Classical Nudes and the Making of Queer History

Press Release by Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

We are pleased to announce our upcoming exhibition:

Classical Nudes and the Making of Queer History
October 18, 2014 – January 4, 2015
Opening Reception: October 17, 6-8 pm
Sponsored by the John Burton Harter Charitable Trust

In perhaps its most ambitious exhibition to date, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art will present Classical Nudes and the Making of Queer History, opening on October 18, 2014. For the first time ever, the exhibition will trace the same-sex gaze as grounded in the classical form, from Antiquity to the modern day.

Curated by Jonathan David Katz, exhibition’s central premise is that the image of the classical past is a recurring touchstone in the historical development of same-sex representation, and as such, constitutes a sensitive barometer of the shifting constructions of what we today call LGBT or queer culture. The classical past is thus queer culture’s central original myth, and its representation offers insight about the culture that appropriated it. In tracing this trajectory of the classical nude across history, this show concentrates on four periods: Antiquity, Renaissance, 19th Century and Modern/Contemporary. It is important to note that work by women and people of color within this genre really only begin to appear in the last period.

The exhibition will contain nearly a hundred objects of sculpture, painting, drawing, and photography from sources such as the Library of Congress, Smithsonian American Art Museum, New York Public Library, Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Archives of American Art, San Francisco Museum of Art and many other sources. The exhibition will contain work by Djuna Barnes, Aubrey Beardsley, James Bidgood, Romaine Brooks, Paul Cadmus, Heather Cassils, Tee Corinne, F. Holland Day, George Dureau, Albrecht Dürer, Jim French, William von Gloeden, Nan Goldin, Duncan Grant, Sunil Gupta, Lyle Ashton Harris, John Burton Harter, Jess, Herbert List, George Platt Lynes, Andrea Mantegna, Hans von Marees, Robert Mapplethorpe, Duane Michals, Michelangelo, Jacopo Pontormo, Herb Ritts, Guido Reni, Del LaGrace Volcano, and others.

A complete catalog will be available.

Classical Nudes is made possible in part with public funds from the Fund for Creative Communities, supported by New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Kickstarter Project – A New Book About Romaine Brooks

A project by Cassandra Langer

All or Nothing: The Many Faces of Romaine Brooks is an exciting new reading of the oh-so glamorous life of one of the most transgressive sublimely opinionated gay figures of the 20th century. Think K.D. Lang meets I Kissed A Girl. The author [Cassandra Langer] reexamines Brooks’ hot gender-bender romances with Winnaretta Singer, Renée Vivien, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Ida Rubenstein, and Natalie Barney. Drawing upon newly found primary source material she explodes the long held myth regarding the nature of Brooks’ relationship with Natalie Barney. The book paints a complex psychological and sociological portrait of an artist frequently at odds with herself and inevitably at odds with her times whose circle includes Harold Acton, Djuna Barnes, Bernard Berenson, Jean Cocteau, Elsie de Wolfe, Janet Flanner, Radclyffe Hall, Somerset Maugham, Robert de Montesquieu, Man Ray, Gertrude Stein, Uberto Strozzi, Alice B. Toklas, Una Troubridge, Carl Van Vechten, and just about everyone who was anyone in Paris from 1905 through 1935. And Langer discusses Brooks’ quest for perfection in her portraits and drawings as well as her aesthetics inspired by the groundbreaking music of Debussy as well as her experiences as an American living in Mussolini’s Italy during World War II and beyond concluding with how Brooks creates her’ Queer Heroic—and how we now perform gender-the very essence of queerness today.’

Go to the kickstarter project page to make a donation and help Cassandra Langer make her picture book about lesbian painter Romaine Brooks.

Painter Romaine Brooks

Slideshow with paintings by Romaine Brooks

Romaine Brooks

Lesbian Art Herstory: American Painter Romaine Brooks (1874 – 1970) worked in Paris and on Capri in the 1920s. She best known for her images of women in androgynous or masculine dress having, and has among others painted a painting of a young boyish looking girl titled “Peter, A Young English Girl”, 1923-24, which is included in the above slide show (3:21). The slideshow also includes some of her portraits of beautiful women, a series of her mysterious symbolic paintings and a couple of self-portraits (0:12 Self-Portrait, ca. 1905 and 3:11 Self-Portrait, 1923). The longest and most important relationship of Brooks’s life was with Natalie Clifford Barney, whom she met around the start of World War I in Paris. From 1920 to 1924, most of Brooks’s subjects were of women who were in Barney’s social circle or who visited her salon.

Related Links

Romaine Brooks at Wikipedia

Hide/Seek Exhibition At The Smithsonian, USA

American art historian Cassandra Langer says about the Hide/Seek exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery:

‘Jonathan Katz and David Ward’s show at the National Portrait Gallery is open. Hide and Seek features Romaine Brook’s work and Jonathan Weinberg’s show at the archives also features a lovely Van Vechten photograph of her. Shows run through Feb. [2011] for those of you interested in getting to D.C. before it closes and there is a catalogue available from Amazon at a nice discount. It’s chocked full of good information and fresh interpretations’.

The Editorial Review Of The Catalogue
Amazon.com’s editorial review of the exhibition catalogue reads: ”Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture’, companion volume to an exhibition of the same name at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, traces the defining presence of same-sex desire in American portraiture through a seductive selection of more than 140 full-color illustrations, drawings, and portraits from leading American artists. Arcing from the turn of the twentieth century, through the emergence of the modern gay liberation movement in 1969, the tragedies of the AIDS epidemic, and to the present, Hide/Seek openly considers what has long been suppressed or tacitly ignored, even by the most progressive sectors of our society: the influence of gay and lesbian artists in creating American modernism. [...]
Bringing together for the first time new scholarship in the history of American sexuality and new research in American portraiture, Hide/Seek charts the heretofore hidden impact of gay and lesbian artists on American art and portraiture and creates the basis for the necessary reassessment of the careers of major American artists — both gay and straight — as well as of portraiture itself.’

Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture
by Jonathan D. Katz and David C. Ward
Publisher: Smithsonian Books (November 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1588342999
ISBN-13: 978-1588342997

Related links
The Hide/Seek website
Art historian Cassandra’s Langer’s website about her book project: All or Nothing: The Life and Art of Romaine Brooks – Romainebrooks.com
Romaine Brooks’ bio at Wikipedia