Towards the end of the 1960s a confluence of hippie chic, good vibrations and the revival of interest in High Victorian art produced the wave that carried Graham Ovenden- a not very good artist with a thing about young girls- into celebrity, riches and cultural esteem. He invented a pre-Raphaelite knock-off called The Brotherhood of Ruralists and got the Beatles' very own Peter Blake involved. Prepubescent maidens with limber limbs and lots of lovely Victorian hair ran wild and unencumbered through the beechwoods. It was innocent, it was mystical- and only a nasty-minded prude could have thought otherwise.
Get outta here, man, you're oppressing me.
Ovenden's time came and went but he kept on keeping out of prison by reminding us how high-minded he was. Artists are, you know. If Renoir had told us he had no sexual feelings for the blowsy blondes he kept on painting we'd have laughed at him- but for some reason we were willing to suspend our disbelief in Ovenden's chastity. I guess the alternative was just too awful.
The Tate owns 34 Ovendens. Last time I looked a number of them were visible on its web-site. I wonder what they're going to do with them now.