The Female Rower, 1930 Style!

Let’s continue with another entry on the subject of female rowers, and how they can be seen …

In 1932, the painting “The Young Rower” by Lancelot Myles Glasson (1894-1959) was shown at the Royal Academy in London. It created both admiration and dismay among the public and the critics. Of course, a painting of a young woman with the upper part of her body naked was daring for its time. Nevertheless, “The Young Rower” was chosen as Picture of the Year in 1932. For many of the women at that time, it was seen as a symbol of the “modern woman”, while others saw the painting only as an erotic picture.

If it had not been for the title of the painting, and that we can see the handle and loom of an oar on the right, it would be difficult to see it as a “rowing picture”. Without the title of the painting and the detail of the loom, it had been a half naked young woman in a locker room. And one can wonder why on earth is there an oar in the locker room?

I read on the web somewhere that the model’s name was Freda, but I have also seen someone claiming that the model was her mother, age 22 “and unmarried in 1932”. But this lady’s mother’s name was “Kate (aka Kitty or Kay) Hyder,” not Freda. There is more information about Glasson’s painting in the magazine Picture Post, last week of January 1939, but I have not been able to get hold of that article.

The original oil painting is now at Rochdale Art Gallery in Rochdale, Lancashire, England.

In autumn 1991, the magazine Regatta had an ad for reproduced limited prints of Glasson’s oil painting, which were sold by The Amateur Rowing Association, ARA. For £145 you could get your own copy of “The Young Rower”. Soon the magazine’s letters-to-the-editor column was filled with both angry and supportive letters. So one could say that after 60 years nothing had changed in this matter in England.

And if you wonder, yes, I did buy a copy – and no, it is not for sale!

9 comments

  1. I am perfectly happy with paintings of nudes (got one or two on my walls at home) but I felt a slight queasiness looking at this one. Then I realised it is because the woman is changing, not posing. Viewers (male viewers at least) find themselves in the women's locker room and are made into peeping toms.

  2. A friend of mine, Tim Koch, member of Auriol Kensington RC in London, sent me the following thought about “The Young Rower”,

    “A copy of this picture hung in the bar of Kensington Rowing Club in London for many years. It ‘disappeared’ one Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race Day and was much missed. An old Auriol Kensington member recently found a print and presented it to the club. There have been one or two comments that it is no longer appropriate to display it. I find it interesting that we apply higher standards to ‘art’ than we do to the rest of life. Some may consider the painting ‘exploitative’ but we will all see considerably worse (better?) pictures in the hundreds of advertisements and other media images that you will be exposed to today. Wilde famously held that ‘There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book; books are well written or badly written’. If this is true it must apply to all art forms.”

    Thanks, Tim!

  3. I have 2 original pages from The Tatler ( The young rower) and the young Swimmer from the Sketch.
    Anyone knoe where I can find more.. I did hear that they are part of a series.
    Thanks
    Annie

  4. I was looking for an image of this picture and came across your blog (through Google search) and analysis of the painting. The woman in the picture was my grandmother and her name was indeed Freda. She passed away in 2005 at the age of 95. She had a copy of this painting hanging in her flat in Twickenham (UK) for as long as I can remember. She worked as an artists model for much of her early life, sitting for people such as Captain Glasson, as well as Sir James Gunn. In fact, Sir James Gunn did two portraits of my grandmother, one complete, the other unfinished. My family still retains the originals (oil on canvas).

    She was 23 in this painting and yes, unmarried. She didn't marry until 1941.

    Thank you for posting!

  5. Jan. 9 2012
    some years back my cousin and I went to a yard sale in Cochrane, Ont. She purchased a picture of a bunch of lilacs in a vase…it was supposed to go to my mom as a joke….I was curious as i liked the old frame and rope at the back and the cardboard had soap flakes stamped on the back. i took it apart and there was this print of The Young Rower under the lilacs picture… I showed it to my mom and she laughed and didn't want the pic but I have been fascinated by it ever since…It hangs in my house and it is a true art form..It is beautiful in its simplicity. I wish i had more information on this and its value..I love reading about each article i come across pertaining to this picture..I welcome any e-mails on it …send them to Barbara at rennie461@hotmail.com Thank You….

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