François Boucher’s Brown Odalisque (Wikimedia Commons)
An elementary school in Cache Valley in Utah fired an art teacher after he showed students postcards which depicted classical paintings, some which contained nudity. The school claimed that the artworks made the students uncomfortable, while one parent even called the police to accuse the teacher of showing the students pornography.
It all started when Mateo Rueda had fifth and sixth-grade students do a color study exercise. In the last few minutes of class, the teacher had students go to the library to look through art books and boxes of postcards and select which of the paintings best exemplified the color relationships that they had been studying. That’s when the teacher realized that some of the postcards and nude paintings, which, as he claims, had been there long before he began to teach there, including Amedeo Modigliani’s Iris Tree, François Boucher’s Brown Odalisque, and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ The Valpincon Bather.
Rueda told the local Fox affiliate that he was surprised to find those images there. He took some of the nude paintings back and then went through the pack to remove the pictures he believed to be inappropriate. On the other hand, he explained to his students that nudity in art is something normal.
As Mateo wrote in a message to a parent that was shared on Facebook:
However, some students expressed discomfort with the paintings, so the teacher allegedly encouraged them to discuss with their parents. Then, some of the parents complained to the school, which fired Rueda on December 8, only four days after that fateful class.
As an anonymous school official told the local Herald Journal, the firing had more to do with how the teacher talked about the nude paintings than the nudity itself. A parent said that’s what she complained about. Rueda denies that he did anything inappropriate beyond explaining to students that if they ever go to an art museum, they wouldn’t avoid seeing some nudity in paintings.
The local sheriff’s office examined the case after a report was filed and they took the pictures. The county attorney, however, decided not to file charges because the paintings weren’t actually pornography.
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