Modernist Nudes

Modernist Nudes

Posted on March 2 by Evelyn Walters in News
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You might want to have a look at the nudes in The Beaver Hall Group and Its Legacy.

Today it is difficult to imagine that at the time they caused such a stir. It was not only their Modernist style, but also their “unbridled sexuality.” Several Beaver Hall artists dared to break academic tradition, which required that the nude be idealized and set in a landscape to counter any sensuality or eroticism.

For years Canadian Puritanism had been lashing out against the exhibition of nudes: newspapers revelled in the scandals, the public wrote letters about the immorality, and parents fretted about the corruption of their children. Hoping to deflect the attacks, artists would place their nudes in a landscape setting.

Nevertheless, this approach didn’t usually succeed. Although the Art Gallery of Toronto purchased Edwin Holgate’s Nude in the Open (1930), they soon “hid it in the basement”. Given the Victorian prudery, it was even more difficult for a woman painter: the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts refused to exhibit Prudence Heward’s Girl Under a Tree (1931), and, although selected by a jury, the Art Gallery of Ontario refused to show Lilias Torrance Newton’s Nude in the Studio (1933) –– even more salacious because it was set indoors!

So for some “unbridled sexuality,” you can seek out the nudes of the Beaver Hall Group!

Evelyn Walters

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014

Evelyn Walters

Evelyn Walters’ expertise on the Beaver Hall Group is an outgrowth of her research for her doctoral thesis and for a personal art collection. She is the author of The Women of Beaver Hall, one of the first books to be written on the Beaver Hall Group. A former Montrealer, she now lives in Toronto.