Did you see the news of the London student preparing to sacrifice his virginity as an act of "performance art"? If not, he's there on our news page. If so, perhaps, like us, you found yourselves reflecting on losses of virginity in an artistic context. It's a small leap from Clayton to Ganymede, but we didn't stop there.
What then, we wondered, is the role and meaning of gay art in the present day.It is a huge subject but, today, we'll begin with a mainly visual review of the most obvious form of "gay art", namely art that depicts the male form in a mildly or potently erotic context for a gay audience.
Gay art has been a feature of all societies for thousands of years as evidenced in Ancient Egypt and China. This should come as no surprise,since gayness has always been a feature of the sexual diversity that occurs across the world. Attitudes to it are, however, anything but static. A glimpse of the British Museum's Ancient Roman Wallace Cup is a potent reminder that our view of sexuality evolves constantly. Its explicit imagery had the cup refused entry to the USA as recently as 1953. Enough said?
The Wallace Cup, British Museum
A relatively recent entry point could be the art of the Victorian Era and the work of Henry Scott Tuke, 1858–1929. He was an English visual artist, primarily a painter, working mainly in the Impressionist style. His usual subjects, found on the sunny beaches of Cornwall, were boys and young men bathing, fishing and sunbathing. Popular throughout his adult life, Tuke's reputation faded after his death. Largely forgotten until the 1970s, when he was rediscovered by the first generation of openly gay artists and collectors, he has since found renewed popularity with his works keenly sought at auctions.
Ruby, Gold and Malachite, Henry Scott Tuke
If Tuke symbolisies a Victorian romantic fondness for youthful imagery, the modern take on gay eroticism is more diverse. Yes, there are still boys hanging out in rural settings,
Martin-Jan Van Santen
and boys can still be found at the beach
California, Martin Jan Van Santen
as well as more beach boys, also going surfing
Two Surfers, Ross Watson
or even off to join the Russian navy (Jiande).
I SAIL OVER SEVEN SEAS, Jiande
Of course, imagery inspired by eternal youthfulness, in this case that of Peter Pan's friend, is ubiquitous.
L-Simple Portrait, Anthony Shaub
As is the promise of dreamlike passion in an all-male paradise.
Paradise, Butch McLogic
Contrasting diversity also underpins the romantic snatched kiss of Romeo and Julian
Romeo and Julian, Joe Phillips
and the implicit aggression of young British gay skinheads on the street.
Little Engalnd, Player
But that great cultural force, fusion, takes some artists to new territory, like these brilliant salutes to Carravagio by Ross Watson, Australian artist and gay activist,
including his reworking of the Fall of Phaeton by Sebastiano Ricci. Matthew Mitcham, gay Australian Olympic Champion Diver, reaches up to catch the falling Phaeton. Watson's work emphasises the cultural diversity that spans centuries, continents and climates.
Finally I leave you with the thought that the artistry that captures the eroticism of a bathroom moment
Man in the Bathtub, Mark Debausch
finds its most contemporary echo in this "selfie" posted anonymously but with much conviction by a Tumblrist.
Boy in Bath, Anonymous
Ross Watson seems to have been inspired by the same collision between the instantaneous and disposable character of modern life and the sustainability of an ancient masterpiece.
Lustralboy asks: It is erotic? Is it art? Maybe eroticism in art is, as much as beauty, in the eye of the beholder. Prepare to behold more beauty in your eyes in the coming months.
Editor's Note: 46 works of gay erotic art, some shown above, have been recently published by Capolavoro di Uomo : "Masterpiece of Man - Showcasing The Best Of The Diversity In Gay Erotic Art." Enjoy exploring their content at Capolavoroart.com
Find the other artists featured here at
Anthony Shaub: http://www.anthony-art.ch/
Martin-Jan Van Santen: http://www.martinjanvansanten.com/index-EN.php
Henry Scott Tuke: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/henry-scott-tuke
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