This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines the relationship between the philanthropic exhibitions and the image of Whitechapel–the 'evil quarter mile' of the 1888 Ripper murders, and prime locus of fin de Steele anxieties concerning bodily and spiritual degeneration. It shows that the Art Unions were regularly attacked as organizations in which middle-brow taste was institutionalized. The promiscuous body of the public came to be seen as a physically corrupting, undisciplined mass whose very bodily presences violated the surfaces of the art against which they came. The book argues that when the National Portrait Gallery was housed at Bethnal Green, its accessibility to the cultured public became entwined in debates about the extension of the franchise. It examines the institutional incarnations of 'female art' in relation to the wider problem of aesthetic status.