tue 23/07/2019

The Genius of British Art, Howard Jacobson, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

The Genius of British Art, Howard Jacobson, Channel 4

The Genius of British Art, Howard Jacobson, Channel 4

Howard Jacobson revels in the joy, and the anguish, of sex in Victorian art

Howard Jacobson sought to rescue erotic Victorian art from the censure of contemporary 'moralists'

Howard Jacobson, fresh from his Booker Prize triumph, was on an admirable mission last night: to rescue the good name of the Victorians. He wanted us to stop caricaturing our 19th-century forebears as prudish, self-righteous, pompous and hypocritical - you know, the sort of people who were so repressed that they went about covering piano legs in case thoughts should turn to the sensual curve of a lady’s well-turned ankle, but who were also notorious for sexual peccadillos involving underage maidservants, and worse.

The art of the age that had apparently banned piano legs couldn’t have had a more convincing and passionate advocate

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“see how it tackles the subject of sex, because sex, love, desire, flesh, and the recklessness it drives us to, is at the heart of everything. And whatever we claim to think of sex, it is only in our art that we tell the truth.” Well, thank goodness Howard Jacobson wasn't 'banging-on' as, maybe some critics do. I don't recall thinking that he had coerced me into deciding - upon what he offered, art wise - whether it was to be piano legs (Fisun Guner's ideal) or the Victorians 'full morally complex humanity (Fisun Guner's words) by working through the same inane idealism on offer in 'modern times' ie. the 'prudish, self-righteous, pompous and hypocritical' (the inbetween porridge bit presented to us by Fisun Guner). I thought Howard Jacobson's portraiture use of Albert and Victoria (no stitching required) far more importantly revealing simply by combining them with their gifts of paintings to each other - what lies dangerously and yes, seductively (intelligently so) beneath the royal portraiture - ' there is a deeper, more powerfully resonant and darker meaning at play'. Yep loads of Howard Jacobson 'phrases from novels' to pick up on (great isn't it?!) not to 'reveal Jacobson' so much as to give a narrative to a voluptuousness in life and art that the painters (artists) around the historical dating of the Victorian era spoke out, boldly about. Great 3rd episode look forward to more. And, actually, liked this write-up for spurring me into replying.

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