I'm no paedophile, acclaimed artist, 70, tells Crown Court
An internationally acclaimed artist accused of being a paedophile yesterday told a court of the "witch-hunt" surrounding those whose works involve nude children.
Graham Ovenden, who told police he had a "major reputation" for having "some of the best portraits of children in the last 200 years", is accused of sexually abusing children at his former and current homes in London and Cornwall respectively, dating back 40 years. The 70-year-old painter and photographer, whose work has hung in a Tate gallery and some of the world's greatest museums, told Truro Crown Court how there was "no shame" in the so-called "state of grace", saying there was a "moral obligation" to capture that.
Giving evidence from the witness stand yesterday, Ovenden talked the jury through some of the images – including those featuring nudes and children in states of partial dress. Referring to one of his subjects, an alleged victim in the case who cannot be named for legal reasons, he said: "(She) was a beautiful child – not only as she was, as you see her in front of a camera, but also as a person. I think it is important that someone pays homage to that and place her in a state of grace. I think holding those things, by photography or painting, is a moral obligation."
Referencing esteemed English poet William Blake, Ovenden described the "state of grace" as "a thing of wondrous beauty".
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
In one of several references to Christianity in court yesterday, Ovenden said: "Imagine Adam and Eve before the serpent – there's no shame. We're not born with trousers, skirts, shirts and shoes. One of the great qualities of art is to go back to the great point, the Garden of Eden."
He described the "Christian guilt complex" as being responsible for the addition of fig leaves in artwork from the 17th century on, to prevent figures from being completely nude.
Ovenden, who denies all charges, told the court how he had photographed children both clothed and partially clothed, in the presence of others, including the alleged victim's relatives. He also told the court how he was also asked to take pictures of his subjects, including nude children. He told the court: "I have to say the absolute witch-hunt which is going on at the moment – and the idea of a child naked is something to be frowned upon – is absolutely abhorrent."
Prosecutor Ramsay Quaife had previously described how the four alleged victims had previously posed for Ovenden. They made formal complaints to police in the late 2000s and he was arrested in 2008.
Witnesses giving evidence during the trial described how Ovenden would take his alleged victims into his studio and make them wear Victorian-style clothing, before it was removed. He would also cover their eyes before abusing them, they told the court.
The trial continues on Monday.