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Adrian-Nilsson, Gösta (GAN) (1884-1965)  
 
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From the point of view of cultural history, the years between 1914 and 1920 constitute the most exciting period in GAN's career. During these years, GAN zealously devoted himself to the creation of paintings and drawings of workers, athletes, soldiers, and sailors. These works are at once erotically charged, aesthetically innovative, and socially significant.

An outstanding example of his mature style, Maskinarbetaren (Machine Engineer, 1918) eloquently reveals the homoeroticism that underlay GAN's utopian vision of the modern industrial world. The bright, shimmering colors and the kaleidoscopic arrangement of intersecting pictorial planes contribute to the exuberant mood of the painting. The right side and much of the center of the painting is dominated by the fragmented--but still clearly muscular and stunningly beautiful--physique of this shirtless worker. His unbuckled pants extend out toward the viewer, and three versions of his erect penis are displayed near his right hip.

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Parts of factory buildings, locomotives, and various machines surround the dominant figure. While the title and the various machine components indicate that the subject of Maskinarbetaren is an industrial worker, the prominent tattoo of an anchor on his chest also identify him as a sailor: one of GAN's most common pictorial themes during the later 1910s, and the preferred object of erotic desire throughout his life.

The three versions of Katarinahissen (Katarina Elevator), produced in 1915 and early 1916, are among GAN's most famous paintings of sailors in his emphatically modernist fusion of Expressionism, Futurism, and Cubism. Built in 1883, the Katarina Elevator links the upper city with the port of Stockholm, and it was widely regarded in the early twentieth century as a powerful symbol of industrial progress. To underline this significance, GAN incorporated other examples of advanced technology into this series--for instance, brightly lit zeppelins in night sky of Katarinahissen II.

Promenading in the foreground of each of the Katarinahissen paintings are several handsome, muscular sailors. Their varied, twisted poses and the faceted forms of their angular bodies complement the theme of the dynamism of the modern city. However, these figures also evoke GAN's own erotic desires. The enlarged, strongly outlined eyes and vivid red lips of the sailors enhance their sexual allure. Glancing in many different directions, these sailors allude to the appropriation of the lower port area as a site of cruising by homosexual men. Strategically placed throughout the paintings, phallic shapes hint at the possibility of sexual activity.

After settling in Stockholm in 1916, GAN frequently cruised the port area as well as the city's parks and public urinals, on the look out for soldiers and sailors who were willing and, at least in some cases, eager to provide sexual favors in exchange for badly needed cash, to supplement their very modest stipends. As Dodo Parikas has explained, anonymous sexual encounters with sailors and horse guards were a fundamental part of the male homosexual subculture in Stockholm throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Despite occasionally draconian enforcement of laws, such activities generally were overlooked by police, especially in the 1910s and 1920s when public officials were reluctant to acknowledge homosexual presence in the city.

During the later 1910s, GAN created numerous works that explicitly deal with the homosexual sex work of sailors and soldiers. For instance, a pen and crayon drawing entitled Två Sjöjmän på Berns (Two Sailors at Berns) depicts muscular seamen, who clearly seem to be waiting for clients at the Berns Café, well known as a homosexual meeting place. Seated at a table in provocative poses, the two smoking men gaze intently in opposite directions. The widespread legs of the foreground sailor emphasizes his bulging crotch area. The inscription "Berns 18/10 16" suggests that GAN may have intended the drawing as a record of his observations at the café on a particular date.

GAN's diary entries indicate that he conceived Lördagsväll kl. 9 (även kallad Berns) [Saturday 9 o'clock (also called Berns1918)], an oil painting of 1918, as a vibrant homage to cruising in the Kungsträdgården and Berzelii parks and the adjoining streets. The inscriptions "BERNS" and "KUNGSTR" identify locales, while a large clock indicates the time. On the right side of the composition are two large profiles of a pair of smoking sailors. Scattered throughout the painting are smaller figures of other men--primarily uniformed sailors and soldiers, but also including a partially nude figure. Tilted up towards the viewer, the brightly colored, faceted shapes--representing streets, segments of garden areas, and diverse architectural features--create a lively, kaleidoscopic effect.

Although stylized, En sjömen i Stockholm (Sailors in Stockholm, 1919) records names and architectural details more clearly and constitutes, in effect, a comprehensive overview of the city as frequented by homosexual men. In his diary, GAN described the painting as representing his evening in Stockholm. In a series of paintings that he created of Swedish cities in 1920, GAN depicted himself with a handsome young worker in his hometown, Lund, and he envisioned both Göteburg and Stockholm as centers of homosexual prostitution.

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