Celebrating LGBTQ+ Art and Artists at Pallant House Gallery
Celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month 2023 with a delve into the lives and work of several LGBTQ+ artists and their allies at Pallant House Gallery.Below we will highlight the artwork of Duncan Grant, Keith Vaughan, Gluck, Eileen Agar, Christopher Wood, the artistic duo of Robert MacBryde and Robert Colquhoun, John Craxton and Leonard Rosoman. The article explores the LGBTQ+ experiences of these artists and how their sexuality and gender identity were expressed through their art. Sussex Landscape: Chalk, Wood and Water
The artists below were all based in Sussex in the 20th century and were greatly influenced by the landscapes they immersed themselves in. Some came to escape, some sought inspiration and others simply visited for pleasure. Duncan Grant
Duncan Grant Duncan Grant, Landscape, Sussex, (1920), Oil on canvas, Tate, Bequeathed by Frank Hindley Smith 1940, © Tate Duncan Grant (1885-1978) was a prominent British artist of the 20th century who was known for his work as a painter, designer, and decorative artist. Born in 1885, Grant was part of the Bloomsbury Group, a circle of writers, artists, and intellectuals who challenged the social norms of their time. This painting ‘Landscape, Sussex’, shows the pond at Charleston Farm, East Sussex. In 1916, Grant with his close friend and fellow artist, Vanessa Bell, and his partner, David Garnett, moved to Charleston from London. The group were
conscientious objectors and the move to the farm allowed Grant to contribute to the war effort as a farm labourer, rather than as a soldier.
Grant had relationships with both men and women and his sexuality was reflected in his art. His frank and sensual depictions of the male form challenged prevailing social norms and conventions of representation. Keith Vaughan
Keith Vaughan, Two Male Figures, One Throwing (Pagham Beach), c.1938, Gelatin Silver Print, The Hyman Collection, London.
Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) is best known for his figurative art, often featuring landscapes and male figures. Vaughan's photographs taken at Pagham provide a poignant view of young men playing and resting along the shoreline just before the Second World War. Looking through the lens of the camera at the quiet setting of the beach gave Vaughan the room to observe the male nude. Given homosexuality was illegal, Vaughan often felt intense loneliness, struggling with a difficult public life while concealing his private one. The joyous days at Pagham were a chance for connection with others and the landscape.
Vaughan kept journals, some of which were published both during his lifetime and after his death by suicide in 1977. Through these his struggles as a gay man at a time when homosexuality was illegal are clearly expressed: ''It is difficult to bear in mind that with all one’s honours, distinctions and successes etc. one remains a member of the criminal class. My sexual relationships, on the rare occasions when they have been successful would, or could, earn me at least life imprisonment if known & prosecuted. How can one feel part of one’s time & society in that case?' Gluck
Gluck, The Wave, 1966, Oil on board, Private Collection.
During the 1930s, Gluck (1895-1978) achieved significant success as an artist. Gluck’s androgynous clothing and short hair were pioneering elements of gender fluidity. Born Hannah Gluckstein in 1895, Gluck was gender-nonconforming, choosing to reject their birth name and be identified simply as 'Gluck, no prefix, suffix, or quotes.'
In 1944, Gluck relocated to Steyning, West Sussex and began living with Edith Shakleton Heald and Edith's sister, Nora. Gluck and Edith had a close relationship, and despite some tensions between the sisters, Gluck remained in Steyning for the rest of their life.
Gluck created numerous landscape paintings over their career, making it challenging to identify specific locations. However, The Wave bears a striking resemblance to another Gluck work, Cold Grey Stones, which depicts the tide coming in at Worthing. Catherine de Villiers and Princess Dilkusha de Rohan, Photograph by Eileen Agar
Catherine Devillier (standing) with her life partner, Princess Dilkusha de Rohan, at their home in Sussex, England, 1941. Photo by Eileen Agar: © Tate
Taken by the surrealist artist Eileen Agar (1899-1991), this photograph captures two of her friends, Princess Dilkusha de Rohan and Catherine de Villiers swimming near their home in Rottingdean, East Sussex. De Rohan was a fashion designer and had co-founded the first fashion house to offer luxury women's sportswear. Agar first met the Russian ballet dancer De Villiers (Katusha) in Weimar Berlin in the 1920s, where they fell in love. In 1936, they moved to Sussex, where de Rohan had been educated at Roedean School two decades earlier. This intimate photograph by Agar brings into focus the closeness between the two women and their connection to the landscape.
See these works and more in the exhibition Sussex Landscape: Chalk, Wood and Water until 23rd April 2023.
Pallant House Gallery Collection
The artists below are just a small sample of the LGBTQ+ artists represented in the Gallery’s permanent collection.
Christopher Wood [1901–1930), Portrait of Diaghilev on set of Romeo and Juliet, 1926, Pencil on paper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, (Bob Lockyer Bequest 2022)
This is Christopher Wood's (1901-1930) pencil drawing of Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballet Russes. As a young artist in Paris during the 1920s, Wood, like many others, found inspiration in the realms of dance, music, and theatre. He was particularly captivated by the Ballets Russes and started working on designs for the company's first English-themed production of Romeo and Juliet.
Born in Liverpool, Wood enjoyed a brief but illustrious career as an artist. He traveled to Paris and became involved with the European avant-garde movement in his early twenties, where he studied drawing and made connections with artistic circles. Wood was bisexual
and met the Chilean diplomat, José Antonio Gandarillas, in Paris, with whom he had a relationship for the rest of his life. Gandarillas introduced Wood to Picasso and supported him financially in his artistic endeavors. After creating designs for the Ballets Russes in 1926, Wood returned to England, settling in Cornwall and exploring new artistic directions under the influence of painter Alfred Wallis. The Two Roberts
Robert MacBryde and Robert Colquhoun were two Scottish artists who were active in the 1940s and 1950s. They met at the Glasgow School of Art in 1933 and became inseparable friends, lovers, and artistic collaborators. In 1941, they moved to London where they were at the center of the bohemian scene in Soho, and were well-known for their art and wild parties. They found a space in Soho where they could be themselves both as artists and as lovers. They shared a deep commitment to one another, but their relationship was occasionally turbulent due to their heavy drinking, which could lead to violent arguments. Additionally, MacBryde struggled with jealousy, especially when Colquhoun, who was bisexual, had flings with women.
Their success waned in the late 1950s with the rise of abstract expressionism but their dedication was eventually rewarded when Colquhoun received an offer for a one-man show
in 1962. However, years of excessive drinking and partying had taken a toll on his health. After working tirelessly on new pieces for his show, Colquhoun passed away in MacBryde's arms on September 20th, 1962, at the age of 47. MacBryde was inconsolable and relocated to Ireland where he continued to drink heavily and remained obscure. Tragically, in 1966, while dancing outside a pub in Dublin, MacBryde was hit and killed by a car. John Craxton
John Craxton, Greek Fisherman, 1946, Oil on board, © Estate of John Craxton
John Craxton (1922-2009) was a British painter known for his colorful and imaginative depictions of landscapes, people, and animals. He was heavily influenced by his travels and the places he lived, including Greece, Italy, and London. Craxton's work is characterized by his use of bright colors, bold lines, and an almost childlike sense of wonder and joy. Despite being associated with the Neo-Romantic movement in British art, Craxton remained true to his own artistic vision throughout his career.
Craxton was openly gay at a time when homosexuality was a crime, and this influenced his success as an artist. His friend, the writer Edmund White, summed it up: ‘That whole generation of very successful artists were closeted because that was the way to be rich and famous. If you came out your standing immediately plummeted. I think that one reason why John wasn’t more famous was that he came out. He is an important painter in the history of
gay liberation. The paintings are unabashed and clearly gay though they were often bought by straight people.’
John Craxton’s art continues to be celebrated for its vibrancy and originality, and he remains an important figure in the history of British art.
Leonard Rosoman, Portrait with Candelabra: George Devine as Baron von Epp, 1968, Acrylic on canvas, Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government from the estate of Roxanne Rosoman and allocated to Pallant House, (2020) © The Artist’s Estate
Leonard Rosoman (1913-2012) was a painter, a printmaker, a teacher and an illustrator. He was born in London in 1913, married twice and died at the age of 98.
Rosoman's work, which was inspired by John Osborne's 1965 play A Patriot for Me featured aspects of gay subculture that were unfamiliar to many audiences at the time. The play recounts the tale of a high-ranking officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army who was being blackmailed by Russian agents due to his sexual orientation.
The scenes from the play infuriated the Lord Chamberlain, and until 1968, his approval was required for public performances. He was particularly displeased with the play's climactic scene, a magnificent drag ball, and requested that it be removed. Osborne avoided this by premiering the play in a private club! As well as the drag ball, the play featured the first gay kiss on stage, captured by Rosoman in The Drag Ball, No. 2.
The struggle with sexuality, the exploration of gender fluidity, and the challenges of living in a society that often rejected them are all themes that emerge from the lives and works of these artists. Their contributions to art and culture have enriched our understanding of the human experience and continue to inspire and resonate with audiences today.
As we reflect on their lives and works, we are reminded of the importance of diversity, inclusion, and acceptance. These artists paved the way for a more open and accepting society, one that values the contributions of all individuals regardless of their gender, sexuality, or background. By celebrating their creativity and perseverance, we honor their legacy and continue to strive towards a better and more equitable future