Showing Pride: LGBTQ Artists In History

Imagine a time when identifying as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) wasn’t just socially unacceptable, but was also worthy of a prison sentence. Such was the case around the globe, and remains true today in some parts of the world.

To celebrate Pride Month, we take a look back on a few artists who boldly represented the LGBTQ community in a time when they were being marginalized and persecuted.

Henry Scott Tuke

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The Critics (1927; oil on board, 16×20) by Henry Scott Tuke

 

Best known for his studies of the male nude, Tuke’s reputation faded some after his death in 1929. He was brought back into the zeigest in the 1970s, and has since become something of a cult figure within the LGBTQ art community.

Simeon Solomon

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Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene (1864; watercolor on paper, 13×15) by Simeon Solomon

 

Simeon Solomon’s work is best known for his depictions of Jewish life and same-sex desire. In 1873, the artist was arrested for attempting to have a same-sex relationship, and sentenced to three months in prison. Although he stopped exhibiting after his time in jail, he’d acquired celebrity status between artist and literary circles, including Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater.

John Craxton

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Head of a Greek Sailor (1940; oil on board, 13×12) by John Craxton

 

John Craxton’s style was most often considered neo-Romantic. He traveled with a great fervor after the war. Writer Richard Olney remembered Craxton during the summer of 1951:

“Most nights, John Craxton, a young English painter, arrived to share my bed; we kept each other warm. He moved in a bucolic dreamworld, peopled with beautiful Greek goat herders.”

Keith Vaughan

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Drawing of Two Men Kissing (1958–73) by Keith Vaughan

 

Keith Vaughan is remembered as much by his neo-romantic turned abstract style as he is by his revealing journals, selections from which were published in 1966 and 1989. In his writing, he expressed his troubled relationship with his sexuality. After being diagnosed with cancer in 1975, he committed suicide by overdosing in 1977, recording his last moments in his diary.

David Hockney

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Life Painting for a Diploma (1962) by David Hockney

 

David Hockney’s work is arguably the most revealing in terms of the artists sexuality. His portraiture explores the nature of LGBTQ relationships, specifically those between two men. In We Two Boys Together Clinging (1961) the work refers to his love for men. In 1963, Hockney painted two men together in Domestic Scene, Los Angeles.

 


The Tate Britain presents “Queer British Art 1861-1967,” a look back at LGBTQ representation in art to commemorate the partial decriminalization of male homosexuality in England, which is on view through October 1, 2017.

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