Meet George Quaintance the, daring gay artist whose work influenced Tom of Finland and “Querelle”
American painter George Quaintance (1902–1957) not only had pots of paint, but balls. His daring homoerotic art influenced–and surely continues to influence–numerous gay artists who’ve come after him.
Below this great video tribute to Quaintance set to a remix of Elvis Presley’s “Fever,” is a sampling of his artwork and quotes from various online bios, including from the introduction to the only known biography of Quaintance, “QUAINTANCE: The Short Life of an American Art Pioneer” by Ken Furtado and John Waybright.
Posted by Tachen books on the 2010 publication of their now out of print monograph “Quaintance”:
George Quaintance was a master painter of the male physique and openly gay in an age where being out was not only risky, but largely illegal. His images of idealized masculine bodies set the blueprint for a gay aesthetic that would become universal and inspire the work of artists like Tom of Finland, James Bidgood, and Pierre et Gilles.
Quaintance lived and worked during an era when homosexuality was repressed, when his joyful paintings and physique photos could not depict a penis. In an era before Stonewall, the sexual revolution, gay rights, and the AIDS crisis, Quaintance and his high-camp erotic art existed in a demimonde of borderline legality. Half a century on, the masculine fantasy world created by Quaintance, populated by Latin lovers, lusty cowboys, and chiseled ranch hands, retains its seductive allure.
Quaintance studied art in New York City and first gained attention illustrating spicy covers for pulp magazines and paperbacks with a style inspired by the vintage pin up artist Enoch Bolles.
In 1951, his art was used for the first cover of Physique Pictorial, edited by Bob Mizer of the Athletic Model Guild. Quaintance’s work often depicted men in historical or classical settings in order to justify nudity. As well as depictions of Greek gods, he also rendered the indigenous people or North and South America, in their ‘natural’ state. [Vintage Physique Pictoral issues, including those above, are available at www.bobmizer.org]
Ingeniously, Quaintance normalized his depictions of naked muscular men enjoying each other’s company, by placing them in scenes of rural and physical work; often his work featured cowboys, ranch hands, or Latin laborers. These images of the wild west, seen through the gaze of queer desire, aided the establishment of the macho stud as a ‘type’ in the gay imaginary.
The art director Walter Richarz for the film Querelle (1982) acknowledged that he was influenced by the work of Quaintance. Walter Richarz
From Ken Furtado and John Waybright, the authors “QUAINTANCE: The Short Life of an American Art Pioneer” with a few additional bits from Wikipedia:
Gay artist George Quaintance had a diverse and colorful career. After attending art school with Georgia O'Keeffe and Alexander Calder, he joined a vaudeville troupe and traveled the country. His troupe, The Collegiates, was known for acrobatics and athleticism, and it was the opening act for Sophie Tucker's farewell performance.
George went on to study ballet and various forms of modern dance, both choreographing and starring in theatrical performances and earning money by dancing with various partners in bars and nightclubs.
Sidelined by an injury, George turned to hairstyling, becoming one of America's pre-eminent stylists, whose clients included stage and screen stars Marlene Dietrich, Lily Pons, Helen Hayes, Jeanette MacDonald and Hedy Lamarr.
His first art assignments were anonymous advertising work, but by 1934 he had begun to sell freelance cover illustrations to a variety of "spicy" pulp magazines, such as Gay French Life, Ginger, Movie Humor, Movie Merry Go-Round, Snappy Detective Mysteries, Snappy Stories, Stolen Sweets, and Tempting Tales. These were sold at burlesque halls as well as under-the-counter at discreet newsstands. During this time he also painted formal portraits of celebrities, diplomats and socialites. George combined his fashion sense and painting skills as Art Editor for a series of popular women's magazines in the late 1930s and 1940s. [Wikipedia]
This in turn led to his becoming the Art Editor for a new bodybuilding publication,Your Physique, published by Canadian brothers Ben and Joe Weider. George's introduction to the nascent bodybuilding community and his everyday contacts with spectacular male specimens caused a seismic shift in his career interests, and he began to paint the male nude. ("Nude" needs to be qualified, since in George's time, any depiction of frontal male nudity would get you thrown in jail.)
In 1938, he returned home with his companion Victor Garcia, described as Quaintance's "model, life partner, and business associate", who was the subject of many of Quaintance's photographs in the 1940s. [Wikipedia]
George operated studios in Hollywood and in Phoenix, Arizona. Peopled with handsome cowboys, fabled Rancho Siesta was the Arizona studio where George Quaintance lived and worked. It was an ingenious and overwhelmingly successful marketing concept. And, in the minds and hearts of Quaintance’s legions of admirers, it was the closest the American West ever came to an honest-to-goodness incarnation of Xanadu or Shangri La.
In 1953, Quaintance completed a series of three paintings about a matador, modeled by Angel Avila, another of his lovers. By 1956, the business had become so successful that Quaintance could not keep up with the demand for his works. Quaintance died of a heart attack on November 8, 1957 [Wikipedia]
Today, George is best known for a group of about 50 iconic male physique paintings he produced from 1943 to 1957. Despite the fact that he was a precursor to, and an influence on, famed erotic illustrators Tom of Finland and Vargas, an authoritative biography of Quaintance has never been published.
[“Quaintance: The Short Life of an American Art Pioneer”] thus fills a cultural, historical and academic void for this seminal 20th century artist. We are especially excited to have exclusive access to hundreds of never-before-published photographs from Quaintance’s personal scrapbooks and his family's archives. Buy the ebook on bn.com.
George Quaintance blog by the authors of “QUAINTANCE: The Short Life of an American Art Pioneer”
Read the Echo Magazine Interview with George Quaintance biographer Ken Furtado here.
Loads more George Quaintance art can be found here and, well, just google!
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