“Extreme Violence,” the new show at London's Dulwich Picture Gallery, spotlights eight large paintings by 17th- century artist Jusepe de Ribera. Exhibit curator Xavier Bray told the Art Newspaper that the pictures were intended “to shock, to create visual impact in their day,” adding that the scenes of savagery were the kinds of things the artist would have seen on the streets of Rome. (And we thought America's streets were dangerous. More about that in a moment).

Harrowing high art

Typifying the violence in Ribera's work is the exhibit example “The Flaying of Marsyas,” a pictorial of the Greek myth of Marsyas who lost a music contest to Apollo and as a consequence was skinned alive.

If that image isn't bestial enough, there's “The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew,” which details how executioners hoisted the saint's nude, debilitated body to a cross with rope. To intensify the brutality of the scene, Ribera added a look of abject terror on Bartholomew’s face. And, as a final touch, he included among the leering standbys, a woman holding a baby without any expression on her face – as if to emphasize that the event was an everyday occurrence.

Business as usual

It's lucky that Old Master paintings like those of Ribera aren't as popular as movies or television. According to a New York Times report in 2002 on a Columbia University study, teens and young adults who view TV for more than one hour a day are more prone to violent crimes.

Even a modern master like Cezanne should be off-limits to the young. His ghoulishness glorified in gilt frame is chilling. I'm thinking of his images of stranglings, stabbings, and rape. Also crowding the memory is 20th-century painter Rene Magritte's "The Menaced Assassin." What you see is nude woman laid out on her back with her legs outspread while a half dozen fully dressed men hover – one bearing a club.

One can only imagine what would happen if America's youth became art lovers.

Entrance requirement

The television habit of America's latest shooter, 26-year-old Snochia Moseley of Maryland, is not known, but she mowed down six of her co-workers at a Rite Aid distribution center on Sept 20 with a 9mm Glock handgun and killed three of them. Such violence came less than a year ago in Maryland at a kitchen countertop company.

And that's just in Maryland. The Guardian reported that in the first five months of 2018 a total of 16 shootings occurred in schools alone. Maybe art museums and picture galleries shouldn't allow entrance to anyone under 30.

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