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Senior Curator of International Art, Dr Sophie Matthiesson explores some of the motivations behind the collecting and public display of male bodies in the early years of the Auckland Art Gallery (founded 1888) and considers the appeal and meaning of such frankly sensual images for their Victorian-era benefactors who purchased them. The notorious 1895 London trial and imprisonment of Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde for homosexuality suddenly altered consciousness across the British Empire. It impacts can be seen, she argues, in public debates about masculinity in New Zealand, and in institutional attitudes to the male nude in art in the following decades.
This lecture is the first in a four-part series, Manpower Lectures: Antiquity, aesthetes and athleticism.