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Etty specialised in painting the nude and continued to attend life classes at the Royal Academy throughout his life. The presence of an older man working away studiously alongside much younger students caused some amusement among his contemporaries. Etty’s modern reputation has rested on the apparent realism and erotic charge of his painted studies, which seem forward-looking, but the artist considered that he was working in a well-established tradition of high-minded painting.

February 2016