On 15 June 1929 a group of about twenty oils and watercolours by a previously unexhibited painter was placed on display at the WarrenGallery in London. It caused a bit of a stir among the London art critics, who turned up to this debut one-man exhibition in unusually large numbers. They did so, presumably, because the painter in question was the well known émigré and author of notoriously erotic novels, D.H. Lawrence.


Most of the paintings showed nude men and women embracing or otherwise communing with themselves and one another in arcadian landscapes of an abstract character. Some were inspired by the Bible, or by ancient mythology. Others were drawn from modern life. Some were comical and burlesque in mood, others melancholic, others ecstatic. The style was energetic, if not terribly assured. Taken together the assembled works amounted to a dream of exuberant but also quaintly innocent carnality, set in a naturist idyll where men and women are free to wander naked in groves of shameless bliss. Lawrence had been writing Lady Chatterley’s Lover at the same time that he painted many of these vigorously naïve paintings and the paradise which many of them body forth strongly recalls the sexual Eden into which the heroine of that novel yearns – futilely, as it turns out – to escape.


What happened next was in fact a farcical reprise of the fate that had befallen Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lawrence’s last novel, banned for obscenity in 1928. The art critics were almost unanimous in their detestation of the pictures on the walls of the Warren Gallery. Paul Konody, writing in the Observer on the day after the exhibition had opened, condemned it as “an outrage upon decency” and “frankly disgusting in paint”. The critic for the Daily...

To read the full article please either login or register .