William Etty: Art and Controversy

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the_dawn_of_love_william_etty_york
William Etty: Dawn of Love, 1828

William Etty's art divided public opinion during the first half of the nineteenth century more than that of any other British artist, with the possible exception of Turner. During his 40-year career he produced a wide variety of landscapes and portraits, but is most famous for his repeated use of the female nude. Many believed that the splendor of his richly colored canvases was designed to disguise his underlying preoccupation with titillating forms of bodily display. Etty was repeatedly encouraged to 'turn from his wicked ways' and make his art 'fit for decent company'. At the same time, one critic declared Etty to be 'the greatest of all our history painters'. Another said the brilliancy of his colors were almost 'too much for human eyes to dwell upon'. He was described as the natural heir of the Old Masters; as 'rivaling Rubens and the great Venetians on their own ground'. An exhibition, entitled William Etty: Art and Controversy, at the York Art Gallery includes more than 100 of Etty's works from Tate, the Royal Academy, the Royal Collection, Russell Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Southampton Art Gallery and Manchester Art Gallery, as well as many works from York Art Gallery. On view until January 22, 2012.