On-going LGBTQ visual art Timeline Project

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Key to date range symbols:- 

(1800-1900)= queer or largely queer
(1800-1900<>) = bisexual
(1800-1900*)= straight
(1800-1900?) = I’m undecided or have not found evidence 

I do not take non-same sex marriages as proof of heterosexual orientation or necessarily sexual activity. I will be writing a post about this soon.


Pink Triangles

At the end of the war in Europe the horror of the concentration camps is made plain, focusing on Jewish and political prisoners. Little was then known of men and women wearing pink triangles symbolising them as ‘sexual degenerates’. These badges would later become symbols of ‘gay lib’ and ‘lesbian pride’, literally reversing the message by pointing up rather than down and as symbols of pride. Between 1933 and 1944 approximately 50,000 and 63,000 prisoners died. After the camps were liberated at the end of the Second World War, many pink triangle prisoners were simply re-imprisoned by the Federal Republic of Germany. The Nazi amendments to Paragraph 175, which turned homosexuality from a minor offence into a felony, remained intact in both East and West Germany. The German government issued an official apology to the gay community in 2002.

Sir Leigh Ashton and the V&A

Sir Leigh Ashton becomes Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum. Ashton is gay but in 1952 he made a marriage of convenience to the former Vogue Fashion Editor Madge McHarg Garland (1898-1990), divorcing ten years later. In bringing the collection out of wartime storage he re-organises it according to historic periods and styles, not materials. This upset traditionalists (he was accused of the design equivalent of ‘flamboyance’: “excessive tastefulness”) but increased visitor numbers.

Simon Raven

Simon Raven (1927–2001), scholarship pupil at Charterhouse who claimed to have been “deftly and very agreeably” seduced by the games master at Cordwalles preparatory school, is expelled for homosexual activities. The English novelist, essayist, dramatist and raconteur, will go on to write (according to E W Swanton) the filthiest book about cricket (‘Shadows in the Grass’). His ‘Doctors Wear Scarlet’ featured Balkan vampires who indulge in vampirism as a sexual deviation, and several memoires proved too libellous to be published. Fellow pupil at Charterhouse, James Prior, the future cabinet minister, the model for Peter Morrison in the tales, described them as “James Bond books for poofs”. A marriage of duty (1951-57) arose from an unplanned pregnancy and his sexuality was diversely satisfied: “I like all four types – amateur and professional men and amateur and professional women.” Raven appears as the encourager of others

Denton Welch's self portrait in National Portrait Gallery London
Denton Welch’s self portrait in National Portrait Gallery London

Denton Welch

‘In Youth Is Pleasure’, a coming-of-age novel by the English writer and painter Denton Welch (1915-1948), is published. Both William S. Burroughs and John Walters rated this book extremely highly. Although his writing still draws attention his art has not. He is most often placed along with the British Neo-Romantics but a case could be made that he is better considered as a queer romantic.  


Arts Council and Maynard Keynes

Arising from the wartime Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA), the Arts Council of Great Britain is established. The Council’s first Chairman was the economist John Maynard Keynes, who talked about its function being to address the “poverty of aspiration” through creativity. In some ways this might be said to be what held back queer artists: restrained by social constructs, aspiration to success meant suppression, or at least submerging, of some themes. The difficulty of keeping it below the waterline actually gives it distinctiveness: how to be truthful without being found out?      

Maynard Keynes by Roy De Maistre
Maynard Keynes by Roy De Maistre
Conran by Cedric Morris (Manchester City Art Gallery)
Conran by Cedric Morris (Manchester City Art Gallery)

Arthur Jeffries and Loraine Conran

Arthur Jeffries [see 1934, 1948, 1954] loans a number of the more important paintings in his collection to the first (a second is held in 1947) of two exhibitions at the Judges’ Lodgings in Winchester (19 August to 21 September) under the auspices of the Circle for the Study of Art (CSA). According to research by Peter Jones from Southampton Solent University and Gill Hedley, this group was probably orchestrated by Loraine Conran (George Loraine Conran, 1912–1986*) who had been appointed the youngest Curator of the Southampton City Art gallery aged 26 in 1939 just after marrying. He organised loans from Jeffries but also other gay benefactors. Amongst these were the orchid grower Angus Wilson and his lover Paul ‘Odo’ Cross. Cross has been described as a wealthy ex-ballet dancer and as a guardsman. It was with this couple that John Minton stayed, at their house Ocho Rios, on his trip to Jamaica. Both Conran and Cross were painted by Cedric Morris (1930-40 and 1925 respectively; Cross was one of Morris’s lovers). Conran was the first curator of Kenwood House and would commission a new catalogue of paintings there under the editor Sir Anthony Blunt (published in 1953). Amongst works owned by Jeffries were paintings by Soutine, Roualt, Modigliani, Balthus and Vuillard, Picassos’s Femme Assisse (Dora Marr, 1938) and De Chirico’s The Painters Family (1926). He also owned a 1946 work by Jackson Pollock. Conran was Hon Secretary to the Contemporary Art Society in the 1950s and 60s and Director of Manchester City Art Galleries 1962–1976. He had contributed ‘Commentary’ to Commercial Art and Industry in the 1930s, along with Cyril Connolly.

Erica Brausen's Marriage of Convenience

Jeffries’ friend, lesbian art dealer Erica Brausen has a marriage of convenience to artist Clem Haizelden, the lover of her landlord, the Swiss sculptor Raoh Schorr (1901-1991). They remain married but Brausen has begun her lifelong affair with Catharina “Toto” Koopman (1908 – 1991). Erica has summer drinks with Francis Bacon at the Ritz after Graham Sutherland had urged her to see Bacon’s work. She subsequently visits his studio and buys the early masterpiece ‘Painting 1946’ for £200 and becomes his first dealer. The painting is shown at the Redfern Gallery (Brausen worked there part time) and then at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris before it is bought by MOMA in New York in 1948, the year Brausen opens the Hanover Gallery [see 1948].

Storr at Doulton
Storr at Doulton
Blue Nude by Raol Storr
Blue Nude by Raol Storr

The Royal Opera House is re-opened under the direction of David Webster (Sir David Webster, 1903 – 1971) on 20 February. The opening production is The Sleeping Beauty designed by Oliver Messel. Webster had a background in retail (Lewis’s stores in Liverpool) and his life partner, who he met in 1931, was businessman James ‘Jimmy’ Cleveland Belle. Webster was instrumental in bringing the ballet, under the rule of Ninette de Valois aided by Frederick Ashton and stars Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. His retirement was marked by one of the few commissioned portraits by David Hockney; his biographer was the gay opera critic and novelist Montague Haltrecht (1932 –2010).

Sir David Webster painted by David Hockney
Sir David Webster painted by David Hockney

Les Ballet Nègres gay dancers

On 20th April, Les Ballets Nègres performs for the first time at the Twentieth-Century Theatre in Westbourne Grove. The only black ballet company in Europe, their ground-breaking performance received both critical praise and public acclaim and allowed them to move to the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill and play in other European venues. There were 21 dancers, 18 of whom were black. The BBC recorded performances that including Market Day and others were Cabaret 1920 and De Bride Cry. A lack of funding saw it slip into obscurity but the two men behind Les Ballets Nègres were Jamaican Berto Pasuka (born Wilbert Passerley, 1919-1963 ), proclaimed by the ballet critic of The Stage as ‘the most colourful dance personality since Isadora Duncan’, and Richie Riley (Richard Riley, 1910-1997). Riley gave up dance when the troupe disbanded and turned to painting and sculpture (he studied at the Slade). He was interviewed as part of a queer oral history project (Hall Carpenter) but deflected direct admissions of his sexuality (he had married) in what Professor Nadia Ellis has described as the ‘politics of delicacy’. His life and work were reflected in the BBC documentary Ballet Black (1982). Pasuka, who in part left Jamaica to escape prejudice, was found dead in his Paris apartment with rumours that he was killed by a lover. He had continued to dance and was photographed by Angus McBean. When the company had trouble paying wages, one of its supporters was Cambridge law fellow, Bryan Earle (Rufus) King (1906-1987), an important figure in the promotion of black interests and a supporter of a National Museum on his home country St Kitts and also of the Caribbean Artists Movement established in 1966. King had white British ancestors mixed in St Kitts with those of slaves. He was homosexual but largely non-practising “for lack of anyone to practise with” he is said to have declared, but in later life, living on St Kitts, several young men helped out in his house. A similar situation in the hidden gay influence behind dance from other cultures is to be seen with Ram Gopal (1912-2003). Gopal was Burmese-Indian by birth, was briefly married to Edith Alexander (perhaps to facilitate remaining in Britain), and ‘the Nijinsky of India’ popularised classical Indian dance in the West from the late 1930s, emphasising his “exoticism” to titillate Western audiences.

Berto Pasuka by McBean
Berto Pasuka by McBean
Ram Gopal
Ram Gopal

Trevor Thomas and Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

In July Trevor Thomas (1907-1993), the curator-director of Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, is dismissed from the post he has held since 1940. He had appeared in court charged with public indecency. He had been, at 24, the youngest-ever Keeper at the Liverpool Museums, in which post he introduced novel display techniques and researched African art. He was himself an artist making theatre designs, collaborating with David Webster (later the Director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, painted by Hockney) on Murder in the Cathedral [see above]. Winning a Rockefeller Foundation Museum Fellowship to install an African Art exhibition in Buffalo, New York, he studied at museums and art galleries in the US before returning to the Leicester post.

Trevor Thomas and German Art

Thomas organised the first major exhibition in Britain of German Impressionism and Expressionism in 1944. A show of 62 works, mainly by German artists including Nolde, Marc, Kandinsky, Feininger and Heckel, while Britain was still at war with Germany was daring. The City Council agreed to the plan on the condition that it was not seen as having official backing; ‘Exhibition of Mid-European Art’ was sponsored instead by the highly reputable British anti-Nazi cultural organisation, the Leicester Branch of the Free German League of Culture. Thomas secured four works from it as the exhibition closed, including Franz Marc’s 1912 oil painting Rote Frau (Red Woman), helping to found Leicester’s renowned collection of 20th century German Art.

It was not until the late 1970s that Thomas, accompanied by the then Observer’s art critic, Brian Sewell, and by Patrick Boylan, was able to look at the court records about his arrest. The witness report of the arresting policeman admitted that there had been no physical contact or conversation between the two men, but he considered that they briefly “looked towards each other in a suspicious way”. Thomas had been advised to plead guilty by his barrister since his sexual orientation and possible other allegations about his conduct and reputation would be raised if he pleaded otherwise. A later director in Leicester, Trevor Walden, privately asked the Chief Constable of the time if Thomas been deliberately targeted. The response was reportedly that he felt he had to make an example of him because there had been a number of repeated complaints from an undisclosed source that Thomas was a “known homosexual” (the information comes from the late Trevor Walden in an informal interview by Patrick Boylan, 1978). Thomas believed that his summary dismissal from Leicester ruined his professional museum career but both a character reference by Sir Kenneth Clark during the case and an appointment following his dismissal rescued it somewhat. However, in 1947 under medical pressure on how to “cure his homosexuality” he had a short-lived marriage and two sons. His story had a surprising ending [see 1975]. The full story of his dishonourable treatment was subsequently published on the Leicester Museums website.  

Unda Troubridge fails to have The Well of Lonliness published

Three years after the death of her partner, Lady Una Troubridge tries to include The Well of Loneliness in a Collected Memorial Edition of Radcliffe Hall’s works. The publisher, Peter Davies of the Windmill Press, sabotaged the attempt by adding a postscript to his letter to the Home Office’s legal advisor saying “I am not really anxious to do The Well of Loneliness and am rather relieved than otherwise by any lack of enthusiasm I may encounter in official circles.” Home Secretary James Chuter Ede duly advised Troubridge that any publisher reprinting the book would risk prosecution. It was reprinted successfully in 1949.

Nijinsky sculpted by Una Troubridge
Nijinsky sculpted by Una Troubridge
Carl Winter
Carl Winter

Carl Winter and the V&A

Carl Winter (1906-66) art historian and museum curator, leaves the Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection of English watercolours and miniature portraits to the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge where he will become Director and Morley Curator. Born in Melbourne, Australia, and educated at Xavier College, Kew in Melbourne he was also a Fellow of Trinity from 1946 until his death. He will play a prominent role in homosexual law reform along with Patrick Trevor-Roper and Peter Wildeblood [see 1954].


Angus Wilson and Phillippe Jullian

Angus Wilson has his first short story published in November’s edition of Horizon. He was a librarian in the British Museum’s Printed Books department working on their General Catalogue from 1937 and during the war was one of several famous homosexuals at Bletchley Park, decrypting Italian Naval codes (also there were Alan Turing and Dilly Knox, a conquest of Maynard Keynes and also a museum scholar). Wilson’s books include ‘Hemlock and After’ (1952) that offers a candid portrayal of gay life in post-World War II England and ‘For whom the Cloche Tolls’ illustrated by Phillippe Jullian [see 1953 UK].

Paul Elek's Camden Classics

This was also the year of Paul Elek’s (1906-76) illustrated Camden Classics. These included Keith Vaughan’s illustrated Tom Sawyer, with several images recalling his youthful erotic experiences, John Minton’s ‘Treasure Island’ (1947), and Edward Burra’s take on Huckleberry Finn (1948). Elek’s protégé was John Calman (1935-1980, [see 1980]). Just before his death Elek published ‘The Autobiography of an Englishman’ by “Y”, the pseudonym for Carl Yaeger, detailing a married gay man’s experiences.

Vaughan's Tom Sawyer
Vaughan’s Tom Sawyer
Vaughan illustration
Vaughan illustration
Minton's Treasure Island
Minton’s Treasure Island
Burra's Finn
Burra’s Finn

Amongst the founding members of the ICA in London are five prominent gay men. Peter Watson (see 1939 and 1956), Douglas Cooper, Frederick Ashton, Arthur Jeffries [see 1934, 1948, 1954] and Peter Gregory (Eric Craven Gregory, 1888-1959). Gregory was the publisher of the Burlington Magazine and chairman of Percy Lund, Humphries & Co. Ltd. Amongst queer writers to benefit from his Leeds fellowships were James Kirkup and John Heath-Stubbs. When the paintings committee consisting of three straight men drew up the list of artists to be included in the ground breaking ‘Forty Years of Modern Art: 1907-1947’ it was criticised for the lack of younger artists.  The revised list included three gay men (Colquhoun, MacBryde and Craxton) and their associate, the bi-sexual Lucien Freud.


Paul Cadmus and E M Foster

The American artist Paul Cadmus, in correspondence with British writer E.M. Foster, paints ‘What I Believe’; a dualistic half Arcadian and half dystopian scene that includes blatant same sex nude couples. Cadmus, along with Jared French, George Tooker, George Platt-Lynes and others, form a group of artists associated with the Magic Realists and Pajama groups. In 1933 he produced the infamous ‘The Fleet’s In!’ as an employee of the federally funded Public Works of Art Project, depicting what can you do with a drunken sailor [detailed in future North American timeline – see 1933 and other entries].

Paul Cadnus' What I Believe
Paul Cadnus’ What I Believe

Athony Blunt becomes Courtauld Director

Already surveyor of the King’s Pictures (1945-1972), Anthony Blunt becomes Director of the Courtauld Institute.

John Deakin at Vogue

After working as a war photographer [see 1939], John Deakin finds employment as a staff photographer on the British edition of Vogue [see 1934]. He lasts from 1947 to 1948 but is sacked for loosing valuable photographic equipment. He will have a second chance from 1951 to 1954, and it is in these years he produced his best work with portraits of leading figures in literature, theatre and film. He enjoyed the support of Vogue editor Audrey Withers (Elizabeth Audrey Withers, 1905 –2001*). Rather like his friend Francis Bacon he described how “…my sitters turn into my victims” but added that “I would like to add that it is only those with a daemon, however small and of whatever kind, whose faces lend themselves to being victimised at all”. He would be fired once again, a combination of drink, bad behaviour and inability to function in a structured way. He moved to the Observer and independent photography [see 1951].  


The BBC ‘Variety Programmes Policy Guide’ known as ‘The Green Book‘ for writers and producers stipulates under the heading of ‘Vulgarity’ that there is an absolute ban upon jokes about effeminacy in men and immorality of any kind. The vulgar use of such words as ‘basket’ was also to be avoided. The Producer Guidelines, the Corporation’s programme-making code of ethics, was comprehensively rewritten in 1993 by the BBC’s Controller of Editorial Policy and future Trustee Richard James Ayre (1949- ) husband of the writer of this timeline. It now includes the statement “BBC programmes must not be vehicles for prejudice. Lesbians and gay men can be particularly subject to thoughtless and offensive stereotyping. Gay and lesbian people, and those who are bi-sexual, make up a significant minority entitled to be served and treated fairly by the BBC.”

The Hanover Gallery Opens

The Hanover gallery becomes one of a new group of galleries in London showing progressive modern art.  Erica Brausen, the proprietor, is backed by Arthur Jeffries [see 1934 EU, 1946 and 1961 UK] a gay man who was painted by Sutherland and had a taste for sailors. The third backer was the sculptor and future Arnolfini Chairman, Peter Barker-Mills*, a school friend of Jeffries. The Hanover took over The St George’s Gallery’s premises and was not the only gallery run by emigrées women dealers who included a number of lesbians. As the independent curator Gill Hedley, who is writing Jeffries’ biography, has pointed out, Brausen was not the only lesbian active alongside the male dealers. Amongst these, Ala Storey [see 1938 Storran Gallery] also had a connection to Peter Barker-Mills. Art patron Peter Norton supported the creation of the London Gallery with his cousin Rita Strettell. Straight women who did not fit the mould expected of their times are often empathetic and long suffering supporters of problem gay men. Peter Norton (Nöel Evelyn Hughes, 1891–1972*) in particular had a long track record, both as a gallerist and wife of a British diplomat, in this line, helping John Craxton and as an ICA supporter. That said, many accounts make Jeffress seem a sort of dilettante silent partner to Brausen, but he was also one of the founding ICA sponsors, attending meetings at Peter Watson’s office at Horizon. He lent a substantial group of paintings to what would become ‘40000 Years of Modern Art: A Comparison of Primitive and Modern’ that opened at the ICA in December 1948.

Upper Gallery at the Hanover
Upper Gallery at the Hanover
Ground floor of the Hanover
Ground floor of the Hanover

Brausen & Jeffries

Brausen was described by Belly Sirakian as “a Cuttlefish, she squirts out a cloud of ink to hide herself” and like Bacon she had “a sort of visceral gaze.” She wore Giacometti’s ‘La Chimére’ set by his brother Alberto as a bracelet for Elsa Schiaparelli on her right hand till she died. Brausen had penetrating judgement of her own and the arrangement with her backer almost immediately ran into trouble. Jeffries liked painters of naïve quality similar to Henri Rousseau and produced a manifesto describing his taste in 1954; he withdrew and opened his own gallery. This included what he called ‘Sunday Painting’ (naive or untrained painters) and Magic Realism. The lesbian and gay angle at the Hanover should not be underestimated. William Feaver suggested that Lucien Freud produced a series of paintings specifically aimed at Jeffress’ gay circle in the early 1950s. This was a circle who were linked to figures such as Cedric Morris and Scott as well as the school supported by those around Lincoln Kirstien in America. Sexuality was important, and Feaver was at the time constrained from mentioning that Freud was ambidextrous in his sexuality. His pictures at this time were in any case of the naïve school Jeffries liked. Jeffries and Brausen frequently disagreed about the kind of art to show and he and Barker-Mills told Brausen they were pulling out. Luckily a chance visitor to the gallery the day before it was to shut was the banker Michael Behrens who bought out the other two.

Erica Brausen in her gallery
Erica Brausen in her gallery
Jeffries break-away gallery
Jeffries break-away gallery

Jean-Yves Mock, Freud, Bacon and Brausen

According to Hanover assistant Jean-Yves Mock her famously acrimonious break with Bacon was precipitated by the direct sale by Lucien Freud, another of her artists, of his painting ‘Girl with a White Dog’ to the Tate. Having cut her out of the deal, he informed her of this on the eve of his own exhibition’s opening in 1952, and Brausen told him to “get out of here. You don’t need to come back.” Freud was picked up by Marlborough and Bacon was seduced into following. It is also said by Mock that Bacon did not get on with Brausen’s partner Toto Koopman. Mock (born 1928?) often paints himself as a mere tea boy (wielder of a feather duster and the person who stopped people touching the still wet paint on Bacon’s Van Gogh series) but he was a curator who went on to work at the Centre Georges Pompidou [see 1959 EU]. He was a good friend of the film writer and scholar, Richard Roud (1929-1989) London correspondent of the French film magazine Cahiers du cinema [see also 1963 UK]. Brausen died in Mock’s arms and was buried with Koopman alongside her friend, the American publisher Jane Heap (1883 – 1964) a significant figure in the development and promotion of literary modernism [see 1916 USA]. Mock loyally wrote to Serge July, editor of Libération after Bacon’s death lamenting their lack of mention for Brausen (the letter was not published). 

Muriel Belcher's club life

In December 1948 Muriel Belcher (1908–1979) opens a private drinking club known as the Colony Room at 41 Dean Street, Soho in London. She had previously run The Sphinx with partner Dolly Myer from 1936 or 37 and then The Music Box at 4 Leicester Street (off Leicester Square). The latter appears in phone books from 1941. Francis Bacon painted Belcher as a Sphinx on one occasion. Some accounts give Dolly’s name as Mayer (Myer was Muriel’s father’s first name). Muriel and Dolly fell out and Dolly moved to Romilly’s Club at 11 Orange Street. She ended up being pushed down stairs, possibly in an argument over her bisexual liasons, by husband Alf. Romilly’s was actually the re-named Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit, the most luxurious and fashionable ‘gay’ club in wartime London known in the 1930s as ‘Molly’s’. It had been run by Teddy Ashton and the resident pianist was Leonard Brackett (a veteran West End composer and cabaret performer). Francis Bacon’s big passion Peter Lacy knew both women, went to Romilly’s and played piano later at the Colony; he was also a friend of the Music Box’s pianist Hugh Lane.

Muriel Belcher by John Deakin
Muriel Belcher by John Deakin

The Colony Room

Belcher’s girlfriend Carmel Stuart (possibly Stewart?) and Francis Bacon gambolled together; Bacon, sent along by Brian Howard, drank free at the Colony in return for introducing new members. Carmel was of Jamaican ‘colonial’ heritage and it has been suggested that was why it was called the ‘Colony Room’. As Sophie Parkin has recounted the club had probably already acquired the name in order to attract those from British Colonial territories. The racial identity of Belcher has also been misconstrued: she was not Jewish or Portuguese but English/Welsh. Daniel Farson asked Belcher about the sex of her lovers and she replied “I’m glad to say plenty of both!” but evidence suggests mostly women. The club aspect allowed it to serve member’s outside normal licencing hours which were, at that time, antisocial, especially if you were a an irregular member of society. Pubs in England and Wales were mostly 11:00 a.m. till 3:00p.m., followed by an afternoon break; then for the evening, it was 6:00 p.m. till 10:30 p.m. Soho habitués were adept at finding places for out of hours or get round the rules. Serving food or ordering crates of bottles ahead of closing time were two methods. Clubs were more conducive to queers: private membership implied you were a part of the crowd.   

Katherine Dunham and the gay dance

Katherine Dunham’s dance group performs in London at the Prince of Wales Theatre. One of the pieces is Rites of Passage. The work includes an extended scene where an adolescent male dreams of an encounter with the chief warrior. The dancers taking the male leads were Lenwood Morris, James Alexander and Vanoye Aikens. Both the male initiation and the later courting sections are intensely erotic. The piece was originally performed at Yale University as part of a lecture given by Dunham (1909-2006*) on ‘An Anthropological Approach to the Theatre’. It was subsequently banned in Boston. Whilst in London Dunham delivers an address, ‘The State of Cults among the Deprived’ to the Royal Anthropological Society. The gay ballet critic Richard Buckle wrote a book about them with photographs by Roger Wood (1921-2005?). The photographer opened a studio in Bayswater, west London, specialising in ballet in this year. He was a friend of Anthony Armstrong-Jones and married rather late (in 1986) and was also a friend of Graham Sutherland, Lucian Freud and Henry Moore. Dunham and her dancers have been linked to appreciation of black men by white gays in several studies, particularly in relation to John Minton and Noel Coward, but the black sculptor Richmond Bathé as well. She had links with the ballet via ‘Cabin in the Sky’, staged by George Balanchine, in which all her company were used. The show continued to Paris.

Anthony Blunt is in love

Ben Nicolson (1947-1978*), editor of the Burlington Magazine and son of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West and childhood friend of John Pope-Hennessy, records in his diary that Anthony Blunt is in love. Nicholson, who was Deputy Surveyor of The Kings Pictures with Blunt, notes he has met a twenty-two year old student ‘Alan Baker’ at a party given by Sir Johnny Philips a rich bachelor in the circle of wealthy gay men that included Neil Munro (“Bunny”) Roger (1911 – 1997), the English couturier, war hero, and dandy, as well as Guy Burgess. The bisexual art student had just left the navy and Blunt gave him an monthly allowance, acting as a non-exclusive older mentoring sexual partner and companion.

Douglas Cooper meets John Richardson

Douglas Cooper (1911-1984) is living with physician Basil Mackenzie, Lord Amulree (1900-1983). The Liberal peer is part of a circle that included Anthony Blunt, Peter Montgomery and Dadie Rylands (George Humphrey Wolferstan Rylands, 1902 – 1999). The latter was a Bloomsbury intimate and Long Crichel house regular. Cooper meets John Richardson, the biographer of Picasso, and the two become a couple. In 1949 Cooper and Richardson move to Châteaude Castille in Argilliers, France. Cooper’s fine collection of cubist art is installed and he lives there with Richardson for 15 years where the connoisseur collector is a destination for art cognoscenti. Cooper wrote perceptively on cubism but was also a spiteful, difficult and generally unpleasant old queen. He is also caught out plagiarising whilst, at the same time criticising, other writers. He was a shareholder of the Burlington Magazine and wrote for it as ‘Douglas Lord’. Richardson’s 1999 book, ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ tells the story and of Cooper’s vengeful pursuit of him after they split in 1954 even though Cooper had met his next partner, Billy McCarty (in America and he later adopted him as his son for tax reasons).


Well of Loneliness published

The Well of Loneliness finally appears in an edition by Falcon Press with no legal challenge. It has been in print ever since.


Francis Bacon 'Painting' and S&M

Francis Bacon paints ‘Painting’ (Leeds Art Gallery), one of many with ambiguous and veiled representations of his sadistic lovers and S&M sex. Often reference the photography of Muybridge is made the subject of critical notice and the nude, often vicious looking same-sex sexual encounters passed over. In the 1970s more or less open depictions of his lover’s suicides are exhibited but the artist’s interviews with British critics are often edited or caressed to remove overt references. Bacon is more open with foreign interviewers but the full extent of his masochism is known only to close friends. The most extreme relationship is with Peter Lacy, who beats him and expresses a wish to have him chained on straw in filth. With Lacy he has a selection of bull whips and is said to have enjoyed being burned with cigarettes.

Painting, 1950 by Francis Bacon
Painting, 1950 by Francis Bacon
Man Kneeling in Grass, 1952 by Francis Bacon
Man Kneeling in Grass, 1952 by Francis Bacon

Bacon and Robert Heber-Percy

In November Bacon travels to South Africa by boat as the unlikely companion of Robert Heber-Percy (see 1935). Heber-Percy is a director of the Orient Line and goes First whilst Bacon, always on the look-out for rough trade, is in steerage. He jumps ship on Heber-Percy for a black man in Salisbury, Rhodesia. He sold his studio at Cromwell Place in 1951 and moves from place to place including staying with David Sylvester at 9 Apollo Place and 19 Cromwell Road.  His work loses the dark interior and becomes harshly tungsten lit interrogatory interiors, with chairs that feel like they are one step from a dentist’s or gynaecologist’s, or that of an unfriendly interviewer.

Cooper v Rothenstien

Influential gay connoisseur Douglas Cooper engages in a very public row with the Tate Director William Rothenstien over the Gallery’s timid policy towards purchases of modern art. Cooper’s letter writing campaign is so nasty that Rothenstein punches him at a reception.    

Symbolic Realists at the ICA

At the ICA  ‘Symbolic Realists’, an exhibition organised by Lincoln Kirstein for the Edward Hewitt Gallery in New York, includes the work of George Tooker, Jarred French, Paul Cadmus, Charles Rain, Pavel Tchelitchew.

Patrick Hennesy's De Profundis

The Irish artist Patrick Hennessy [see 1933, 1937] has his painting De Profundis  selected for the Contemporary Irish Painting exhibition that toured North America. He was once again living with his partner Harry Robertson Craig in County Cork. His work, finding less and less favour in the mainstream art world of the late 1950s and 60s, nonetheless sold well in America. Prompted in part by ill health he would eventually move to Morocco [see 1968 Africa].  

De Profundis by  Patrick Hennessy
De Profundis by Patrick Hennessy

Picture framer Alfred Hecht

At about this time Alfred Hecht (1907-91) set up his well-known Kings Road framing business. He had previously traded as an art dealer but undertook framing work for artists such Ceri Richards, Graham Sutherland and Francis Bacon (making his trademark gilt and glazed frames), and in particular for the dealer, Frank Lloyd Fisher at the Marlborough Gallery, setting almost a house style of modern hefty gilt frames. He advised artists and introduced coloured mounts that would become a ‘Chelsea’ signature. In 1955 it was the framer who asked Peter Pollock and Paul Danquah to take Bacon in as a lodger at their flat where he stayed for the next six years and was photographed by Cecil Beaton.

Hecht and the campaign for law reform

Hecht was a collector and acquired works by Francis Bacon, Massimo Campigli and Marino Marini from Erica Brausen’s Hanover Gallery and was friends with Aneurin Bevan and his wife Jennie Lee and Arnold, later Lord Goodman and the interior decorators Kenneth Partridge and Geoffrey Bennison. Hecht was a gay campaigner for law reform but found that many of the homosexuals he knew were less than forthcoming. Most were happy to enjoy the freedom that wealth and connections bestowed – so long as you kept ‘mum’. He complained “how can I say I am a German-Jewish homosexual?”, to which the interior decorator Partridge, replied “As if everyone didn’t know, dear.” Such camp flippancy was all very well but it merely points up the hiding in plain sight that was allowed as long as you were amusing but knew your place. He pressed artists to donate pictures to be sold quietly via Peter Wilson at Sotheby’s, to support the Homosexual Law Reform Society, but how much success he had is not known. According to the Campaigner Anthony Grey he did give several hundred pounds to the campaign but his pushy nature did not win friends. He also established a gay film society from offices in Shaftsbury Avenue. One of his apprentices was Stephen Jones whose welded and polished aluminium and polished brass frames and particularly Perspex box frames became a signature style with pop artists associated with John Kasmin’s gallery in the 1960s and 70s.


The Gay Country House Salon

Also at about this time another framer, Mattei Dadev (1927-2009), arrived as a stowaway by way of a cargo ship in Glasgow from communist Bulgaria. Sometime later he met gay rights campaigner Pat Trevor Roper (1916-2004). Trevor Roper was a leading eye surgeon and was the author of ‘The World Through Blunted Sight’ (1971) examining the way artists’ eye defects and illnesses have affected their work. According to architectural historian Mark Girouard, he provided the funds for the campaign to save the 18th century houses of Spitalfields from demolition. He was also amongst those willing to testify publicly along with his Suffolk neighbour, Angus Wilson, to Sir John Wolfenden’s Home Office committee on homosexual offences and prostitution in the mid-1950s. Trevor-Roper made plain his claim that homosexuality was innate, and not the result of “seduction” or “recruitment”.  The younger brother of the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, he introduced Mattei to the founder of the Zwemmer Gallery Robert Wellington and via an apprenticeship with Robert Savage set up by Robert Medley (who painted his portrait). Dadev became a picture framer. The former Gallery owner Eardley Knollys [see 1936] loaned funds to begin his business and all three were part of a coterie centred on a country house which seems to have been disrupted when a member, Eddy L:ord Sackville-West died [see 1965]. Another attendee at the house was George ‘Daddie’ Rylands (George Humphrey Wolferstan Rylands, 1902-1999), English scholar, theatre director and promotor of talented gay boys (who included Wilfred and Anthony Blunt) at Cambridge. He was Lytton Strachey’s “sweet canary Don” on account of his beauty and blond hair, and was intimately involved with the Bloomsbury group, many of them ex-Kings graduates. He is a key locus for connections, via his famous parties, between disparate queer figures so that Michael Redgrave and Arthur Marshall for instance were introduced to Anthony Blunt. It was not so convivial for women however (see 1924). 

Nude Male by Boscoe Holder
Nude Male by Boscoe Holder

Boscoe Holder painter and dancer

Boscoe Holder (Arthur Aldwyn Holder, 1921 – 2007<>) arrives in London from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. A designer and visual artist, dancer, choreographer and musician, he had married the dancer Sheila Davis Clarke in 1948 and had a son Christian. Christian (1949-  ) a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet and costume designer, also paints. They had a cabaret and for a while performed nightly at the Mayfair Hotel and the Ritz. In 1953 Boscoe Holder and his Caribbean Dancers played at the coronation. He was already a painter when he arrived and is considered one of the top painters from the Caribbean whose work is in many collections around the world. His circle of friends included Oliver Messel and Noël Coward and Holder introduced the first steel drums to England on his television show, Bal Creole, broadcast on BBC Television on 30 June 1950. His paintings were exhibited at various UK galleries including the Trafford Gallery, the Redfern Gallery, the Commonwealth Institute, the Castle Museum Nottingham, the Martell exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture at the Royal Watercolour Society Galleries, and the Leicester Gallery. His younger brother was the actor Geoffrey Holder (the villain Baron Samedi in the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die) who was also a painter and noted choreographer (with Alvin Alley). Boscoe was openly bisexual even after his return to Trinidad in 1970 but his many sensual black male nudes were not exhibited during his lifetime. A correspondent of the blogger Michael Henry Adams met him and in 2010, in Berlin, Peter Doig and Hilton Als co-curated an exhibition of portraits of the Trinidadian painters hidden images. In 2011 his male nudes were eventually shown at the Upper Room Art Gallery and Artist Retreat, Top of the Mount, Mt St Benedict, St Augustine.

Lex Aitken

In this year the interior designer Lex Aitken (1930-2013) arrives from Australia with the feminist writer, arts advocate and journalist Lois Hunter (1927-2012?). Hunter had just divorced from the poet Lois Johnson (brother of painter George Johnson) and wrote as a poet under the names Eden, Broom and Hunter. She would later write ‘The Australian Art Companion’ and ‘Famous Australian Artists’ and, through her, Aitken would meet many important British and Australian artists including Bridget Riley. As an interior designer Aitken’s clients included Lucien Freud, Godfrey Bennison and James Lees Milne.

Basil Green and Vince's Man's shop

British physique photographer ‘Vince’ (‘Bill’ Basil Joseph Green) places an advert in the Daily Mirror in order to market his line in underwear and swimwear. He had been a stage photographer before the war but became an enthusiast for, and photographer of, the body-building circuit operating from a studio at 49 Manchester Street from 1947. His images appeared in Vim, Physique Pictorial, Man’s World and Tomorrow’s Man. Gay physique photographers had to work around strict censorship of the male nude with carefully manipulated revealing costumes. The resultant images often created demand for homoerotic fashion. Green initially manipulated Marks & Spencer underwear before designing his own. When interviewed for ‘Today there Are no Gentlemen’ (Nik Coln, 1971) Green said his first post generated over £200 worth of orders. He will go on to pioneer sexually revealing menswear [see 1954]. He is known to have photographed the Australian writer Patrick Wright.


Vince Studio photograph by Bill Green
Vince Studio photograph by Bill Green

Vince Models

Vince seems to be a link between several artists of the period and physique models and body builders. Those who were physique models included Minton models and pals Norman Bowler and Spencer Churchill. Both modelled for Vince and Lon of London and Churchill modelled at the Royal College of Art. Bowler (1932- ) was to become an actor mostly in television. Minton’s intimate from this year was Sailor and body builder Ricky Stride. Others include the acrobat Roy Vincent and Scottish body builder and sailor David Mitchel who is featured in Health & Strength magazine (Volume 89 Number 5, March 10, 1960). Stride, a boxer and ex-sailor who is working as a carpenter, went with Minton at the start of September to Jamaica [see south America 1950]. At the time Minton was sharing the Hamilton Terrace home with Keith Vaughan who had taken up with Ramsay Maclure, the ex of painter and critic Robin Ironside [see 1937]. On occasion Michael Wishart too, who was also periodically spending time on Francis Bacon’s sofa, would doss at the house and witnessed the parade. Minton was adept at collecting sailors in pubs and elsewhere. In Dance Till the Stars Come Down, his biographer Francis Spalding notes how he picked up sailors such as Alf Sparks by hanging around Victoria Station when the boat train arrived.


The Brick Layers by Paul Gell
The Brick Layers by Paul Gell

Paul Gell

Paul Gell  (Paul Frederick Gell, 1918 – 1996) graduates from  Bath Academy of Art at Corsham where he was taught by Keith Vaughan. Manchester born, Gell had followed his father’s path and been an air traffic controller but even from the age of 16 had mixed with Lancashire artists including L.S.Lowry. He had several exhibition at the Piccadilly Gallery in London in 1950s with work very much in Vaughan’s style of homoerotic groups of male workers (‘Bricklayers’ 1955) or Mediterranean settings (‘Sicilian Boys’) from his travels in Italy. He went on to work as an interior designer with the Cunard Line where he also commissioned other artists (Gertrude Hermes). Assistant Art Director for the Midlands Area of the Arts Council and a designer for Heals and trade fairs In 1978 he moved from London to Plymouth, to Mount Stone House in the Stonehouse before retiring to the Isle of Man with his partner, Martin Lister. In later life his work as a painter predominately featured cultivated plants  (‘Flowers from a Painter’s Garden’, 1983) and landscapes in watercolour but also male nudes in interiors.

John Deakin and John Lehmann

In 1951, John Lehmann published a book of John Deakin’s Rome photographs called Rome Alive, with text by Christopher Kinmonth. Deakin wanted to publish a book of his Paris photographs, but they were only exhibited in 1956 in David Archer’s bookshop in Soho that came with a short essay by Vogues Elizabeth Smart giving details of Deakin’s life and accentuating the haunting quality of the photos. Archer also showed the Paris photographs in the same year and an earlier book, London Today was published by The Saturn Press, 1949. In 1958 he designed the cover for 18 year old Dominic ‘Dom’ Francis Moraes’s collection of poems ‘A Beginning’; Moraes had met and later married Bacon model Henrietta Bowler (formerly Audrey Wendy Abbott, 1931 – 1999<>) who had a relationship with artist Maggi Hambling in the last year of her life. Henrietta worked in Archer’s bookshop where she ran a coffee bar. The man she married briefly (1954-56) when she became Henrietta Bowler was one of John Minton’s pals actor and physique model, Normam Bowler (1932- <>) [see 1949/50]. Deakin, who had originally painted and went back to collaged combinations of pictures and paint in later years, photographed Bowler in 1964.

John Deakin's London Today
John Deakin’s London Today


Caravaggio's Musicians
Caravaggio’s Musicians

David Carritt is observed by Caravaggio

David Carritt (1927-1982), a future director of Christies and later in his own right as a member of the Artemis consortium makes a major discovery whilst having sex. He was 25 when he visited a retired navel Captain W G Thwaytes at Maulds Medway and found himself having sex with him when he spotted the most important discovery in his career. Looking back through two pairs of legs he found the scene was being observed by four camp boys within the Caravaggio masterpiece called the ‘The Musicians’ (now owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The painting had been owned by David Burns of Fernacre, Whitehaven and was bought by antique dealer Joseph Cookson who sold it to the captain for £100 from in 1947. He claimed Thwaytes had to be persuaded to buy and was not particularly interested in the picture but in December 2006 a descendent sold another composition, ‘The Cardsharps’, and the catalogue noted he had been a keen collector of the artists compositions (the picture was by a follower of Carravaggio). To have found one Caravaggio might be carelessness but to own two suggests design.

Brain Epstein

Brian Epstein (1934-1967), the future manager of the Beatles is drafted as a data entry clerk into the Royal Army Service Corps, and was posted to the Albany Street Barracks near Regent’s Park in London. He commissioned a tailor to make an officer’s uniform for him that he wore when cruising the bars of London. Arrested by military police at the Army and Navy Club in Piccadilly for impersonating an officer he was made to see an army psychiatrist. In 1953 he was discharged as being “emotionally and mentally unfit”. He returned to Liverpool where he later claimed to have had his first homosexual experience. He had another brush with the law in 1955 when he went to study at RADA but left, not as he claimed to make money, but because he had been arrested in a ‘pretty police’ sting for ‘persistent importuning’ outside a men’s public toilet in Swiss Cottage, London. These incidences had a lasting effect and in later years anyone who tried to link his sexuality to the Beatles was ruthlessly excluded from their circle.  

Lord Montagu's dull party makes the news

In the summer Lord Montagu of Beaulieu offered his friend Peter Wildeblood the use of a beach hut near his country estate. With two young RAF servicemen, Edward McNally and John Reynolds, they were joined by Montagu’s cousin Michael Pitt-Rivers. The following year they were brought before the British courts charged with “conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons” or “buggery”. The two airmen turned Queen’s Evidence and claimed there had been dancing and “abandoned behaviour” although both Wildeblood and Montagu, who was bi-sexual, claimed it had in fact been dull remarkably innocent, with drinks, dancing and some kissing. The sensational trial, and subsequent harsh terms of imprisonment led eventually to the Wolfenden Report of 1957. Wildeblood, a journalist who had had a passionate affair with McNally before the beach hut incidence, published ‘Against the Law’ recounting his prison experiences in 1955. The book was a milestone in gay liberation. Pitt-Rivers married Sonia Orwell before divorcing and spending most of his adult life as a gardener with his partner William Davis restoring the families Larmer Tree Gardens.

the 3

Bryan Robertson and the Whitechapel Gallery

Bryan Robertson (1925-2002) becomes the Director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery. A run down gallery with the air of a provincial backwater, he transformed it into a light, white modernist space and instigated a series of ground breaking shows. From the first retrospective of Turner since his death to re-invigorating interest in Barbara Hepworth. ‘This Is Tomorrow’, the first Pop art show anywhere included Richard Hamilton whose collage ’Just What is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?’ that includes a physique muscle man. The Whitechapel ‘New Generation’ exhibitions invigorated the reception of modern British art. As junior sub-editor on the The Studio he reviewed exhibitions of the work of many of the ‘Neo-Romantic’ artists and became friends with the younger generation eventually giving them retrospectives. These ncluded John Craxton (1967), Keith Vaughan, Prunella Clough, the ‘two Roberts’, Colquhoun (1958) and MacBryde, and John Minton. They all  featured in retrospectives at the Whitechapel, along with other pivotal figures such as Roy Le Maistre (1960), Robert Medley (1963) and Keith Vaughan (1962), the later particularly significant for the inclusion of so many patently gay themed works. Between 1958 and 1964 he put on ground breaking shows of Abstract Expressionists with exhibitions including gay artists Mark Tobey (1962), Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. A disagreeable relationship between him and the critic David Sylvester was the result of Sylvester failing to get the job. A similar messy bid to become Tate Director between him and Laurence Gowing resulted in appointment of the entirely dull Norman Reid. Robertson said his philosophy was ‘a life-long concern for pleasure, beautiful places, good-looking people, and frivolous living.’

Susan Abraham modelling a John Cavanagh evening dress
Susan Abraham modelling a John Cavanagh evening dress

John Cavanagh

John Cavanagh (1914-2003) launches his eponymous fashion house, at 26 Curzon Street, London. He made wedding dresses for the Duchess of Kent in 1961 and for Princess Alexandra in 1963. He was a protégé of Edward Molyneux as were Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain.

John Minton out of control

Following another drunken episode of high jinks involving John Minton and one of his lads, precipitates the end to his and Keith Vaughan’s tenancy. The landlord Cornel Lindsay is upset about a man spitting from a window into a frying pan held by Minton. The relationship with Vaughan had been tetchy and irritated for some time with the less boisterous Vaugh increasingly annoyed at Minton’s partying. Vaughan moved to Belsize Park and Minton to Shaftsbury Villas in Kensington where his boyfriend, with whom he kept rowing, lived in the basement whilst in the attic was Paul Danquah (Paul Danquah, born Joseph Paul Walcott, 1925-2015) actor, dancer and lawyer partner of Peter Pollock (1919-2001) [see 1956]. These two would be good friends with Francis Bacon but Minton and Bacon shared a mutual distain for each other’s work. The artist David Tindle recalled Minton being subjected to one of Bacons champagne shampoos and Minton is said (by Paul Holmes) he said to have exhibited ‘pseudo’ abstracts under the name Francis Smiling’ at a Young Contemporaries exhibition in order to prove how easy it was to produce non-figurative work.


Julian's cover design for Wilson
Julian’s cover design for Wilson

Phillippe Jullian

The writer Angus Wilson (1913–1991) publishes ‘For Whom the Cloche Tolls’. The novel, following on from the gay themed Hemlock and After (1952) featured illustrations by Phillippe Jullian (1919-1971) making plain that Tata the witty aesthete son is homosexual via camp humour and the coded allusions. Julian was a noted writer on decadence, publishing ‘Esthètes et Magiciens’ (1969 – English edition ‘Dreamers of Decadence’, 1971), a biography of Oscar Wilde and a biography of Robert de Montesquiou (1855–1921, the model for Huysman’s ‘À rebours’). A book on collecting published in 1966/7 contains sections on ‘Fetishes’ and ‘Pornography’ among the options. of .Wilson’s book covers were also illustrated by Ronald Searle and Jullian’s illustration for covers of Penguin and other books are rather like Searle’s but in drag. His book on Montemartre is particularly good at describing various brothels: Mount Lesbos, Mount Cythera (straight prostitutes) and The Boulevards of Sodom (where boy prostitutes were known as Jésuses). Later he specialised in Symbolist painters and Art Nouveau as well as collaborated on exhibitions with amongst others Diana Vreeland.

Against the_ law

Peter Wildeblood's 'Great Purge'

According to Peter Wildeblood this was the year of the ‘great purge’ when British Police with intelligence service encouragement began a systematic crack down on homosexuals. One of Scotland Yard’s top-rankers, Commander E. A. Cole spent time in the USA consulting with FBI officials regarding homosexuals as security risks but a war on all vice was declared by Sir John Nott-Bower took over as the new Commissioner at Scotland Yard in August. Sir John swore he would “rip the cover off all London’s filth spots.” According to the Australian commentator (and National Treasure) Donald Horne writing in this year: “The Special Branch began compiling a “Black Book” of known perverts in influential Government jobs after the disappearance of the diplomats Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, who were known to have pervert associates. Now comes the difficult task of side-tracking these men into less important jobs – or putting them behind bars.”

Queer Tangier

The Home Secretary at the time, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe was famously homophobic and the Foreign Office instituted ‘Positive Vetting’ and the forces introduced paranoid instructions to keep queers from joining. In 1952, there were 5,443 offences, and about 600 offenders were sent to prison according to Fyfe. In Parliament in 1953 he said “I must make clear to the House that one element in dealing with this matter is the protective element in punishment, because homosexuals in general are exhibitionists and proselytisers and are a danger to others, especially the young, and so long as I hold the office of Home Secretary I shall give no countenance to the view that they should not be prevented from being such a danger”.  Unsurprisingly this was also a popular time for gay men to take holidays abroad in more welcoming places. In particular Tangier became a popular place with Francis Bacon, Cecil Beaton, David Herbert, Kenneth Williams and Joe Orton where they mixed with the American Beat poet Ginsburg and his lover Peter Orlovsky, William Burroughs and Tennessee Williams. It remained so into the sixties when Ossie Clark. 


Denis Wirth-Miller shows at Beaux Arts

Denis Wirth-Miller shows ‘Studies of a Dog in Movement at Helen Lessore’s Beaux Arts. Having introduced Francis Bacon to Muybridge’s Animals in Locomotion these pitch black paintings of mastiffs illuminated by a strange interior light are his own interpretation of them. With-Miller will go on to show unpopulated Suffolk landscapes at Beaux arts ad Lefevre. The expanse of East Anglian skies spread above grasslands and reed expanses made from brushwork that looks as if the canvas  had been razored, scratched and slashed. Francis Bacon, who is said to have invited Wirth-Miller to help with his own works, deploys similarly spikey and hostile grass in his own works and their dogs look like chasing the same rabbit. 

Study for Dog in Movement by DWM
Study for Dog in Movement by DWM
Man with a Dog by Francis Bacon
Man with a Dog by Francis Bacon

Bacon v Ayrton

Bacon is living in a rented cottage at Henley-on-Thames with Peter Lacey, his most sadistic partner. This is a period of ‘no fixed abode’ as Bacon moves between various loaned or rented addresses. One of his most famous paintings ‘Study after Velasquez’s Portrait of Poe Innocent X’ is completed in this year. Bacon claimed never to have seen the original but to have worked from reproductions. The perceptive of artist and critic Michael Ayrton (despised by Bacon) noted that the picture in the Palazzo Doria was first viewed through mirrored doors with brass rails reminiscent to the image.  

Guardsmen and Arts men

Anthony Blunt begins a relationship with former Irish guardsman John Gaskin who is working at Armour & Winston  jewellers in Burlington Arcade. Gaskin appears merely to be his live in help to visiting straight academics but with gay company such as the painter John Craxton he camps it up. He also brought sailors and Guardsmen back to the Courtauld flat he shared with Blunt. For most of the century, if not before, guardsmen were a source of trade for gay men willing to pay or at least entertain them with food and drink. The photographer Basil Clathering used many in his pictures [see 19] as did Blunt’s occasional chauffeur (referred to as ‘Spud Murphy’ in Miranda Carter’s ‘His Lives’). They could be found at The Bag o’ Nails and Joseph Paxton pubs. Sailors were ubiquitous in the bars in and around Soho as John Minton and Daniel Farson knew very well. This was by no means only an old boys club: David Carritt [see 1952] was also a fan at this time. 


Francis Bacon and Sonia Orwell

Francis Bacon is in collaboration with Sonia Orwell (1918-1988) on a book project that fails to materialise. Sonia Mary Brownell married George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) and so was strictly speaking Sonia Blair. Bacon believed, like many of his friends, that she was basically a lesbian but didn’t realise it. Given the sniping by Orwell’s circle that she engineered the marriage shortly before his death to get control of his literary estate and then married (1958-1965) Michael Pitt-Rivers who was prosecuted with Lord Montague for homosexual offences in this year, there is plenty of room to suppose her sexuality was partly shielded by convenience. She had brief affairs with artist such as Freud, Coldstream and Pasmore for whom she modelled (she was known as the ‘Euston Road Venus’) but was much more comfortable with gay men. Cyril Connolly who tried to encourage an affair said her “lesbian drives” had prevented any action taking place.

1984 Anti Sex League
1984 Anti Sex League

Arthur Jeffries Pictures

Arthur Jeffries establishes his own gallery Arthur Jeffries (Pictures) having pulled out of backing the Hanover [see 1948]. The gallery sells work that he and the critic and gallerist Robert Melville (31 December 1905 – March 1986*) buy at auction. It does not represent artist but shows those that fit Jeffries manifesto. What he designates ‘Sunday Painting’ would be now called Naive or Outsider painters. He described it as “art of people who have had little or no instruction in drawing and painting, but are impelled by the sense of wonder to challenge the laws of gravity and perspective and make unorthodox yet enchantingly communicative records of their response to history and geography and the events of the day”. They also singled out Trompe L’oeil and Magic Realism: “art in which actuality and fantasy are inextricably intertwined. It is realism enriched by dream and nostalgia, and steeped in the mystery of the human condition”. The latter was the title given to work by artists such as Paul Cadmus and Pavel Tchelitchew.

Jeffries Gallery 1

Vince's Mens' Shop

British physique photographer ‘Vince’ (‘Bill’ Basil Joseph Green) opens a shop in ‘Vince’s Man’s Shop’, in Newburgh Street in Soho close to the Marshall Street Public Baths a popular cruising place, to satisfy demand for underwear designed by him to be used by his models. His catalogue models included competition standard bodybuilders and the actor Sean Connery. Men’s Wear (1964) noted that Connery featured in six pages of the 1957 catalogue “when he was working as a French polisher”. Connery was used to modelling nude having posed for students at the Edinburgh Colledge of Art (he is shown in a work by Al Fairweather in 1952). In an interview with Rodney Bennett-England in the mid-1960s Vince said: ““I demonstrated it was not just an overall cloth. Pale blue is still the top seller. We also used a lot of other cloths like bed ticking, reversed fabrics and sailcloth. We did tapered shirts from the beginning. None of the revolution in menswear would have worked if the girls hadn’t approved. They wanted men to wear more exciting clothes with colour and a closer fit.”

ross1_jpeg 1
007 Model's for Vince
007 Model’s for Vince

The appeal to girls may have come later but initially gay oral history records (see ‘The Men’s Fashion Reader’, McNeil & Karaminas) very different beginnings. Men applied to competition adverts in physique magazines and went to the shop to be photographed having first purchased the obligatory skimpy pouch. Green undoubtedly an innovator and his window displays of mannequins dressed in briefs, or pink hipster trousers were too. Adverts for Vince Man’s Shop designed by Gordon Moore for issue 20 of the Royal College Of Art magazine ARK (1957) reflected enthusiasm for his continental casual-wear propagated by Green who had seen the denim and jumper existentialist fashions worn by the young on the continent. The ‘Soho-Italianate’ menswear aesthetic was very much pioneered by gay men. John Stephen, largely responsible for the initiation of Carnaby Street as the centre of London fashion first worked at Vince Man’s Shop. He also utilised photographs taken at the shop but using Mike McGrath who placed them in girls magazines such as Boyfriend.

Scott of London's Biker
Scott of London’s Biker

Scott of London - Tom Nicholl

Vince eventually move out of the area to north London and closed in 1969 becoming a restaurant manager. The influence sexually enhanced clothing can also be seen in the work of Scott of London. Scott,  Tom Nicholls, made a specialty of the leather-clad biker from his studio in Leather Lane; his photographs influenced his friend ‘Tom of Finland’ (Touko Laaksonen 1920-91) who he met on his first trip to London in 1957 (Laaksonen’s source scrap books contain examples). The area in and around Soho has continued to include shops such as Rob and Sports Locker into the modern era. Many gay men in the 1980 and 90s can report the attractions of cruising in them and fitting room encounters.     

‘Dickie’ Buckle, Diaghilev, Nijinsky & Picasso

Ballet critic and expert Richard ‘Dickie’ Buckle (Christopher Richard Sandford Buckle, CBE,  1916 – 2001) is instigator and designer of a number of highly successful exhibitions, orchestrates one on the life and work of Diaghilev. First shown at the Edinburgh Festival it moves to Forbes House in London. It was revolutionary according to Roy Strong in his obituary for Buckle in the Guardian. He described a path “past a tableau of grand ladies at the ballet before 1914, then the beach at Deauville in the 1920s, on through tented rooms hung with chandeliers, each with its separate theme, ending up ascending a huge staircase on which brooded statues of sentries embowered with greenery leading up to the palace of the Sleeping Beauty. One’s ears were filled with the music of the ballet and the air was scented with Diaghilev’s favourite perfume.” The costumes from the Cyril Beaumont collection were placed throughout like disembodied surrealist presences. Buckle utilised an army of talents to realise the settings, including Cecil Beaton, David Hockney, Scottish artist Peter McGinn, Leonard Rosoman, and Nicholas Georgiadis. Between 1954 to 1964 his exhibition staging was hugely innovative. Buckle was a pallbearer at the funeral of of Nijinsky and wrote his biography in 1971 as well as editing the diaries of his Cecil Beaton. In 1967 at the sale of the surviving Diaghilev scenery and costumes (Serge Grigoriev collection), he was instrumental in the purchase of the Picasso backcloth to the ballet Le Train Bleu for the Theatre Museum.

Wolfenden Committee

In September the Wolfenden Committee of three women and 12 men led by John Wolfenden (1906–85) meet for the first time to consider Huntleys and Palmers. The later were euphemisms used for homosexuals and prostitutes that Wolfenden thought would save the ladies present embarrassment. Wolfenden was Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading and would later became Director of the British Museum. The three homosexuals who gave evidence all had strong connections to the world of the arts. They were writer and lyricist Peter Wildeblood [see 1952], Carl Winter Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum [see 1946], and eye surgeon Patrick Trevor-Roper brother of historian Hugh, patron of artists and an architectural historian [see 1950]. The report will be published in 1957 [see entry].

The ICA and dirty pictures

The ICA displays work by Francis Bacon. Members of the public called the police to complain about his ‘Two Figures in the Grass’ (1954); the work depicting a typically sexually ambivalent rendering of Muybridge’s male nude wrestlers. These disgusted viewers were obviously able to recognise the position as that of buggery and spotted the coital kiss.  The visiting policeman was either more innocent (or more knowing) and described them as “just wrestling in the grass”. Also at the ICA in 1955 Charles Henri Ford has an exhibition of his photographs. Thirty Images from Italy are shown.

Two Figures in the Grass by Francis Bacon
Two Figures in the Grass by Francis Bacon