The Manchester Art Gallery has recently removed the superb John William Waterhouse painting, Hylas and the Nymphs (1896) from display. Depicting a moment from the tale of Jason and the Argonauts, when Hylas, sent to fetch water for the crew, stared into a pool of limpid water and beheld a gathering of lovely nymphs, never to be seen again, its great fusion of neo-classical romanticism is deemed inappropriate for its pandering to “Victorian fantasy” and the canvas requires extensive indoctrination and tuition before it can ever return, hopefully “contextualised quite differently.”
Ah yes, let us by all means mock the Victorians, from the cheap seats of 2018.
The curator hopes to start “a conversation” by removing the offending work. Okay, we’ll play:
To the Manchester Art Gallery:
“Dear Sirs and Mesdames,
Clearly, with respect, you are little more than tiny-minded, life-hating, arrogant, sanctimonious, sub-human, ignoble Phillistines, fit only for extermination. You are not fit to shine Waterhouse’s shoes, let alone determine that the people of Manchester, and beyond, need your tender protection from the dangers of viewing him. To our mind’s eye, you resemble the dullard crew of Odysseus aboard their vessel in the heavy swell of the dark-eyed Amphitrite, lashed to masts and senses bound against that rarest of the senses, common sense. [see below]
Yours in sorrow, disbelief and contempt,
The Varnished Culture.”
No, wait, scratch that – too harsh. I’m sure the gallery’s curator taking the lead on this, Ms Gannaway, is none of the above, And she may, we guess, have a contemporary point to make.