Censorship and the Visual Arts:
An Ongoing Timeline


This project provides a very brief overview of censorship in the visual arts. It is updated, corrected, and supplemented by students in Art History 350: Art and Ideas. Initially the project intended to supplement the Banned Books Week at Coastal Carolina University, but has grown to encompass a wide variety of media, viewpoints, and provocative positions on the nature of censorship and the very definition of art. Since it directly relates to a regularly scheduled course, this page will only after many years give some kind of timeline: in effect, the coverage will be sporadic at best. At this early stage students have been asked to restrict the focus of their inquiries to examples of censorship in the United States and Western Europe. This page will always be "under construction."

For excellent overviews of examples of censorship in the past few millenia, see the File Room at the Chicago Cultural Center, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund



1497: Savonarola promotes 'bonfire of vanities' in Florence

1558: 'fig leaves' added to Michelangelo's Last Judgement; fig leaves added to Michelangelo's David (on this latter, also see here)

1573: Veronese ordered to 'correct' his Last Supper; see the translated text of the Inquisition

1832: Daumier punished for caricature of Louis-Philippe by six months in prison

1873: Comstock Act in US

1898: Klimt's Vienna Sezession 'Minotaur' poster emasculated

1918: UK ban on reproduction of CR Nevinson's Paths of Glory

1933: Rockefeller Center mural by Diego Rivera destroyed after featuring image of Lenin

1934: Cadmus' The Fleet's In! withdrawn from PWAP exhibition at Corcoran Gallery in Washington

1938: Entartete Kunst exhibition in Munich and further purging of official collections in Germany

1950s-1960s: Banned animated cartoons; Bugs Bunny, Walt Disney, etc.

1961: suppression of Siqueiros murals in Mexico City

1964: Warhol's Thirteen Most Wanted Men mural at New York World's Fair painted over

1989: Corcoran Gallery cancels Mapplethorpe exhibition; controversy in Cincinnati

1989: Robert Sherer's works taken off display

1997: 'Piss Christ' controversy at National Gallery of Victoria

2001: Taliban destroys Bamiyan sculptures in Afghanistan

2001: Ted Lay's Painting's of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky found unfit for public exhibition

2001: Daria Fand's "Last of the Believers" banned in Honolulu

2002: Banned Cartoons and 9/11

2003: Art Spiegelman resigns from New Yorker

2004: Guy Colwell's painting of Abused Iraqi Prisoners pulled from gallery