Saturday, April 3, 2010

Victoria was not a typical Victorian

She is portrayed as a repressed and melancholy widow who spent much of her life clad in black.

But a new art exhibition will challenge this traditional view of Queen Victoria by revealing her as a passionate, open-minded woman.

Victoria & Albert: Art & Love is the first-ever show to focus on the enthusiasm for art shared by Britain's longest-reigning monarch and her husband, Prince Albert.

It reveals the couple's starkly-differing attitudes towards works of art, with the queen favouring titillating images featuring plenty of naked flesh, while her husband appears prudish by comparison.


Another example of Queen Victoria surprising society with her unconventional enthusiasm for nudity is given in the exhibition's catalogue, which features Life Study of a Male Nude by William Mulready, the Irish painter.

The queen bought the picture following a visit to an exhibition of contemporary art at Gore House, Kensington, in 1853 which included several drawings of nude men by the artist.


Lynda Nead, professor of History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London, and a specialist in Victorian visual culture, said: "There is a generalised assumption about Victorian prudery and the Victorians as a society who couldn't bear thinking or speaking about nudity.

"But this exhibition may prompt a rethink of that view, as it shows that the queen had a more varied attitude to sexual morality in art and culture."


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