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arts

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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American Art: Gay Male, Nineteenth Century  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

Photographic Portraits of Male Friends

Extensive visual evidence of intimate , potentially homosexual, relationships are provided by the affectionate portraits of male friends, made by both amateur and professional photographers, from mid-1840s onwards. In the era before sexual behavior had been rigorously codified into binary categories, young men were allowed to express their friendship through embraces and other gestures and actions that now would be interpreted as exclusively gay.

Most of the photographs of pairs and groups of male friends probably were intended to commemorate friendships without any sexual overtones. Nevertheless, in some instances, explicit gestures, passionate embraces, and even revealing inscriptions forcefully evoke relationships that were celebrated sexually.

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By the middle of the second decade of the twentieth century, the conception of homosexuality as a distinct identity category, with implications of mental and physical illness, caused the genre of male friendship photographs to disappear. The twentieth century conception of homosexuality can not adequately explain the fluid relationships eloquently revealed in countless nineteenth century images of male friends.

Richard G. Mann

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   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall

Although sparse in images documenting the gay community, pre-Stonewall gay male photography blurs the boundaries between art, erotica, and social history.

arts >> Eakins, Thomas

Although his personal sexual orientation is uncertain, American painter, photographer, and teacher Thomas Eakins is solidly aligned in the history of art with a homophile sensibility, as expressed particularly in his celebration of the male form.

arts >> Homer, Winslow

One of the most important American painters and printmakers of the second half of the nineteenth century, Winslow Homer created a distinctly American, modern classical style in which he celebrated male and female friendships.

arts >> Sargent, John Singer

The evidence of the homosexuality of celebrated portrait artist John Singer Sargent resides largely in his work, especially his genre paintings and male nudes.

literature >> Whitman, Walt

Celebrating an ideal of manly love in both its spiritual and physical aspects, Walt Whitman has exerted a profound and enduring influence on gay literature.


    Bibliography
   

Cooper, Emmanuel. The Sexual Perspective: Homosexuality and Art in the Last 100 Years in the West. 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.

Deitcher, David. Dear Friends. New York: Abrams, 2001.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1999.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: American Art: Gay Male, Nineteenth Century  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated October 19, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/am_art_gay_19c.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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