Friday 25 November 2022


 This kind of filth keeps turning up on my Facebook feed – heaven knows why... Worse things too, in the way of simpering soft porn by French academic painters of the 19th century and their ancien régime predecessors. The above picture, however, is good English filth, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema – 'Alma-Tad of the Royal Acad', as I like to think of him – who was actually Dutch but settled in England and became a giant of the British art scene. Ruskin declared him 'the worst painter of the 19th century', though he must have overlooked a lot of competition to arrive at that judgment. Alma-Tad was certainly a master of female flesh and antique marble, with a formidable technique, and his paintings must have given many a Victorian gentleman a lot of not wholly artistic pleasure. 
As for the picture above, it is titled 'A Favourite Custom' – the custom being, apparently, to frolic saucily in the frigidarium, splashing one another with water and taking care to show oneself to advantage from before and behind. The setting is an idealised version of the Stabian baths at Pompeii, and when the painting went on show in 1909 it was such a hit that it was immediately bought for the nation. It now hangs in the Tate, no doubt with a minatory caption to ensure that no one actually enjoys it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment