William Etty, R.A. , crossing the line of Victorian propriety

I am now reading Linda Gertner Zatlin’s excellent Beardsley Japonisme and the perversion of the Victorian ideal ; in her  study of fin de siecle subversiveness she references  William Etty.   William Etty’s historical and allegorical paintings were frequently criticized by his contemporaries as  being mere excuses to portray fleshy pulchritude. As Zatlin states his paintings “broke the code of acceptable public decorum”, the beauty he portrayed flagrantly crossed that cultural  line violating the unspoken yet understood decree that art be free of open sexuality.

Although best known for his glorious female figures, I rather predictably will focus on the male nude.

I appreciate the indulgence.

Reclining male nude, raised right knee


oil on millboard


With this study as an example it is clear wht Zatlin states that Victorians were far more comfortable with the subtle eroticism of Millais’s Mariana (1851).

John Everett Millais



oil on board


Mariana’s languor though apparent is respectable, Etty was not inclined to that sort of respectability, thank goodness.

William Etty, R.A.

Sleeping Nymph and Satyrs


oil on canvas

Royal Academy

Etty was masterful at depicting the nude and wisely ignored the demand that he “turn from his wicked ways” and create paintings “fit for decent company”.

I must be quite indecent and quite wicked for  I love William Etty and his flamboyantly sensual paintings.

Male nude, arms upstretched

Study of male nude


oil on paper on board

Royal Academy

Hero, Having Thrown herself from the Tower at the Sight of Leander Drowned, dies on his Body

exhibited 1829


For those of you in the U.K. what appears to be a  marvelous exhibition William Etty: Art and Controversy will open June 25th (closing January 12th 2012) at the York Art Gallery. I hope you can catch it, I plan to pre-order the catalog.

William Etty, R.A.

b. 10 March 1787

d. 13 November 1849

monument to Etty, erected 1911, in front of the York Art Gallery

Study of a peacock for ‘The Judgement of Paris’


oil on board


Wishing all a good weekend,

Babylon Baroque


5 Responses to “William Etty, R.A. , crossing the line of Victorian propriety”

  1. Eleanor Schapa Says:

    I want that peacock!!!!

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      Your funny, all that hot flesh and you want a fowl,
      that’s why I’m crazy about you.
      I suggest you visit the Tate,
      or check out my new paintings, a studio visit would be required, would love that of course…

  2. I want the flesh and the fowl! xo, Kendra

  3. babylonbaroque Says:

    Well I couldn’t agree more, why choose!
    take care, always happy to hear from you, love to kitty…

  4. babylonbaroque Says:


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