude" bought by town", and the controversy ran for months in the South Wales Argus.| See further details and a case study of the Festus Kelly Newport Nude controversy here. | Shown here are some examples of the Newport Nude controversy from the Newport Museum and Art Gallery's newscuttings album (click on the image to enlarge). 

    


   





"A saucy nude who scandalised Newport in the 1940s is once again being exposed to the public gaze. | Clothed and unclothed and ranging from the strictly representational through to the abstract the exhibition shows off one of the finest art collections in Wales and which is Newport's hidden treasure. (...) | In a move to make more of its collection accessible Newport's art gallery has over the last year been putting its pictures online. The nudes can be seen on this website and the series of which it is part on here".    

 



fiantly naked and smoking a cigarette, she sees the light of day for the first time since she was covered up in a public scandal 61 years ago. | This painting of a mystery nude was put on display again yesterday by the council that paid £250 for it in 1947. | More than 20,000 people queued to see it then. But the erotic image was too rude for church leaders, who persuaded the council to put it away. |The Daily Mirror reported on December 31 1947: "A bishop objects to nude bought by town."


22 July 2008 

UK daily press


  • BBC Radio Wales | Good Evening Wales: The Newport Nude (opens video clip) | 22 July 2008, 16h00 - 18h30 | The controversy surrounding the so-called "Newport Nude" painting by Sir Gerald Festus Kelly was featured on the BBC Radio Wales news programme "Good Evening Wales" on 22 July 2008 | Interview with Guest Curators John Wilson and Roger Cucksey, probing behind the sensationalist headlines of the daily press.

  

(...) "Mark Soady, minor canon at St Woolas Cathedral in Newport said he had no issue with the painting appearing in the art gallery. | "I think at the time people were much more sensitive about these things," he added. | "1947 is 60 years ago. Now we are much more understanding of these things. There are many more important issues in the world to get concerned and worried about." | One visitor Elizabeth Ayres, 38, an office worker, said: "She's a bit of a Fag Ash Lil but I can't imagine why the painting would be banned."Maybe it's because of the way she is staring - women in those days weren't allowed to be that brassy." " 


" The nude - titled D.D after the initials of the model - was painted by Sir Gerald Kelly who painted the Royal family of the day and later became president of the Royal Academy. | It was bought by Newport's Museum and Art Gallery for £250 after it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1947. | But the painting has proved to be a good investment for Newport - its current value is thought to be around £30,000.| Visitors to the gallery were today unflustered by the brazen nude - but were more offended because she is smoking. | Office worker Elizabeth Ayres, 38, of Newport, said: 'She's a bit of a Fag Ash Lil but I can't imagine why the painting would be banned. | Maybe it's because of the way she is staring - women in those days weren't allowed to be that brassy.'"

 

"An oil painting of a nude woman went back on show today - more than 60 years after it was banned for being 'too brazen'.| The portrait of a naked woman smoking was bought by a public gallery in 1947 which proudly displayed it for all to see. | More than 20,000 people queued up to see it - until it caused an row with church elders. | Brazen: The painting by Sir Gerald Kelly of a nude woman smoking has gone back on show - more than 60 years after it was banned | Embarrassed council chiefs in Newport, South Wales, decided the painting was scandalising their town and ordered it to be taken down.| The picture which became known as the 'Newport Nude' has been locked up in a vault gathering dust - until now. |It has gone back on show at an exhibition in Newport called The Art of the Nude where it is still the talking point among 90 other pictures and sculptures. | But now more people are complaining about the fact that she is smoking in public rather than her nudity". 


"The 'Newport Nude', as it became known, has just been returned to the public gaze in a exhibition of around 90 paintings called The Art of the Nude. | (...) Today's viewers have shown few qualms about the nude being displayed - other than the fact that the model pictured is smoking". 

  

"Defiantly naked and smoking a cigarette, she sees the light of day for the first time since she was covered up in a public scandal 61 years ago. | This painting of a mystery nude was put on display again yesterday by the council that paid £250 for it in 1947. | More than 20,000 people queued to see it then. But the erotic image was too rude for church leaders, who persuaded the council to put it away. |The Daily Mirror reported on December 31 1947: "A bishop objects to nude bought by town."



To 24 July 2008 


 

  • blog | Lucia Collado | Para los amantes del arte...  | 22-7-2008 | "(...) Ahora, lo que parece criticable para quienes la han visto hasta el momento, no es su desnudez ni su aire desenfadado para un tiempo en que a la mujer le estaban prohibidas casi todas las libertades de expresión, máxime las de su sexualidad; no es la pose ni el desnudo, sino el hecho de estar fumando... qué te parece?... en fin!, todo tiempo tiene sus propias vedas y tabúes, entre las de hoy, sobre todo en países civilizados, está la práctica de fumar, mucho más si se hace en público... o sea, hoy cuidamos más -felizmente, pienso yo-, la salud que la "pose de señorita en casa de prostituta"." (Accessed on 24 July 2008).

"Hey, remember that time when a bunch of prudes at London's Tate museum presented a Klimt collection with a silly caveat about how it may be unsuitable for minors to see the nudes in his work? The spirit of those prudes rages on in some scrappy, high-strung patrons in Wales -- but not for the same reasons. In fact, after being banned for 60 years, the Gerald Kelly painting is one of the standouts in the Newport gallery's "The Art of the Nude" show. Titled D.D., Kelly's painting features a young coquette posing confidently with a cigarette between her fingers. However, it's not the bare breasts of the painting that have artgoers up in arms, but the lone cigarette, which naturally makes the entire experience an R-rated affair. It's clear that instead of making a hot fuss over nothing, these patrons need to relax, perhaps smoke a few Benson & Hedges themselves, and reassess their handle on the word "art." " 

  • Artdaily.org | The First Art Newspaper on the Net, Established in 1996 | Artists Explore the Human Form in Art of the Nude Exhibit at Newport Museum & Art Gallery | Added 24 July 2008 | "NEWPORT- An exhibition of drawings, prints, painting and sculpture guest curated by John Wilson and Roger Cucksey and running until September 20 opened at the Newport Museum and Art Gallery in South Wales. THE ART OF THE NUDE frames the artistic genre of the nude and provides a fascinating thread through the history of art. The study of the nude formed the basis of the post-Renaissance academic tradition of "Western Art", whilst the departures of modernism and the avant garde likewise saw a persistence of the nude as a vital genre for the artist's exploration. Whither the nude in today's world of CGI and the Internet? | (...) The show reflects upon: the central place of the nude in the history of art, the nude as a highly productive genre for the artist's exploration, and the sometimes controversial role of the nude as a mediator of aesthetic taste and cultural mores across the generations. | (...) The Art of the Nude is the third project in the Explorations series, which provides a frame to explore the diverse range of artists, genre and art historical periods represented in the Newport Museum and Art Gallery collections".

"This exhibition, curated by John Wilson and Roger Cucksey, presents some of the very best nudes from Newport Art Gallery's collection. | (...) Cardiff-based artist Harry Holland has several paintings on show. His delicate, soft-focus technique lends itself very well to the human form. Holland depicts an enigmatic and mysterious scene in his painting Diana And Actaeon, a contemporary interpretation of the ancient Greek myth. There are also some wonderful life drawings included, such as Elizabeth Rathmell's carefully observed Reclining Female Nude, and the sketches by Gaudier-Brzeska are especially pleasing. | (...) Nudes have generated their fair share of controversy over the years. The bronze version of Rodin's The Kiss, presented here, was once considered unsuitable for general display in America. Newport's gallery itself came under fire in 1947 when the purchase and public display of Sir Gerald Festus Kelly's Nude Study was described as 'an affront' by the Bishop Of Caerleon. The subsequent press coverage resulted in hordes of people flocking to see the work. | It's unlikely this exhibition will attract similar criticism, though the high calibre of work on display should certainly draw the crowds". 

"The portrait was bought by a public gallery in 1947 and more than 20,000 people queued to see it. However, council chiefs in Newport, South Wales, decided that the painting was scandalising their town and ordered that it be taken down. | The picture, which became known as the “Newport Nude”, has been locked in a vault ever since. | Now, as part of an exhibition in Newport called The Art of the Nude, the portrait is still a talking point. | Elizabeth Ayres, 38, a local resident, said: “She’s a bit of a Fag Ash Lil, but I can’t imagine why the painting would be banned.” "




From 24 July 2008 




"An exhibition of drawings, prints, painting and sculpture guest curated by John Wilson and Roger Cucksey and running until September 20 opened at the Newport Museum and Art Gallery in South Wales. | THE ART OF THE NUDE frames the artistic genre of the nude and provides a fascinating thread through the history of art. The study of the nude formed the basis of the post-Renaissance academic tradition of "Western Art", whilst the departures of modernism and the avant garde likewise saw a persistence of the nude as a vital genre for the artist's exploration (...) | artron.net: "Granted as the demonstration industrial base for national culture and art by the Chinese Ministry of Culture, Artron,net is awarded “2006 Top Ten Valuable Investment New Media of Chinese Culture Industry ” and “Top Ten Business Mode Enterprise” in the famous magazine “Business World”. Following the idea of comprehensive, authoritative, inclusive and objective, Artron will endeavor to create an “All Art New Media”. Under the new economic mode, through various broadcast ways, culture and art must play crucial roles at present and in the future. Artron.net will provide various services to expand professionally the platform for academy, market and education, and overcome the obstruction of space and time to link art more closely." (artron.net: About).  

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