Facing up to our past

20150513-Photo 13-05-2015 11 51 41-Edit

Every now and then the past comes back to haunt – this is what happened to me this afternoon at Leeds Art Gallery.   In general the gallery is a wonderful place to visit full of different types of visual art.  However one of the galleries concentrates on high Victorian art and is full of the usual suspects but the painting above dominates the room.  On the face of it is yet another allegorical Victorian painting depicting some mythical story which was intending to portray some moral lesson to the viewers.   However, the name of the painting, Retribution, should start to make the modern viewer a little uneasy.  The accompanying note explains all.

20150513-Photo 13-05-2015 11 51 51-Edit

It is very easy for the modern viewer to be shocked by such work and to be easily offended by the racist elements on display however, I think, this is the wrong way to approach this as it is a form of revisionism on the part of the modern viewer.  Instead, I feel, we should view the painting for what it is, an example of cultural norms of the time and we should endeavour that they no longer form part of the way we lead our lives.   The gallery should also be commended for showing the painting as a means of ensuring we understand our past and try and make it isn’t our future – whether that was the intention or not is unclear – I like to think it was.

About Guthlac

An artist, historian and middle aged man who'se aim in life is to try and enjoy as much of it as he can
This entry was posted in Art, History, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.