Published  15/01/2002

Tate Britain’s birthday suits: ‘Exposed: The Victorian Nude’


Tate Britain’s birthday suits: ‘Exposed: The Victorian Nude’

Goose pimples can a trauma be. This time the pimples could be inspected, not in 19th century British studios, but in 2001, as winter befell us, through the sceptical, curious eyes of French visitors. Le Monde helped to draw this eccentric yet chilling floorshow to the attention of the numerous French tourists who euro-shoot to London, ‘Vive la Difference’. In an article headed, Du nu ideale au corps possede, Philippe Dagen had to admit, ‘les oeuvres sont d’une qualite inégale — il en est qui ne valent que par la bizarrerie du sujet et les astuces de la composition, calculées afin d’éviter un erotisme trop visible.’ Avoiding eroticism seems a peculiar aim to the French sensibility, if mandatory to the Victorians. Le Monde continued in puzzlement, ‘la meme question, au même moment, ne se pose pas en France…a Paris, le nu est une habitude qu’aucun censeur ne se risquerait a affronter.’ But help is near at hand, as Dagen points out, just across the river, at Tate Modern. ‘Progres au triomphe de l’erotisme-surrealisme a Tate Modern’. For the British, too, ‘Exposed’ was a tragically misplaced exhibition (other than to drive visitors in droves across to Tate Modern). It was sadly devoid of any psychiatric or socio-historical analysis as to why the Victorians preferred goose pimples to ‘l’Erotisme’.

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