Whew–it’s been a while. I was going great guns blog-wise when I came down with the Head Cold of Doom, followed by the Sinus Infection of Despair and the Bronchitis of the Damned. The entire family then proceeded to follow the same course, and when it was all over it was Thanksgiving and my blogging mojo had slipped away.

Just to ease myself back into the groove I’ll pass along a link to the mentalfloss.com blog of my recent story for them on Public Works of Art Gone Terribly Wrong. WHAT a hoot to write–and it features, most importantly, George Washington in a togo. Behold:

George Washington

That is possibly the silliest representation of a great American figure. You can see his nipples! No one should see George Washington’s nipples! I don’t even want to think about him having nipples.

And let us just all pause for a moment in thankfulness that John Adams didn’t get this treatment. Shudders.

It’s odd, really, because this is textbook Neoclassicism, and Neoclassicism is know for giving an aura of seriousness, respectability, gravitas. Traditional banks are Neoclassical, as are government buildings. The Statue of Liberty is Neoclassical. So is the Lincoln Memorial. Yet look at the Horatio Greenough Washington and you just want to giggle.

I think it’s the nakedness. Greenough was trying to evoke ancient depictions of Zeus, but Zeus was a deity:

Roman statue of Zeus

We don’t mind seeing gods in various states of undress, but the idea of Washington, who was a real guy with false teeth, someone who belched and had to clip his toenails, no matter how well he governed, the idea of him naked is just wrong. It’s undignified, and ridiculous. And that’s why everyone says the poor president is holding his hand up asking someone to hand him his pants.

Finally, it occurs to me that “George Washington in a toga!” would make a great saying whenever you don’t want to cuss in front of your kids.


Update 02/17/2012 — This post remains one of the most popular on my site, and I remain eternally glad that so many of you also appreciate the incongruity that is George Washington in a toga. Should you wish for more juicy details on this work, check out this post, which draws on a new page devoted to the statue.

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"Lunday supplies a sharp narrative history of the famous 1913 Armory Show in New York, which helped to introduce the American public to modern art. . . . A vivid, compelling portrait of the Armory Show and its lasting influence on American art." - Kirkus

"Brilliantly chronicles the American art world’s fateful collision with European Modernism and the game-changing innovations of Picasso, Matisse, and Duchamp at the famed Armory Show of 1913. . . . Lunday captures the sights and sounds of the era as well as the intellectual and social background behind the Armory Show’s genesis in this must-read account of a truly pivotal moment in art history." - Jonathan Lopez, author of The Man Who Made Vermeers

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"Grant Wood's 'American Gothic'" No American artwork has been parodied more than American Gothic. Zombies, dogs, Beavis and Butthead, the Muppets, Lego figures, and even Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton have taken a turn with the pitchfork. But the painting itself is no joke--American Gothic is as recognizable as the Mona Lisa and The Scream. mental_floss, Jan/Feb 2012.

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