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Tony Grist

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An Acrid Whiff [Dec. 29th, 2004|10:33 am]
Tony Grist
When the painter J.M.W Turner died, his executor, the great critic John Ruskin, went through the archives and made a bonfire of a lot of stuff he disapproved of- "painting after painting of Turner's of the most shameful sort - the pudenda of women - utterly inexcusable and to me inexplicable".

Or at least that's what we were told. And Ruskin's memory has been tainted with an acrid whiff of burning art-works ever since.

But now it seems as if the bonfire never happened. Ian Warrell, the Turner expert at the Tate Gallery, has been through the huge Turner collection and, checking and counter-checking, reports that there's nothing missing. Instead of burning the erotica, Ruskin sort of "lost" it in his highly complicated filing system.

And the bonfire story? Who knows? I guess Ruskin put it about to bolster his image with the Victorian public as a righteous arbiter of public taste. It's what he wanted people to believe he'd done.

I'm so glad he didn't.

He was a weird, prissy, ridiculous man. Also a genius- a visionary. One could write a play, a TV play perhaps- about good Ruskin and bad Ruskin fighting it out over Turner's porn stash.

Which leaves one final question: when are we, the British public- the ultimate owners of the Turner collection- going to be allowed to see this stuff?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-12-29 06:33 am (UTC)
Yeah, no kidding! Also, you should put it all online!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-29 06:39 am (UTC)
Turner is the greatest British artist- no question about it- and here's part of his work that has been suppressed for over 150 years.

It's as if they were holding back one of Shakespeare's plays because it was too racy.

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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-12-29 08:31 am (UTC)
That's insane! Why are they not releasing it to the public? How racy could it really be? I want to see, I want to see!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-29 08:48 am (UTC)
Me too.

I went to the Tate website and they have vast amounts of Turner available to view. Maybe the "pudenda" are buried in amongst all the views of the Rhine and the Lake District. If I were more intrepid I would be able to answer this question, but I'm afraid my courage failed me....
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-12-29 08:59 am (UTC)
This needs to be corrected. The pudenda have a rightful place among the other wonders of the world!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-29 09:02 am (UTC)
They should mount a special exhibition. I can see the posters now- plastered up all over London:

TURNER'S PUDENDA.
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[User Picture]From: thewayupward
2004-12-29 08:05 am (UTC)

Intellectual commentary

Heh heh, he said "pudenda".
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-12-29 08:33 am (UTC)

Re: Intellectual commentary

[gigglesnort] I know, right!
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[User Picture]From: thewayupward
2004-12-29 05:45 pm (UTC)

Re: Intellectual commentary

I think we should make a pact to use the word 'pudenda' at least once a day. Yiss?
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-12-29 11:49 pm (UTC)

Re: Intellectual commentary

You're totally on! I think my mother is home, too, I am going to go show her the cool word everyone is using these days in my generation! [Giggles] She'll die!
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From: morrison_maiden
2004-12-29 10:08 am (UTC)
I want to see it too! I've never even heard of this artist :(
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-29 11:58 am (UTC)
Give him a Google. He was a great landscape painter (when he wasn't sketching pudenda.) He particularly favoured sunsets and storms at sea.
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From: morrison_maiden
2004-12-29 04:44 pm (UTC)
I definitely will! Lol, I'd never heard that term before (pudenda) :-X
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-30 01:39 am (UTC)
It means something like "parts of shame". It's as close as an uptight Victorian bachelor could come to the naming of parts.

There's a story- probably true- that Ruskin's marriage remained unconsummated because he was traumatized to discover- on his wedding night- that his wife had pubic hair.
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From: morrison_maiden
2004-12-30 09:49 am (UTC)
Yeah, I had to look it up. I asked my father, and he told me too. He thought it was more like the exterior of the genitals.

Lol, how frightening! ;)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-30 10:28 am (UTC)
He'd grown up looking at marble statues, see- and thinking they were accurate renditions of the female form.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2004-12-31 05:19 am (UTC)
I believe also he fell in love with a ten year old and was most distressed to discover his wife had a mind of her own.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-31 06:23 am (UTC)
That's entirely right. His wife eventually ran off with the pre-Raphaelite painter J.E. Millais.
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[User Picture]From: thewayupward
2004-12-29 05:45 pm (UTC)
Hee hee, you said pudenda too! Okay I'm going to stop now I swear
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-30 03:38 am (UTC)
Pudenda!
Pudenda!
Pudenda!

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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2004-12-29 10:22 am (UTC)
He was a weird, prissy, ridiculous man. Also a genius- a visionary. One could write a play, a TV play perhaps- about good Ruskin and bad Ruskin fighting it out over Turner's porn stash.

What about you?

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-12-29 12:19 pm (UTC)
It's a thought. But you've got to really love or hate an historical character to write about them. I find Ruskin interesting, but he doesn't drive me crazy .
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