The 8ft bronze was last exhibited there during the First World War, but it was considered so raunchy that it had to be removed following a campaign by the community's moral majority. It will now form the centrepiece of a millennium show of the French sculptor's work. On loan from the Tate Gallery, London, the sculpture was unveiled yesterday at Lewes town hall.
It was a "brotherhood" of assorted aesthetes living in the town that first brought the bronze there after a pounds 1,000 commission to the artist. The group was led by the Bostonian archaeologist E P Warren, and in 1914 he offered it for public display. Local puritans, however, launched an immediate campaign to have the naked figures draped and screened. At the forefront of the protest was a local spinster headmistress, Kate Fowler Tutt, who feared for the blushes of her girls and thought that the sculpture would inflame the passions of soldiers billeted in the town. It was removed in 1917, and then spent 12 years being stored in a stable block before being sold following Warren's death.
Geoffrey Fowler Tutt, a great nephew of the redoubtable lady, said that the protest must be taken in the context of the age.He was worried that the attention given to it masked the many considerable achievements of Miss Fowler Tutt. He said she had been the first woman on the local council where she served on 20 committees and chaired a number of them. She took a group of young people to Germany in the 1930's where she even met Hitler, with whom she was not at all impressed. "I think she has been a bit maligned by all this and made to seem rather petty," said Mr Fowler Tutt. "In real life she was a real heavy-weight who broke down a lot of barriers for women."
Organisers of the exhibitionmust hope that she does not have a natural successor lurking in the wings.