Prompted by the #MeToo, Clare Gannaway, the Manchester Gallery of Art's Curator of Contemporary Art temporarily removes "Hylas and the Nymphs," the 1896 painting by J.W. Waterhouse, from public view to 'prompt conversation' about the Museum's collection of Victorian nudes. Gannaway posted a placard in place of the missing painting and invited museum guests to write their reactions on Post-It notes.
The 1896 painting depicts the myth of Hylas, the adored companion of Heracles (better known by his Roman name, Hercules) , who disappeared after he was dragged into a spring by nymphs.
In place of the pre-Raphaelite painting, the wall now has a printed sign asking gallery visitors to start a “conversation about how we display art and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection.”
Gannaway says the part of the museum which houses Victorian nudes "presents the female body as either a ‘passive decorative form’ or a ‘femme fatale’. Let’s challenge this Victorian fantasy!" She wants to re-contextualize the collection of Victorian nudes. "For me personally," she said, "there is a sense of embarrassment that we haven’t dealt with it sooner."
Is Gannaway not understanding the art correctly?
The nymphs are not 'passive decorative form", instead they are a strong form who appear to win over someone like Hercules by taking him into their realm.
Should museums even be involved into political topics? Gannaway may translate the painting the way she wants, but she must let the public have access to a work of art that was made nearly a century before she was born and has been beloved by the public since that time.