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The image above by Fernand Léger is from the front of a 1952 illustrated version of the poem by French author Paul Eluard, Liberté (Freedom). The poem was first published clandestinely in 1942 and reminds us that artists have always taken risks, some more than others. French artists have long been concerned with the issue of Freedom as enshrined in the French constitution. There is a rather droll commentary on this here
WeAreOCA is an arts blog and we think there is an art history angle on reporting of the recent events in Paris of which students should be aware. This concerns the debate/argument about images depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The Guardian has a brief summary of the history of such images here but students interested in exploring Islamic aesthetics further would do well to read the material available through Oxford Art Online via the student website (log in and then click here)

Posted by author: Genevieve Sioka
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5 thoughts on “Freedom

  • Just a thought – isn’t there a subtle difference between the words Liberty and Freedom? I’m never comfortable translating Liberte for Freedom. I’m doing art history (1) and at the moment the section on cartoons and have found the current debate has provided me with lots of food for thought. Cultural/ historical differences about what is acceptable for caricature is a v interesting topic.

    • It’s a very good point Cathie and does highlight one of the difficulties in the argument itself.
      Certainly the character La Liberté is usually translated as Liberty (As in the The Statue of Liberty). In the event I chose Freedom here because I thought the Eluard poem was referring to freedom from occupation.

  • I once did a university entrance essay paper and two of the questions for discussion have stuck in my mind ever since: `What is good advertising’ (it was the era of Vance Packard & The Hidden Persuaders) and `Liberty, Equality and Fraternity – Three Incompatible Ideals’.
    I chose the latter and argued for the proposition but couldn’t find an answer to the problem.

  • My husband was commissioned to illustrate a book about world religions about 15 years ago and there were really clear guidelines from the publisher that forbade the depiction of Mohammad in respect for the religious beliefs of some of the children that may have to use the book at school. The context that an image exists in is important in understanding its purpose and impact.

  • Strange goings-on in the world of children’s book publishing, the latest being featured in the BBC Today programme last week regarding OUP’s guidelines for authors.
    It’s 2 decades since I left the world of school education but even then I recall complaints from parents about a story featuring a wolf and three farmyard animals.

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