A famous childrens’ artist sexually abused young girls after blindfolding them and dressing them in Victorian-style nighties, a jury heard today.
Graham Ovenden, 70, is accused of paedophile crimes against four children aged from six to 14 between 1972 and 1985.
Ramsay Quaife, prosecuting, said the offences took place at his homes in London and Cornwall and the alleged victims – all now adults – had similar accounts of the alleged abuse.
He added that the accused told police he still has ‘a very major reputation’ for painting some of the best portraits of children in the last 200 years.
Mr Quaife told Truro Crown Court in Cornwall that the offences took place as the youngsters modelled for Ovenden, who is also a renowned fine art photographer.
He said: “What we say is that Mr Ovenden is a paedophile, that is a sexual abuser of children, and we say in this case the target of his abuse was young girls.”
He described how Ovenden would dress the children up Victorian style nighties before leaving them naked and blindfolded and getting them to perform ‘taste tests’.
He said: “The defendant would put the tape down over her eyes. She could not see anything. The tape was black, stretchy and smelt of glue.
“Although she could not see, she could hear the defendant and she could remember the sound of his belt buckle.
“The defendant would tell them they would do a taste test and she would get 10p for every taste she got right.
“He would then put something in her mouth to the back of her throat, he told her it was his thumb.”
Mr. Quaife added that Ovenden was actually performing an indecent assault on the children.
He said in some cases the naked girls whose eyes were taped were moved into different positions and pictured where their genitals could be seen.
He described another incident when one of the complainants was having a bath with Ovenden’s daughter when they were around five and six years old.
Mr. Quaife said Ovenden stripped and got into the bath himself and forced the child to touch him before taking photographs of the youngsters.
Ovenden, from Pantersbridge, nr Bodmin, Cornwall, denies six charges of indecent assault and three of indecency with a child.
One of Ovenden’s alleged victims told the jury how the artist abused her when she was just six years old.
Giving her evidence from behind a screen the woman, who cannot be named, described how tape was put over her eyes.
She said Ovenden then told her to hold his ‘wrist’ before the ‘taste test’.
The woman said Ovenden only allowed one person with him in his studio at the same time.
She told the court: “Graham would say that we (me and a friend) were not allowed in together, she would either be back at the house or outside in the hall.
“He would say that we weren’t allowed to go in together because we giggled so one of us would have to wait outside.”
The court heard how some of the portraits drawn of the alleged victim have been shown in the Tate Modern art gallery and have also been published in some books.
The woman said the abuse happened at Ovenden’s home in Cornwall which she described as a “very unusual” property.
She added: “We stayed in the grounds of the house. I must have been about six or seven years old.
“I’m not sure when I last stayed there, it may have been early teens. We went there pretty much every summer holiday, give or take a few.
“The house was very unusual, unlike anything I had ever seen really, lots of colours and arched windows.”
Ovenden denies all nine charges against him.
The trial continues.