Art has a way of getting you to feel something – anger, sadness, joy – even if you have no idea what you’re viewing. But across history, some artworks generated controversy and brought forth volatile emotions that led to panic and chaos.
Click start to play today’s Crossword, where you can spot a famous painting in one of the clues.
Here are some of the most contentious artworks in history:
1. Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is no stranger to controversy. But he made a huge statement in 1995, with his film piece, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn. Weiwei filmed himself smashing a priceless artifact from Chinese history, in order to provoke an emotional response and express his condemnation of the Mao regime. He got what he was looking for – viewers, critics and Chinese government officials all had something to say on the matter, and there was much public outrage when this film was released.
2. The Gross Clinic, 1875
Now considered an icon of American art, The Gross Clinic was once the centre of debate and even disgust. When painter Thomas Eakins created it, he did it with the intention of showing off his artistic talent along with the scientific advances of Philadelphia’s Jefferson Medical College. The painting puts viewers right in the middle of a surgical amphitheatre, where well-known physician Dr Samuel Gross lectured students operating on a patient. At the time, the depiction of surgery was deemed too graphic, but fast forward a century, and this painting is recognised as one of the great masterpieces of its time.
3. Madame X, 1884
American painter John Singer Sargent’s elegant portrayal of American expatriate and socialite Virginie Amelie Gautreau may seem completely ordinary to us today, but at the time, it generated immense controversy. Every painter in Paris wanted to capture Gautreau on canvas at the time, but she only acquiesced to Sargent’s request in February 1883. When the piece finally debuted at the Paris Salon in 1884, the public was completely scandalised by Gautreau’s immodest attire and haughty stature. The socialite’s mother requested that the painting be removed to save face, but Sargent refused. He later repainted a precarious shoulder strap and renamed the piece to Madame X (the initial title featured Gautreau’s name), and then moved to London, UK, to avoid further fallout.
What do you think of these controversial moments in art? Play today’s Crossword and tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.