Monday, May 6, 2013


Do you sometimes wonder what century you live in?

I've just been on vacation in the East Coast, and hit the ground working upon my return West.  While East in Washington, DC and Virginia, I was immersed in the Age of Enlightenment, absorbed in the modern ideals of the Founding Fathers.  But returning West, my time travel simply overshot the clock face dials.  Somehow, I'd left the Age of Reason only to be ejected into the Dark Ages.  Information is still feared in some places.

I am fortunate to be entrusted with shaping minds, young and old, in my roles within non-profit organizations here.  But once in a while, the cautious nature of institutions gets in the way of encouraging critical thought.  So I ask you, my blog sphere friends whom I know are sophisticated and independent thinkers:

Is it improper to show teenagers Michelangelo's "David", Botticelli's "Birth of Venus", Manet's "Luncheon on the Grass", and other seminal works of art, simply because their subjects are unclad?  (The underlying discussion was meant to show developments in art accompanying shifts in philosophy, politics, society, etc.)

Edouard Manet's "Le déjeuner sur l'herbe",  Musée d'Orsay
edited by The Foolish Aesthete

"Controversial" is not a typical adjective I would assign myself.  But my little effort in sharing mankind's cultural heritage, or explaining shifts in art history, was met with resistance.  It's surprising to be a radical in this corner of the world, in this day and age.  Suddenly, I have a deeper sense for what intellectuals in China or the Middle East experience.

Manet would be scratching his head to see the cause célèbre of the 1863 Salon des Refusés suffering the same notoriety today -- for much the same reasons!

Ah me, the tortuous course of human history.  Our march forward remains fraught with detours in reverse.


Curious to see what you all think!  I hope you are all well and I'll be dropping by soon ...


  1. I would say... go ahead. It's all about art appreciation.

  2. Ludicrous! Surely this is tame in comparison to what teenagers are finding themselves on the internet or being bombarded with by modern media as over-sexualised representations of women? In a way it would be a good excercise for teens to explore how the representation of the female form has changed since these art works were produced.

  3. You are summing up some of my main points (which were backed by the entire committee I was heading). How can we teach young people to exercise critical thought and be discerning if the information they receive is asymmetric: all tv/movies without great art? My younger brother recalled when his school nearly banned Mark Twain for his "language". Even he (as a young teenager) knew enough to say that was shortsighted! It is interesting (though frustrating) to see how much the developed world has devolved into a Disneyland view of everything, even history.

  4. This reminds me of the news story recently of part of Anne Frank's Diary being deemed 'pornographic' by a concerned parent in the US. We live in very strange times whereby two extremes sit alongside each other. On the one hand, the human form is somehow considered to be off-limits when it comes to education, as somehow the possession of a body is considered to be shameful (particularly if you're female). And yet, on the other, porn is so easily accessible on the internet that to reach your mid-teens without having watched it is to be an anomaly. There is no real education, merely a set of unrealistic ideals. Prudery and extremity seem to sit alongside each other, and somewhere between the two an appreciation of the potential of art has been lost.
    I'm always slightly saddened to hear things like this. It makes me want to take the adults who decree such things and make them spend a day in the company of teenagers, for they seem to have no idea at all about the levels of awareness that the average adolescent has.

  5. Oh but it is such an important part of art, the world, life, everything. I must be embraced. Surely we must be more enlightened today. Surely. Xxxx


Dear Fellow Aesthetes, I love hearing your thoughts. I think the other readers find them valuable too! Much love xxx

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