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1930s & Earlier / September Morn Controversy
A painting of a nude maiden standing shin deep in a lake created a major scandal in America in 1913. Matinee de Septembre (September Morn) was painted by French artist Paul Emile Chabas over three summers, ending in 1912. The next year, when it was in the window of a Chicago art gallery, a complaint was issued to the mayor's office and the owner of the gallery was subsequently charged with indecency. He beat the rap. Two months later a similar controversy erupted in New York City when the painting was displayed by another art dealer. Anthony Comstock, a self-appointed crusader against vice, vowed to file obscenity charges against the man but never followed through. The surrounding publicity naturally made September Morn the most sought after piece of art in America. Thousands of lithograph reproductions were made in the next decade. The painting is often denounced as kitsch by art critics who claim it lacks contrast, co-ordinated lines, and a worthy subject. Today the original painting is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.