SUSANNA AND THE ELDERS . . . by Thomas Hart Benton, 1938--
The painting caused controversy when it was displayed in 1939 at the St. Louis Art Museum (then called the City Art Museum of St. Louis). Details from Thomas Hart Benton: A Life, by Justin Wolff--
The director of the museum, Meyric Rogers, threatened to ban the painting from the show on the grounds that it was "much too nude." Rogers acquiesced, however, and exhibited the painting, though with a rope around it to prevent viewers from taking too prurient an interest in its details, such as Susanna's pubic hair. Nevertheless, some local viewers expressed outrage: Mary Ellis, for instance, a sixty-five-year-old pastor, exclaimed, "The nude is stark naked. It's lewd, immoral, obscene, lascivious, degrading, an insult to womanhood and the lowest expression of pure filth." Benton, though, pretended to be unperturbed; upon hearing about Ellis's comments, he responded, "That's funny as hell."
The painting now hangs at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.