Canada’s weird, uncomfortable relationship with nakedness: Why our nude art genre never took off

Thousands of academics have gathered in Toronto this week for the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, presenting papers on everything from whether poutine is a form of cultural appropriation to the ampersand as a symbol of gentrification. In this week-long Oh, The Humanities! series, the National Post showcases some of the most interesting research.

Staff at the Canadian National Exhibition of 1927 built a barrier around a painting of a naked woman to keep people at a distance, afraid that the art might provoke spectators to lash out, to touch it or “caress it.”

Toronto newspapers printed more than 100 letters to the editor both defending and lambasting the painting. But the most riled letter-writers saw it as part of the degradation of polite society — already teeming with “cigaret-smoking youth” in the street and women “flapping their sex before the eyes of man.”

The controversy around John Wentworth

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