Gay Art

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This book is not a panegyric of homosexuality. It is a scientific study led by Professor James Smalls who teaches art story . His works examines the process of creation and allows one to comprehend the contribution of homosexuality to the evolution of emotional perception. In a time when all barriers have been overcome, this analysis offers a new understanding of our civilisation's masterpieces.

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Published 09 March 2016
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EAN13 9781785257360
Language English
Document size 92 MB

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GAYART
James Smalls
Author: James Smalls
Page 4: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, The Musicians(detail), c. 1595. Oil on canvas, 92.1 x 118.4 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
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© Sirrocco, London, UK (English version) © Confidential Concepts, worldwide, USA © Berenice Abbott © Ajamu Ikwe Tyekimba © Francis Bacon Estate, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA/ DACS, London © Richmond Barthé, courtesy Childs Gallery © Mme G. Brassaï © Romaine Brooks © Bruce of Los Angeles © Cahun © Centro Elisarion © Tee Corinne © Jean Delville Estate, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA/ SABAM, Brussels © Charles Demuth © Marcel Duchamp Estate, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA/ ADAGP, Paris/ Succession Marcel Duchamp © Rotimi FaniKayode/Autograph, Association of Black Photographers © Leonor Fini Estate, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA/ ADAGP, Paris © Wilhelm von Gloeden © Nan Goldin © Duncan Grant, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA/ DACS, London © Sunil Gupta © George Hare © David Hockney © Holland Day Art © Harmony Hammond/ Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY © Mardsen Hartley, Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis © Elisar von Kupffer © Tamara de Lempicka Estate, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA/ ADAGP, Paris © Herbert List/ Magnum photos © JeanneMammenGesellschaft e.V. © Estate Man Ray, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA/ ADAGP, Paris © Copyright The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Courtesy Art + Commerce © Pierre Molinier Estate, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA/ ADAGP, Paris © Catherine Opie. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Georg Pauli, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA/ BUS, Stockholm © Estate of Pablo Picasso, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA © Kuzma PetrovVodkine © Pierre et Gilles. Courtesy Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris © George Platt Lynes © Wilhelm von Plüschow Art © George and Helen Segal Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY © Smithsonian American Art Museum © Frank Meadow Sutcliffe/ The Sutcliffe Gallery Tom of Finland 1979 © Tom of Finland Foundation www.TomofFinlandFoundation.org Tom of Finland 1986 © Tom of Finland Foundation www.TomofFinlandFoundation.org © Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA © Minor White © David Wojnarowicz/P.P.O.W., New York, ill. 191
ISBN: 9781785257360
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or adapted without the permission of the copyright holder, throughout the world. Unless otherwise specified, copyright on the works reproduced lies with the respective photographers. Despite intensive research, it has not always been possible to establish copyright ownership. Where this is the case, we would appreciate notification.
James Smalls
GAYART
Contents
Introduction
Homosexuality in Western Antiquity (from Ancient Greece to the Roman Empire)
Homosexuality in the Middle Ages
Homosexuality in the Italian Renaissance
Homosexuality in the Art of the NonWestern World (Asia and Islam)
17001900: Towards a Homosexual Identity
Homosexuality in the Art of Modernism and Postmodernism (19002000)
Conclusion
Bibliography
List of Illustrations
Index
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Introduction
rt and homosexuality may seem like a strange combination, but both phenomena have been part of human history from the beginning of time, or at least from the beginning of recorded civilisation. Bringing together A two large concepts – art and homosexuality – is nevertheless difficult and challenging. Both categories raise a host of conceptual problems and pose a series of unresolved nagging questions.
The primary question, “What is art and what purpose does it serve?”, has preoccupied humankind for centuries and has yet to find a definitive answer. There exists as many views and definitions about what art is (and is not) and its significance as there are individuals in the world. In the context ofGay Art, I am using the term “art” in a broad sense as human creation and communication within a visual field. Although the majority of the images here were produced in traditional media such as painting, sculpture, graphics, and photography, art would also include images and forms of production associated with, for example, popular culture, advertising, film, performance, conceptualism, or computergenerated imagery. Ultimately, it is up to the reader of this book to decide what to accept or reject as art.
Unlike “art,” the other term in this book’s title, “homosexuality,” can be defined more specifically. Homosexuality and its emotional aspects have existed in all cultures and in all time periods long before the invention of the term. It is and always has been one aspect of the very complex domain of human sexuality. The way homosexual love and sensibilities are visually expressed is often a reflection of the status of homosexuals themselves within their particular cultures. These images are an indication of either the degree of tolerance in those societies, or the sign of an increasingly restrictive prejudice fostered by traditions and religion.
Before 1869, the words “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” did not exist. The former was coined and first put into use by the GermanHungarian writer and translator Karl Maria Kertbeny (182482). He also invented the latter term in 1880. Kertbeny’s purpose for using the word “homosexuality” was in response to an article of the Prussian penal code that criminalised sexual relations between men. Kertbeny wanted the article omitted, but was unsuccessful. The code became part of Prussian law in 1871 and was upheld and then strengthened by the Nazis in 1935, and retained by West Germany until 1969 (Haggerty, p.451). Kertbeny had his own specific views on human sexuality. Although there may never have been a coherent theory of homosexuality for him, he did divide homosexuals into specific categories: those who are “active,” “passive,” and “Platonists,” or those who love the company of their own sex without wanting to have sex with them. The designation “homosexuality,” then, started out as a term of sympathy and political activism to change a repressive law. However, over the years the word evolved into a concept that came to describe an individual’s sexual preference. The word and its evolving concept took some time to enter into European languages and thought patterns.
In the 1880s, Kertbeny’s catchy new term attracted the attention of Richard von KrafftEbing, a noted sexologist who used the word in his vastly popular 188687Psychopathia Sexualis, a massive encyclopaedia of sexual deviance.
01. Greek painting representing a couple, 480 BC. Museum of Paestum, Italy.
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It was through this and subsequent works by noted sexologists of the late nineteenth century that the term “homosexuality” acquired its medical and clinical connotations. Sexology refers to the study of human sexual behaviour before the codifications of modern psychology and psychoanalysis generated by the thoughts and writings of Sigmund Freud (see Gregory W. Bredbeck, “Sexology,” in Haggerty, p.794). It was not until the 1950s that “homosexuality” entered popular English and American usage, largely as a result of the Kinsey reports of 1948. Alfred Kinsey (18941956) was an American sex researcher whose scientific data on human sexuality challenged the prevailing notion that homosexuality was a mental illness.
As a concept, “homosexuality” encompasses a variety of conflicting ideas about gender and samesex sexual attraction. Its broad range of possible meanings is what makes it such an irresistible, powerful, and ambiguous term nowadays. In its modern sense, “homosexuality is at once a psychological condition, an erotic desire, and a sexual practice” (David Halperin, “Homosexuality,” in Haggerty, p.452). All three senses can and are expressed in artistic or aestheticised form. Homosexuality or, to employ a term of more recent invention, the “homoerotic,” can be understood as an actual or potential element in everyone’s experience, whatever the sexual orientation of the individual. The homosexual and the homoerotic frequently overlap but are not necessarily the same. Many of the images in this book might be classified as homoerotic rather than homosexual. “Homosexual” and “homoerotic” differ only in the root meanings of the terms “sexual” and “erotic”. Whereas “sexual” encompasses the physical act of sex, “erotic” is a concept that incorporates a range of ideas and feelings around samesex wants, needs, and desires. It does not always culminate in the sexual act. The homoerotic, unlike the homosexual, legitimates erotic desire between members of the same sex by placing that sentiment in a context which rationalises it – such as in classicism, military battle, or athletic activities. Thus, in many situations the homoerotic is veiled and perceived as nontransgressive behaviour. Whereas all homosexuals experience homoerotic desire, not all who experience and, indeed, appreciate homoerotic desire are necessarily homosexuals. The homoerotic can sometimes be a frightening prospect for some heterosexuals to such a degree that it sometimes incites virulent homophobic responses. The “homoerotic” is also linked to the more recent idea of the “homosocial”. Male homosociality refers to allmale groups or environments, and is a means by which men construct their identities and consolidate their privilege and social power as males usually through and at the expense of women (see Eve Sedgwick,Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, New York, Columbia University Press, 1985). Indeed, female homosociality also exists, but the dynamics of it in relation to patriarchal culture are quite different.
Although male and female homosexuality are often treated separately, both are considered in this book. Throughout, the term “homosexuality” refers to male homosexuality unless “female” is specified. This is so because most societies are maledominated and maleoriented, giving primacy to the sexual activities and development of men over women. In relationship to art about and by homosexual men, the “scarcity of art about or by lesbians reflects male domination of the cultural record” (Saslow, p.7). All of the art and literary evidence we have was the work of males and bear mostly on male activities.
The definition of homosexuality is further complicated by the differences between modern and premodern notions of the concept. There is considerable disagreement in contemporary literature on homosexuality over use of the word “homosexual” for samesex relationships in nonWestern, premodern and ancient periods. The word
02.Albrecht Dürer,SelfPortraitorPortrait of the Artist Holding a Thistle, 1493. Oil on parchment mounted on canvas, 56.5 x 44.5 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris.
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“homosexuality” is relatively young. Like the word “sexuality” itself, it describes a culturally determined and culturally constructed concept born of recent Western society. Thus, applying the concept “homosexuality” to history is bound to force modern and Western concepts of self and other onto the ancient and premodern world. In most premodern and ancient cultures, there is no word to denote a state of being homosexual or to describe a homosexual act.
Any attempt to fit male representations in ancient art or texts with the status or practices of modernday homosexuals would be anachronistic. Also, the modern notion of “homosexuality” is loaded with a negative moral stigma that clouds any positive or pleasurable appreciation of malemale or femalefemale sexual culture in premodern societies. However, even though the ancients may not have had in mind the modern concept of “homosexual” and “homosexuality,” this does not negate the fact that homosexuality and indeed homophobia did exist.
03.Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio,Ecstasy of Saint Francis, c. 15941595. Oil on canvas, 92.5 x 128 cm. Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (Connecticut).