Public outcry forces Manchester Art Gallery to restore censored painting
John William Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs (1896) taken down for a week
13 February 2018
The blatant act of censorship by the Manchester Art Gallery (MAG) in removing John William Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs (1896) in late January generated such a public outcry that gallery officials were forced to hang the painting again after seven days.
The work depicts a scene from Greek mythology in which Hylas, the young handsome companion of Heracles (Roman Hercules), is surrounded by enchanting nude nymphs looking up from tranquil water. In the myth, Hylas, who came to the spring looking for water, is dragged in by the nymphs and never seen again.
The well-known painting by Waterhouse (1849-1917) was completed when the artist was 47. He was influenced by the Pre – Raphaelite Brotherhood, the artistic movement of painters, poets and critics founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The gallery owns numerous paintings produced by this influential movement, with several on display in its renowned Victorian collection. Hylas and the Nymphs, seen and admired by millions of people over the years, was purchased by the gallery the same year Waterhouse painted it.
Waterhouse’s paintings are among the most popular with the public, and his The Lady of Shalott (1888), on permanent display at the Tate Britain, is beloved by many.
Hylas and the Nymphs was a popular theme among artists. The prominent late Victorian artist, Henrietta R. Rae, based a painting—Hylas and the Water Nymphs—on the same myth and motifs in 1909.
MAG officials took…