Nudity in art

From William A. Percy
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From: Terrence Lockyer <> Date: 2009/11/6 Subject: Re: Children, nudity, and sexuality in art (incl. photography)

I should like to make clear (if it was not from my previous) that I don't have a decided view on the rights or wrongs of the treatment of contemporary images (though I do think there seems to be a problem with the equation of nudity per se to sexual behaviour), but do think the accumulation of cases and especially of those concerning works that have been in existence for some time is interesting as a matter of history, and I am somewhat concerned about the possible implications of modern legislation when it comes to the display and publication of historical works of art and artefacts. (Of course, in one sense none of this is new - my own mother as a teacher forty years ago had parents complain about magazines with "pornographic photographs", in that case of Michelangelo's David; but what does seem new is the passing of laws that allow no exception for art including that of previous ages, and also the official willingness to restrict images through extrajudicial processes and warnings of consequences - in the recent Tate case, for instance, it is reported that gallery staff were told that those responsible for the exhibition would probably face sex offender registration and yet once the image was withdrawn there seems to have been no prosecution for possession, which should logically have occurred if the police and CPS genuinely believed the image in breach of the law.)

In addition, as a footnote to my previous, I see that Graham Ovenden, one of the Brotherhood of Ruralists (whose works may also be familiar to some through their being used as cover illustrations to The Arden Shakespeare) is being prosecuted at Truro Crown Court for making and possessing indecent images of children, as reported at

The Tate has thirty-four of his works, which were accessible on their website, but have been removed:

This is not the first time his work has been before the courts, according to

Ovenden's interest in Victorian photography also brings up another aspect of changing attitudes that I meant but failed to mention: it is probably no longer possible in many places legally to take or to publish images of a kind associated with some early photographers, most famously Lewis Carroll. And of course later twentieth century photographers have also had their works fall foul of changing standards, as for example David Hamilton:

I seem to recall that the Film and Publications Board in this country ruled against one of his books some years ago now, but find that several of his titles are freely available from the local on-line retailer (in amongst books by various other David Hamiltons, Davids and Hamiltons - their search functions don't allow anything more specific):

Terrence Lockyer Johannesburg, South Africa

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