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Quaintance, George (1902-1957)  
 
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In fact, the artist's most startling "glamour nudes" were still on the horizon and they were not females.

Before Quaintance turned to his hallmark erotic representations of male nudes, he earned a reputation as a portrait artist of the rich and famous, including Washington, D. C. diplomats, Hollywood luminaries, and other notables.

Sponsor Message.

In 1951, Quaintance was among the leaders in the new publishing phenomenon that photographers like Lon Hanagan had foreshadowed in the 1940s.

The very first cover illustration for Bob Mizer's pioneering magazine, Physique Pictorial, was a painting by Quaintance of a near nude youth astride a galloping stallion, a shocking new image of "the perfect man." For the next six years, the artist was prominently featured in Physique Pictorial.

To pursue this new direction, Quaintance and Garcia had moved to the West coast around 1948. After a few years in Los Angeles, they set up a studio in Phoenix, Arizona sometime in the early 1950s.

"Rancho Siesta," Quaintance's idealized Western abode, was neither a ranch nor did it allow much time for an artist's siesta. It was a busy center of the artist's new obsession, the classic male physique. Located in the Aztec Park residential subdivision of Phoenix, "Rancho Siesta" was where the artist created his now-prized paintings--some 60 oil-on-canvas works--in fewer than six years.

Quaintance taught Garcia the fine points of capturing discreet male nudes on film. At the same time, he began painting the series of large oil paintings depicting robust cowboys, well-muscled Indians, and male nudes from classical antiquity and myth. The paintings show naked and near-naked men, all exemplifying Quaintance's "ideal physique" in dramatic settings.

Taking advantage of the new burst of gay consciousness in post-World War II America, Quaintance and Garcia began marketing black-and-white photographs of his near-nude models and color prints of the paintings. In 1953, he wrote a friend that "business has grown to fantastic proportions in the last few months and truly I'm practically out of my mind trying to keep up with it."

The works he sold by mail offer no display of genitals except in the tight confines of Levi jeans, an image first popularized by Quaintance, or through filmy materials in strategic positions. The apparently innocent surfaces in surrealistic bright colors seethe with .

The images are far from pornographic; they are even tame by current social standards. Nevertheless, their controversial gay content and message prevented Quaintance from being judged in the mainstream art world. His only gallery exhibition occurred when a friend loaned Quaintance's painting, The Crusader, for a display of works of contemporary American artists in the late 1950s.

One of the first of the iconic masterpieces, Night in the Desert--1951, portrays a reclining nude cowboy, well-honed musculature gleaming in the moonlight and blond hair perfectly coiffed. He is proffering a lighted match to a cigarette in the mouth of the dark handsome youth lying next to him, suggesting a shared post-coital moment. In the background, two equally hyper-masculine cowboys face each other clad only in Levis, legs provocatively spread.

In this and other paintings in the series, the blond cowboy strongly resembles the artist himself, an egotist who kept in excellent physical shape even after his dancing career ended. When his thinning hair failed to match his standard of grooming perfection, Quaintance took to wearing elaborate wigs, often with comic results for those who detected the ruse.

For example, a neighbor of the artist's mother wrote in a daily journal on September 13, 1938 when Quaintance was home for a visit: "I wonder whether he knows I study his wig so closely. It is a wig; the hair is reddish and getting thin. I can see the cloth base, like burlap or something; anyone would know those hairs didn't grow in flesh."

But Quaintance's personal vanity was part of the mix that lent a unique quality to his oil paintings. A blond Quaintance clone stands prominently with three dark-skinned Latino cowboys in the 1954 painting, Saturday Night. All four studs leaning against the bar wear skin-tight Levis, one displaying a prominent bulge in the crotch.

Such paintings proved inspirational for other gay art pioneers of the late 1950s, including the famous Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen), who praised Quaintance's images in published interviews.

Interest in these pioneering works of art grew in the insular gay milieu of the mid-century, reaching all the way to Europe. In 1954, Quaintance photographs and prints appeared in Der Kreis, a magazine published in Switzerland and one of the first overtly gay publications in the world.

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