Comments on: A Semi-Review of Tate’s ‘Art Under Attack’ Exhibition, with Suffragettes /2013/10/21/a-semi-review-of-tates-art-under-attack-exhibition-with-suffragettes/ A feminist pop culture adventure Sun, 16 Mar 2014 10:11:53 +0000 hourly 1 By: Rule 5: The Velazquez Venus | THE TEXAS SCRIBBLER /2013/10/21/a-semi-review-of-tates-art-under-attack-exhibition-with-suffragettes/#comment-184765 Sun, 16 Mar 2014 10:11:53 +0000 /?p=14105#comment-184765 […] 1647 and 1651 by Diego Velazquez, it was attacked and badly damaged in 1914 by the suffragette Mary Richardson. It was fully restored and returned to […]

By: Pet Jeffery /2013/10/21/a-semi-review-of-tates-art-under-attack-exhibition-with-suffragettes/#comment-91097 Tue, 22 Oct 2013 10:17:30 +0000 /?p=14105#comment-91097 I don’t wish to argue against beauty, or the natural human pleasure in beauty, although female beauty is a problematic concept. See this book, for example:

But, on the subject of this exhibition (an interesting word, if we consider exhibitionism)…

The attitude of these members of the art establishment to women’s suffrage is saddening but is, I think, scarcely surprising. The art establishment is defined by elitism, and as such it is unsurprising if they are not much bothered by the extension of basic rights to half of the population. Deep in their hearts, I suspect, these people (in general) think that the country would be a better place if the vote were restricted to people with refined sensibilities (however one might define that).

‘Art’ in its least objectionable sense is a close synonym for ‘skill’. ‘Art’, as opposed to ‘craft’ is created by a skilled elite, who were traditionally male. ‘Craft’ resided with a larger number of less valued people, many of them female.

There is also the elite who are rich and powerful enough to commission and purchase art. It is interesting to note the usual title given to the Rokeby Venus. ‘Rokeby’ is the title of the baron who had the painting brought to England. It is also the name of his house — Rokeby Hall. The implication seems to me: ‘Rokeby — this is my title, this is my house, this is my Venus’ — I own them all. I am rich and I am powerful.’

Also, today, we have the art elite who seem so dismissive of the struggle for women’s rights. They are defined by having sufficiently refined sensibilities to see that a pile of bricks is a work of art. I recall watching a member of this elite interviewed on television a while back. (My feeling is that the culprit was Brian Sewell, but I’m not certain.) He (it was certainly a ‘he’) said that a work of art was whatever an artist said was a work of art. The idea seems to lead to a circular argument — an artist is someone who creates art, and art is what an artist says is art. When the interviewer objected by saying ‘but suppose that I…’ the response was that it wouldn’t be art because the interviewer was not an artist. In effect, artists are no longer people with skills, but people on whom members of the art establishment confer the title ‘artist’. Wealth and power obviously still has its part to play because works of art change hands for obscenely large sums of money.

In considering the title of the Rokeby Venus, I focused on ‘Rokeby’, but the Venus half is also significant. To the Romans, Venus represented an aspect of female divinity — a powerful figure whom feminists should be able to celebrate. Yet it seems unlikely that Velazquez, the artist’s patron, Baron Rokeby, or any of those with influenece at the Tate or National Galleries were (or are) devotees of the goddess Venus. Rather, they assigned and continue to assign the name of a once powerful goddess to a picture of a disempowered and anonymous model. I doubt if many people looking at the Rokeby Venus are placed in awe of female divinity. Neither, I suspect, do they bother to wonder who the woman in the picture was. What was her name? Was she wise? Did she believe that women should be better treated? Was she happy? Did she have children? Did she live into old age? More often than posing any of these questions, I strongly suspect, viewers continue to objectify her. The picture is surely a very expensive (when painted, when bought by Baron Rokeby, and now if it came up for sale) piece of erotica. It may be that the fundamental difference between erotica and pornography is class-based. Rich people (mostly men) have erotica, poor people (again, mostly men) have pornography.