Bill Henson

/Tag:Bill Henson

Noted Australian photographer Bill Henson was accused of producing child pornography by moral conservatives. Their campaign, like others before them, failed completely. There is solid legal and artistic precedents that explain why the offending work was given the all clear by the relevant authority.

Graham Ovenden (2): Persecuting The Models

Persecute: harass, hound, pursue, pester, badger, distress, victimize, bully. It's an odd thing how those who claim to be acting in the best interests of child models end up being the very people who cause the harm. In this blog I have detailed a number of examples. When Hetty Johnston pursued the photographer Bill Henson she paid no attention to the harm it would cause the model. When former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described a photo as disgusting, the young model Olympia Nelson came out to defend her image. Then there are the highly articulate thoughts of Jessie Mann, daughter [...]

A Day Trip To Bendigo Art Gallery

I'm on holidays. The perfect time to take day trips. This one has been on my wish list for some time. The Bendigo Art Gallery is perhaps Australia's best regional gallery and it's not too far from Melbourne (non-stop once you get on the Citylink freeway). Built during the time of the Victorian gold rush, it is home to an interesting collection of 19th century European and Australian art, but it also maintains a very good modern collection. Given the theme of the naked child in art there are two European works worth mentioning - although I cannot find any [...]

Graham Ovenden Update:

This follows on from the previous post about Bill Henson, because, like Henson, Ovenden was accused of producing child pornography; only the attacks against Ovenden were far more serious. I have covered this already. The original court case was dismissed in spectacular fashion. But that apparently, was not the end of it. Knowing that I'm interested in the first-hand testimony of the models who have posed nude - to dispel the fear mongering - a reader of this blog alerted me to an exchange on Baby Art Blog in which a former model (Gillian) speaks in support of Ovenden: I [...]

Bill Henson 2012

It's that time of year. Bill Henson's exhibition is on at the Roslyn Oxley9 gallery. Of course it made the news. The controversy still haunts him, although it has assured him of publicity. Isn't it always the way? The wowsers are often the best form of PR. Anyway, good to see he hasn't been cowed. In the publicity today he is quoted as saying: ''Some people decide they want to be controversial,'' he said. ''I don't know who in their right mind could be so stupid.'' From the 2012 exhibition  

The Nude: Tradition, Elitism And Its Opponents

My visit to Paris and London left me with an understanding of the weight of tradition. Both Paris and London take their art very seriously. Unfortunately Australia still struggles with the arts. The reason is at once simple and complex. The high arts were linked with the aristocracy. Only the rich could afford to buy paintings, attend the opera or attend a play. Only the rich could afford an education; to go to university to study Latin and the classics; to take the Grand Tour through Europe. What did the poor know of these things? Deep in the heart of [...]

Martha Nussbaum: Objectification, Sexualisation And Conservative Hypocrisy

Okay, time for some theory... This is a companion piece to Intentional and Interpretive Sexualisation. Martha Nussbaum is a noted American philosopher. The fact that she specialises in Greek and Roman philosophy is enough to impress me. Whilst she has written on a wide range of topics this article will focus on her critically important theoretical contribution to the issue of objectification. In particular I want to focus on her seven conditions of objectification as defined in her essay Objectification. 1. Instrumentality: The objectifier treats the object as a tool of his or her purposes.2. Denial of autonomy: The objectifier [...]

The Naked Child In Art: Edgar Degas, The Little Dancer

I had wanted to do this some time ago but at the time I couldn't find the right images. It's very germane. One of the complaints during the Henson controversy was that he had visited a school looking for possible models from amongst the students. People were outraged. Yet Edgar Degas, who is one of the better known French impressionists, found the subject for his most famous statue from a local ballet school. We know something about her. Her name was Marie von Goethem and she and her two sisters (who Degas also used) were students at the Paris Opera [...]

The Naked Child In Art: Polixeni Papapetrou And Olympia Nelson

I had put this on the back burner, but a recent article on Polixeni Papapetrou has prompted me to bring it forward. Polexini is an artist who got into the usual strife over taking nude photos of her daughter Olympia. This was all part of the Bill Henson furor and it erupted because Art Monthly Australia weighed into the debate by publishing one of Polixeni's photos of Olympia on its cover. The photo is only nude in a series based on the work of Lewis Carroll; in this case Beatrice Hatch by the Seaside. It is the only nude [...]

William-Adolphe Bouguereau: The Broken Pitcher

Seems like I'm shifting focus a little... Researching the French Rococo painters led me down an interesting path. I have complained that the modern sexualisation debate lacks historical depth. The leaders of the anti-sexualisation debate argue that the sexualisation of children is a new phenomenon. Clearly it isn't. As I have said, sexualisation implies a deviation from a norm. That norm is often assumed; rarely articulated. I believe there are two norms. The norm of the moral conservatives, which has been constructed from a late 19th century Protestant notion of childhood innocence; and the norm of feminist ideology, an ideal [...]

The Naked Child In Art: Joseph-Desire Court

One of the complaints made against Henson (this series is in response to the ignorance shown by the public at the time) was that he was fascinated with adolescent sexuality, with the implication that he was just an old perv. Another complaint was that you could see the model's budding breasts, as if somehow, adolescent breasts are especially taboo. I'm not sure why adult breasts are acceptable, but adolescent breasts have to be kept hidden. But who said this was a rational argument? So now to Joseph-Désiré Court and Young Girl at the Scamander River or Nymph and Faun bathing. [...]