Author: Casey Hoke

Gustave Courbet- Le Sommeil (The Sleepers)

Gustave Courbet- Le Sommeil (The Sleepers)

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was known for his realistic depictions humans and his sometimes even “gritty” depictions of life and the body as seen through the eye.

During his time as a realist, women’s rights movements in the US and across some of Europe were just getting into their places of mobilization. While many men at this time were “distraught”, they were also calmed by art of a voyeuristic nature to that surged at this time as Romantic authors and artists hinted into the “secret” and romantic lives of women.

Featured Artwork: Le Sommeil (The Sleepers)

Date & Location: 1866 in Paris, France

Media: Oil painting

Where can I view this artwork?: The Petit Palais in Paris, France

Significance to Queer Art History: Le Sommeil  was commissioned by the Turkish Ambassador to Paris for his private collection. This painting was catered to the male gaze in this way and for the fact that men at this time were indeed, interested in looking into the romantic lives of women who loved women for their own pleasure. While this is, one can see that the women’s bodies are realistic and curved instead of (to put this plainly for the times) “photoshopped” into magazine figures. This shows Courbet’s eye for realism. The strewn objects (pearls, hair clips, and blankets) are also in a fashion that shows prior activity and lust after one another between the women.

Resources & Further Reading:

“The Sleepers.” Petit Palais. October 03, 2016. Accessed August 2017. http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr/en/oeuvre/sleepers.

Saslow

https://www.jstor.org/stable/1483342?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Herbert Singleton- Love that not Love

Herbert Singleton- Love that not Love

Featured Artwork:  Love That Not Love

Date and Location: 1990 in New Orleans, Louisiana (USA)

Media: Acrylic paint on carved wood

Where can I see this artwork?: Displayed in the past at the New Orleans Old Mint Museum as part of the exhibition, titled: Soul of the South: Selections from the Gitter-Yellen Collection. On display: November 20, 2015 – May 28, 2017

Herbert Singleton (1945-2007) , a self-taught artist from New Orleans, LA (USA) painted this to show the messages considered taboo (yet clear in the carved figures loving embrace) in the 1990s. Love between white men was just on the brink of hitting major popular culture and television at this time, while love between black men and men of color was scant, hence the title: ‘Love That Not Love”.

Sources & Further Reading:
“Herbert Singleton” Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery. Accessed August 07, 2017. http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artist/?id=7431.
MacCash, Doug. “Herbert Singleton, Noted Folk Artist Dies.” NOLA.com. August 02, 2007. Accessed August 07, 2017. http://blog.nola.com/dougmaccash/2007/08/herbert_singleton_noted_folk_a.html.
Greer Lankton (1958-1996)

Greer Lankton (1958-1996)

Greer Lankton was an American Artist based in East Village in New York City. She created and re-purposed dolls as expressions and interpretations of herself, her imagination, friends, and influential celebrities. Lankton, a transgender woman, was born in 1958 and physically transitioned and was subject of a few news articles in this time before college at the age of 21. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago and Pratt. Lankton, since left a legacy of her work having been featured in the Whittney Biennial and the Venice Biennale in 1995 before her death in 1996. Her work has since been featured and remembered in the US with the 2014 exhibition, titled: “LOVE ME”

Featured Artwork: Bust of Candy Darling

Date & Location: 1989 in New York City

Significance to Queer Art History: Candy Darling, a transgender actress who was featured in several of Andy Warhol’s films was one of Lankton’s icons that she also looked up to as a trans woman. Inside the bust is a valentine-style heart next to a human heart that Lankton has fabricated. This could allude to the idea that, as a friend of hers, Julia Morton writes: “the artist’s life was sustained as much by fantasy as reality”.

Resources & Further Reading:

Morton, Julia. “Greer Lankton, a Memoir.” Artnet Magazine. January 27, 2007. Accessed May 2017. http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/morton/morton1-26-07.asp.

Nastac, Simona, and Massimo Grimaldi. “Unalterable Strangeness.” Flash Art. July 27, 2016. Accessed May 2017. http://www.flashartonline.com/article/unalterable-strangeness/.

Titian- Diana and Actaeon

Titian- Diana and Actaeon

Titian (1488-1576) , born in Venice, Italy as  Tiziano Vecellio or Tiziano Vecelli was known as the greatest renaissance painter of the Venetian school of art. His works centered on common catholic religious art and classical scenes from Greek and Roman mythology as the aesthetics and lore of ancient Greece and Rome were popularized once more during the Italian Renaissance.

 Featured Artwork: Diana and Actaeon

Date and location: 1556-59 in Venice, Italy

Media: Oil painting

Where can I find this artwork?: The National Gallery in London, England

Significance to Queer Art History: 

This painting centers on Actaeon the hunter and his incident of stumbling upon Diana, the goddess of the moon, the hunt, and fertility, (Also known as Artemis in Greek mythology) along with her attendants. This painting takes place right before the hunter is turned into a stag and hunted for lurking in their space. The painting symbolizes male fear and lust for pursuing desires that aren’t meant to be shared with them, hence Diana’s sensuous relationships with her attendants.

Resources & Further Reading: 

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 107-108

“Titian’s ‘Diana and Actaeon’.” National Gallery. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/titians-diana-and-actaeon.

Wethey, Harold E. “Titian.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Accessed August 07, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Titian.

Unknown- Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple

Unknown- Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple

Featured Artwork: Presentation of the Virgin by Fra Carnevale

Date & Location: 1465 in Florence, Italy

Media: Tempera and oil paint

Significance to Queer Art History:
The male couple in the middle reflects “temptation” and modern relationships in Florence with their modern dress and the figure on the left (almost half way up the painting) “chucking” the other man under the chin in suggestive fashion. This was considered an erotic gesture and perhaps a lash at the purity of the rest of the scene that alluded to some of the contemporary lives of young men in Florence.

Close-up view of couple:

Where can I view this artwork?: The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA (USA) (Museum Council Gallery (Gallery 254))

Resources & Further Reading:

“Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple.” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. February 05, 2017. Accessed August 15, 2017. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/presentation-of-the-virgin-in-the-temple-32587.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 85-87.

 

Peithinos Painter- Peithinos Cup

Peithinos Painter- Peithinos Cup

Featured Artwork: Peithinos Cup

Date and Location: (525-475 BCE) Athens, Greece

Significance to Queer Art History: This cup is a kylix vessel, used for male centered social drinking of wine. Most kylix vessels had sexual or humorous depictions of individuals on the inside (a surprise for finishing the drink, if you will) and outsides. This kylix vessel, signed by the painter, Peithinos, shows heterosexual and homosexual courtship on the exterior.

Where can I see this artwork?: Currently in the Antikenmuseen’s Collection in Berlin, Germany.

Resources & Further Reading:

“200977, Berlin, Antikensammlung, Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, F2279.” Provenance – The Classical Art Research Centre. Accessed August 08, 2017. http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/XDB/ASP/recordDetails.asp?id=5C03CFDF-D841-432A-8B2C-FAAD6697E456&noResults=&recordCount=&databaseID=&search=.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 21-27.

 

Unknown- Tomb of Niankhnum and Khnumhotep (2400 BCE)

Unknown- Tomb of Niankhnum and Khnumhotep (2400 BCE)

Featured Artwork: Entry Fresco to Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep’s Mastaba

Date & Location: 2400 BCE in Saqarra, Egypt

Significance to Queer Art History: This mastaba is the joint tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep. The two men were the chief manicurists and groomers to the king in their time. The nose-to-nose “kiss” pose given to them is intimate and was only given to straight married couples for Egyptian art at this time.

The wives and children of the two men are shown in the tomb as well, but less prominently featured than Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep’s relationship. Khnumhotep is even seen to be occupying roles of a wife figure for Niankhnum in certain frescoes inside the mastaba.

 

Resources & Further Reading: 

“Evidence of Gay Relationships Exists as Early as 2400 B.C.” Egyptology. Accessed April 2017. http://www.egyptology.com/niankhkhnum_khnumhotep/dallas.html.

“Tour Egypt.” The Tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep at Saqqara in Egypt. Accessed April 2017. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/niankhnumt.htm.

 

Kritios and Nesiotes- Tyrannicide Monument (477 BCE)

Kritios and Nesiotes- Tyrannicide Monument (477 BCE)

Featured Artwork: Statue of Harmodius and Aristogeiton (Also known as Tyrannicide Monument)

Original artists: Kritios and Nesiotes (477 BCE) in Athens, Greece.
The only remaining pictured sculpture is a Greco-Roman copy that can be signified by the figure’s dependence upon faux wooden bases

Where can I view this artwork?: Naples National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy

Significance to Queer Art History:

The warrior lovers Harmodius (right) and Aristogeiton (left) rescued the ideals of democracy from a dictator and were heroes to Athens in 514 BCE. Thus, the statues of the warriors were commissioned to be displayed in the public forum. This was the 1st statue to honor mortal heroes instead of divine heroes in public.

Symbolism to note: 

  • Aristogeiton, the older warrior (left) lunges forward and offers a protective cloak for Harmodius. This may symbolize the warrior’s mutual devotion and platonic love to one another.
  • Statues at this time were no longer static and archaic. Instead, they showed idealized realism and movement in posture as the figures place their feet forward and stand in contraposto (meaning, that weight is shifted to one side of the figure.)
  • Both figures are nude. Nudity in Greek sculpture was reserved for gods/ goddesses, warriors, and athletes.

Resources & Further Reading:

“Crizio E Nesiote.” Crizio E Nesiote — Sito Ufficiale Del Museo Archeologico Nazionale Di Napoli. Accessed August, 2017. http://cir.campania.beniculturali.it/museoarcheologiconazionale/glossario/ploneglossarydefinition.2008-06-09.8429349527

“Perseus Digital Library.” Classical Tyrannicides (Sculpture). Accessed August, 2017. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact?name=Classical%2BTyrannicides&object=Sculpture.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 17-21.

Paul Gauguin- The Sorcerer of Hiva Oa (1902)

Paul Gauguin- The Sorcerer of Hiva Oa (1902)

Featured Artwork: The Sorcerer of Hiva Oa (Marquesan Man in the Red Cape)

Date & Location: 1902 in Hiva Oa, an isle in French Polynesia

Media: Oil painting

Significance to Queer Art History: This painting’s inspiration was drawn from Gauguin’s travels from France to the Polynesian Islands where Gauguin thought the lives and surroundings would be “untouched” by European influence and colonization. This painting depicts a māhū individual from Hiva Oa (not a man in a cape, as Gauguin describes the individual to his western standards of gender) who identifies with a third gender that can encompass both male and female roles, presentation, and even some spiritual aspects as māhū individuals were revered as healers as this person that Gauguin describes as a “sorcerer”.

Symbolism to note: The conversing fox and bird at the bottom right of the image are natural enemies with many differences. This is perhaps Gauguin’s way of portraying male and female genders “conversing” and getting along with one another to symbolize the māhū individual’s gender.

Editors Note: Gauguin’s view into the lives of the indigenous folks of Hiva Oa and the areas he visited in the Polynesian Islands may be untruthful and deemed offensive as he often exploited spiritual and cultural practices and added his own westernized European influences and concepts to his works while traveling to “un-touched” and un-colonized (the Polynesian Isles had already been colonized years before by the French) areas.

Resources & Further Reading:

Reed, Christopher. “Gender- Transcendant Homosexuality: Polynesia and North America.” In Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas. Oxford: University Press, 2011.

“The Men-women of the Pacific.” Tate. Accessed August 2017. http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/men-women-pacific.

Charles Demuth (1883-1935)

Charles Demuth (1883-1935)

Demuth was an openly gay artist based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (USA). He is known by most museum-goers as a precisionist architectural watercolorist. Yet, Demuth also painted more homoerotic works of art set in bathhouses and other accepted homosocial environments.

Featured Artwork: Dancing Sailors

Date & Location: 1918 in Pennsylvania, USA

Media: Watercolor and pencil

Where can I view this artwork?: The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio (USA). Not currently on view.

Significance to Queer Art History: While not unusual for male sailors to dance with one another without women in this time, Demuth works to embody the closeness of the two left sailors in their gazes toward one another with the added tension of having them dancing with women instead of one another. Along with this, the focus dwells on the muscular bodies of the sailors and their outlined buttocks.

Resources & Further Reading:

“Dancing Sailors.” Cleveland Museum of Art. http://www.clevelandart.org/art/1980.9.

Weinberg, Jonathan. “Demuth’s Erotic Watercolors.” In Speaking for Vice: Homosexuality in the Art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley and the First American Avante-garde, 98-100. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

George Catlin- Dance to the Berdache (1830)

George Catlin- Dance to the Berdache (1830)

George Catlin was a painter from Pennsylvania, USA. His works focused on Native American life and culture as he was interested in capturing North America’s “vanishing race” and spent weeks sketching and painting among indigenous folks to capture their “untouched” lifestyles. His most prolific expedition was with William Clark up the Mississippi River Territories of the United States started in 1830. While he documented tribes he visited, he was hostile toward non-european customs and wrote anti-two spirit sentiments toward the Sac and Fox village he visited.

Note on “Berdache” and Western Colonization Efforts: “Berdache” was a term given by the French during North American colonization for folks born male and given traditional female dress and roles along with (in some traditions) spiritual and shaman related properties and abilities. However, this term has been used offensively and extraneously since its origin in France and was later popularized by the field of anthropology. However, many indigenous folks have claimed the term two-spirit in lieu of this term and prefer this.

Most depictions that exist of two-spirit individuals in recorded history are from westernized colonization efforts and research such as Catlin’s. Note that his experiences through writing, art, and recordings of these individuals can be demeaning and untrue to the traditions of the Sac and Fox Nation’s two-spirit individuals.

Featured Artwork: Dance to the Berdache (1830)

Media: Watercolor

Location: Sketched on location at Sac and Fox Nation Village in Northwestern Illinois, USA (1830)

Where can I see Dance to the Berdache?: Smithsonian American Art Museum (Not currently on view) in Washington D.C. (USA)

Significance to Queer Art History: The two-spirit folks in question of this tribe in the Sac and Fox Nation’s village (located in Illinois, USA) were chosen as young males who deviated from norm in their choices during their upbringings. Some individuals  were documented to have willingly chosen to perform women’s roles in their village or may have dreams that they must fulfill a role as a two-spirit individual when discussing visions. The dance (and feast, as written in his journal) in Catlin’s piece was supposedly held annually to honor the two-spirit individual’s (or multiple persons) role/s in the tribe as a spiritual shaman and/or medicinal healing figure as well as a thanks for having been gifted with these things.

Catlin, while he was fascinated with the people and wanted to record their traditions, was highly opposed to two-spirit individuals and wrote in his notes:

“This is one of the most unaccountable and disgusting customs, that I have ever met in the Indian country, and so far as I have been able to learn, belongs only to the Sioux and Sacs and Foxes— perhaps it is practiced by other tribes, but I did not meet with it; and for further account of it I am constrained to refer the reader to the country where it is practiced, and where I should wish that it might be extinguished before it be more fully recorded.” (Catlin 214)

Sources:

Catlin, George. Illustrations of the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians in a Series of Letters and Notes Written during Eight Years of Travel and Adventure among the Wildest and Most Remarkable Tribes Now Existing, with Three Hundred and Sixty Engravings from the Author’s Original Paintings. 214-16.

“Biography of George Catlin.” Biography | George Catlin. Accessed August 06, 2017. http://www.georgecatlin.org/biography.html.

“Dance to the Berdash by George Catlin.” Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery. Accessed August 06, 2017. http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=4023.

TWO TAKES ON TWO SPIRITS | Recording the History of Multiple Genders in Native North America. Accessed August 06, 2017. https://www.eiteljorg.org/interact/blog/eitelblog/2013/09/11/two-takes-on-two-spirits-recording-the-history-of-multiple-genders-in-native-north-america.

Williams, Walter L. “The Berdache Tradition.” In The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004.

Wishart, David J. “Encyclopedia of the Great Plains.” Encyclopedia of the Great Plains | BERDACHE. Accessed August 06, 2017. http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.gen.004.

Donatello (1386-1466)

Donatello (1386-1466)

Donatello, born as Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi was a sculptor prominently featured through the Italian Renaissance in Florence, Italy. Donatello was one of the first modern artists to be known as gay in Florence, a city where homosexuality was prominent among artists and patrons alike, albeit, still frowned upon by certain sectors (namely, the church.) Donatello’s studio was a homosocial environment where in which, he chose apprentices from his standards of beauty rather than skill.

Featured Artwork: David

Date & Location: (1430-1440) in Florence, Italy

Media: Bronze

Where can I view this artwork?: Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, Italy.

Donatello’s David was the first known freestanding life-size male nude sculpture since ancient Roman monuments. This was a renaissance of restored “perfection” in the classical arts. This figure idolized male form and androgyny in its form and soft curves.

The symbolism in the piece also recalls an early homoerotic allusion to the eagle of Jupiter in David’s feathered helmet-tail. Roman myth told of Jupiter’s eagle looking and lusting after the divine hero, Ganymede.

Resources & Further Reading:

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 83-84.

National Museum of Bargello – Florence. Accessed August 06, 2017. http://www.museumsinflorence.com/musei/museum_of_bargello.html.