Art for Art

Just read this news article ( about Graham Ovenden. He had published works of art removed from viewing (previously accepted) following his conviction for child sex offences. Now I wasn’t aware of the guy before this article, nor any of his works but it did raise a thought.

Let’s say for example that we found testament of Leonardo da Vinci sexually assaulting Lisa Gherardini. Would the Mona Lisa be pulled down and removed from viewing? If a piece of art has been created and accepted, should it not stand apart and be appreciated for itself instead of who created it?

On a greater scale: Can evil not bequeath beauty?


I think the important point is that he used the making of art as a pretext which facilitated the abuse. Not just the artist was evil but the process of making the art was evil . (If you want to use that word.)
So the art work is tainted. Displaying it potentially encourages similar processes.

This is guided by the principle that a criminal should not profit from his crime.

I should first clarify the evil statement. I didn’t intend to call this specific guy (or anyone else) evil… that was really a general, philosophical statement.

I understand the connection between his artistic output and abuse that may have been associated with it and indeed he should not profit. However, various dictator’s (without naming) art works are publicly displayed in various galleries (despite their creator’s atrocities) which are beautiful works of art. Is the distinction made between the artist being alive or dead? If said artist is dead it is accepted for example? If no-one is to profit it is accepted?

Why not name them?

The live artist is being punished for his crime. Also as time passes, the circumstances around an art work are forgotten.

I didn’t want to draw attention away from the main topic, but some examples are:

Mao Tse-tung - Poetry
Joseph Stalin - Poetry
Adolf Hitler - Paintings
Francisco Franco - Paintings

I’m sure there are others, but I’m not an expert on the subject by any means. Perhaps another angle of looking at it is this: If you were presented with a piece of art that you thought was beautiful, would (or even should) you think less of it if the creator had engaged in - as defined by yourself- criminal or immoral activities?

I don’t think that there is anything wrong with displaying the art work of a psychopathic murderer as long the production of the work did not involve a crime.

If Hitler had somebody beaten and then painted with the victim’s blood then I don’t think it would (or should) be on display.

The artwork would be tainted by such knowledge because from then on one would always keep that in mind when viewing the creation. Someone once told me that Michelangelo disliked female form (there is a going notion that he was gay) and whenever he had to portray women, he would portray a muscular male form with female breasts attached to it. Now, every time I see his women I wonder about it, and how he saw it. Caravaggio was a talented painter, but now every time I see his art I attempt to see it through the eyes of a killer, and see motivations of disturbed personality.

Seems to be too much hysteria that people would care for such incident.

It’s like the Sixteen Chapel, it was an outrage that Micheangelo dared to paint people NAKED! OMG! But still it would be accepted as a masterpiece and celebrated.

So there seems to be a relationship between motive and art which could potentially increase or decrease its merit. If this is true, how do you view paintings of great wars or battles involving death, destruction, mutilation etc; some of which commissioned to celebrate a great victory perhaps?

Some examples may be:

The Battle of Grunwald
The Third of May 1808
The Battle of Ostia

These paintings depict shocking times, but today they stand as separate works of art.

Looking at a slightly different angle, let’s look at The Massacre of the Innocents (Rubens) depicting horrific events described in the Bible. However, Rubens was only painting something that was described by another person and had no direct involvement of the subject himself.

I checked Ovenden’s works online. I know the media distorts truth when it suits, people jump the gun, etc. Cripes! Its hard to believe no one questioned before. The man is talented but, Yea I too would pull his works for obvious reasons, that people bought his work is the most disturbing.
Art like all things need boundries. I apreciate art very much. I do find many touted works overrated. Art should be apreciated not the artist. I do think the Mona Lisa is not that great.
If the artist commits crime, atrocity etc. for art pieces. The works are wrong no matter the quality. Historical recreation of past events are acceptable for different reasons depending upon the situation. I find works of Jesus being crucified, morbid and repulsive, I am not even Religious. But, that is just me.


Did I frustrate you with my ignorance again?

I deleted my reply. I may need to rethink my answer.

I am frustrated by my own ignorance.

:slight_smile: I do that all the time. At my age I get to claim menopause or the glimmer of senility. I find I am grateful to this handheld computer/phone. :slight_smile:

Ok…lol I’ll wait for more input :wink:

So maybe duration between subject and creation also factors into it.

It’s also interesting to me that even though the end creation may be the same, the person who created it still influences its merit; then it becomes convoluted between the art and artist. Another example could be a song you hear on the radio. You like it, you’re singing along to it, but then you find out the person who wrote it was a mass-murderer. It’s the same song you were enjoying a few moments before…

Have you seen Ovenden’s works? Have you seen Manson’s works. The former commited harm to another for art, The latter did not. There is a line. Both have talent, both committed horrible crimes. Both are despicable humans. But, Manson’s works evolved without crime, some are damn fine. I would not be ashamed to own one.
If you look at Ovenden’s, he harmed girls for their facial expression. He cared little for the bodies. The most intense details are on the faces. He needed pain, fear, anger to faithfully copy it. To me it seems he wanted to perfect that ability in him. Why noone could see it, or deliberately ignored it is beyond me. To me his works are criminal and blatant evidence of abuse.

I just want to make a few observations about motive and beauty in art. If you look at Renaissance art, you’ll see that most of the work was comissioned and sponsored by the wealthy elite, whose primary goal was not to create art for art’s sake, or for beauty’s sake alone but to advance their political and economic goals. Beauty and mastership were only means to another end (some of the wealthy families sought talent and once found provided patronage for training to enhance the skills of a young person). It was an investment into their reputation, which it looks like meant a lot those days. Talent was sought, found, sponsored and used, as a tool. Once I realized how politicized the Renaissance art was I never looked at it the same again. I can still appreciate skill and mastership of the works, but it was done not for its own sake, another, more ‘sinister’ hand, if you could say that, was at work behind it all. You could say that the appreciation of beauty for its own sake comes out of ignorance.
My point here that even regular masterpiece art that was not done by serial killers or child molesters was more often than not driven by less noble motive. Maybe art and beauty ( the artist’s skill used to create them) that is not created for its own sake but comissioned could be seen as kind of prostitution, somebody bought it and used it for their own needs.

Can’t argue with that at all. I was once commissioned to do ten pieces. My husband made the deal then told me. To keep his promise I did them. It was horrible in my mind. I could not feel the pieces the way I should. The client was happy but, it was not my best and I was not happy, We made good money but, never ever again. Yea prostitution is a good description. I think many artists end up doing this one way or another. You cannot make a living unless you do. I now hand my work over to others to sell and no, no, no commission work.

Only after reading about it in the news and your mention of Manson here.

Please don’t misunderstand me - as I can see some emotional attachment with what must be a personal subject for you guys - I’m not attempting to defend these artists for their actions, they are just examples to provide reference.

You built an appreciation for the art based on knowledge you had at the time, to find out later that it was all a lie. Your view to Renaissance art was changed, but it appears almost by betrayal. Now let’s say you knew all this before you first started looking at the art, your view could no longer have been tainted because you already understood its origins and purpose. Now you are looking at the art for a different reason.

Now imagine one of these art works hanging on a person’s wall being admired and appreciated. What would their thoughts toward it be if they knew the person who created it did not not want to and regretted it? I wonder if they would think differently toward it. Maybe they might remove it? Or maybe they wouldn’t think anything of it and just leave it there.

My personal thoughts on this elevate to a higher ideology: Different people have different opinions and tolerances on different subjects. What one person may find offensive, another may find interesting for a completely different set of reasons. It should be the viewer however (with as much knowledge as possible) to decide if they want to see it and not for someone else to make that decision for them. At the same time, I also understand that there are large groups of people with different views that do not always share the same rational thought processes, and of course there are also people who may have a connection/relation with the subject of which respect should be shown.

You are right. Art has its roots and stock in emotions. If someone you hate tells you something that sounds like a fact. Your emotions will sway how you believe their words.
Art is a form of communication. Communication is filled with emotions. Ethics, morality are deeply set and tangled up with it all. LOL I think only a Vulcan could be objective.