Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas

Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas

Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas

Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas

Synopsis

This bold, globe-spanning survey is the first book to thoroughly explore the radical, long-standing interdependence between art and homosexuality. It draws examples from the full range of the Western tradition, including classical, Renaissance, and contemporary art, with special focus on the modern era. It was in the modern period, when arguments about homosexuality and the avant-garde were especially public, that our current conception of the artist and the homosexual began to take shape, and almost as quickly to overlap. Not a chronology of gay or lesbian artists, the book is a fascinating and sophisticated account of the ways two conspicuous identities have fundamentally informed one another. Art and Homosexuality discusses many of modernism's canonical figures--painters like Courbet, Picasso, and Pollock; writers like Whitman and Stein--and issues, such as the rise of abstraction, the avant-garde's relationship to its patrons and the political exploitation of art. It shows that many of the core ideas that define modernism are nearly indecipherable without an understanding of the paired identities of artist and homosexual. Illustrated with over 175 b/w and color images that range from high to popular culture and from Ancient Greece to contemporary America, Art and Homosexuality punctures the platitudes surrounding discussions of both aesthetics and sexual identity and takes our understanding of each in stimulating new directions.

Excerpt

“If you really want to hurt your parents and you don’t have nerve enough to be homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts.” This remark in one of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels suggests how firmly art and homosexuality are linked in the popular imagination. Calling someone “arty” or “artistic” has often been a euphemism for homosexuality, and political debates about homosexuality have often played out as arguments about images. Yet surprisingly little study has focused on the relationship between art and sexual identity. Although a few recent books offer surveys of gay and lesbian artists and imagery, the conceptual links between art and sexual identity have been neglected by specialists as consistently as they are taken for granted by the general public. In both tone and content, this book aims to bridge these gaps, synthesizing recent scholarship in the histories of art and sexual identity in order to propose a broad—and broadly accessible—narrative of art’s relation to sexual identity.

For, in fact, the general public is right: art and homosexuality have been significantly intertwined. The ways the histories of each are commonly presented, however, makes it difficult to acknowledge these connections. The paucity of books surveying gay or lesbian artists reflects prejudices that long prevented, and still discourage, scholarly attention to the links between art and homosexuality. Conventional art scholarship shies away from divisive social issues, habitually treating art as something that is—or should be—purely aesthetic or an act of individual expression with (paradoxically) universal appeal. An identity as controversial and collective as homosexuality fits awkwardly with these conventions. For . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.