An art gallery took down a Victorian painting featuring topless women as a response to the #MeToo movement

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“Hylas and the Nymphs,” a painting by the artist John William Waterhouse.
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Wikimedia Commons

  • Manchester Art Gallery in England has removed a 19th century painting from its walls.
  • “Hylas and the Nymphs,” by John William Waterhouse, shows a classical scene featuring mild nudity.
  • The gallery said it removed the painting “to prompt a conversation.”
  • Gallery curator said the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements were part of the thought process.

A prominent art gallery has removed a Victorian painting from its walls because of its depiction of the female form.

Manchester Art Gallery, in northern England, took down “Hylas and the Nymphs” by John William Waterhouse last week, partly in light of the cultural #MeToo movement, which aims to highlight the mistreatment of women.

In a blog post about the removal, the gallery said: “We have left a temporary space in Gallery 10 in place of ‘Hylas and the Nymphs’ by JW Waterhouse to prompt conversation about how we display and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection.”

The oil painting, completed in 1896, shows the mythological figure of Hylas, one of the Argonauts who joined Jason on a quest to retrieve a magical golden fleece.

At one point in the voyage, Hylas strayed from the group and met a group of nymphs, magical woman-like creatures with a reputation for being beautiful, naked, and treacherous. He was abducted and never seen again, the moment depicted in the painting.

Manchester Art Gallery.

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Manchester Art Gallery.
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Getty Images

According to The Guardian, gallery curator Clare Gannaway said the Time’s Up and #MeToo cultural movements “fed into the decision” to take the picture down.

The report suggested that the painting could be put back later, depending on the public response.

Nudity in works of art has presented problems before, online as well as in physical galleries.

Facebook has been criticised for removing imagery of a nude statue of the god Neptune which has stood in a public square in Bologna, Italy, for centuries. It said the work was “sexually explicit.”

Likewise, imagery of the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark, was taken down for showing “too much bare skin.”

While in 2016, officials in Florence, Italy, covered up Michelangelo’s “David” during a visit by the president of Iran, reportedly to respect the country’s cultural norms.