Monday, January 29, 2007

The Courage of 'Dear Friends' in Wartime

Old photographs of 'Dear Friends' in wartime can be really moving.

For me, this is particularly the case when the relationship is not made absolutely explicit:

It's the tension between the courage that makes the subjects want to go public, and the 'prudence' that has them do this somewhat covertly. Though it is 'read' or understood by any gay guys.

Some guys of course wanted to be less covert:

And others, in a moment of bravado perhaps, just burst out and completely:

Perhaps it's that some blokes just had that strength of personality that allowed them to be their gay real selves. And would have been out in any era. For lesser personalities, maybe it was the intensity of experience that goes with war that gave them the courage to be out.

Whatever, I am fascinated with this particular coming-out-in-war phenomenon.

Fascinated and inspired.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

C19 Gay Porn Photography and Painting

I was looking at this C19 gay porn photograph and was unsure whether it actually was an old image:

It was so like lots of modern Belami stuff:

And I hadn't seen anything old on such a large scale before.

There is another (perhaps explanatory) layer of complexity. The image could be a composite of a number of smaller photographs. This was not uncommon last century with large scale works. Certainly, each group seems a self-contained composition, not needing anything else to be harmonious. This is confirmed by the groups not interacting in any way with each other - but maybe the members of each are just focussed on what they are doing to each other - lost in the moment!

Another thing I noticed was that the lighting varies throughout the work. For example, it is stronger or more intense in the central bottom group than that in the two groups (upper and lower) on the extreme left.

And finally, genuine old photos are often posed with the guys looking as though they are about about to engage in the action - but not doing undertaking it. Frozen in expectation - but eternally unrealized! Here, dicks go down throats, cocks up arses, tea-bagging is under-taken (scrotum sucking, for those who don't watch 'Sex and the City') and so on. Yum yum.

Then I began to think about the often strong influence of painting an sculpture on early photography, particularly with reference to this C19 photo.

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879) at times used traditional religious subjects and renaissance pictorial structure. For example, the subject Madonna and Child and the triangular composition are deployed in her work 'Divine Love' (1865):

Compare with Raphael's (1483-1520) 'Madonna and Child' (1502):

And in the gay context, Baron Wilhelm von Glodden (1856-1931) loved to make his homoerotic photography more acceptable by casting it in classical terms:

The guy mooning us orientally from the couch in the second photo owes something to Ingre's 'Grand-Odalisque' (1814):

Sadly our guy looks away where Big Od boldly stares us down.

Getting back to the large C19 photo, it is in a long compositional tradition of naked intertwined male figures with a homoerotic flavour. From Michaelangelo's (1475-1564) 'Battle of the Centaurs' (1492):

To Antonio del POLLAIUOLO's (1429/33-98) 'Battle of the Ten Naked Men' (1465-70):

Curiously, artists (for reasons not worth exploring here) do reference the things I've been yakking on about - as in the two images below, where the poofs are getting it on in a classical (if only digital) context:

Very nice hard-ons, guys!

The guy on the left seems particularly pleased with his!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Postscript to Luciano and the Semiotics of the Ankh

If you are a compulsive online purchaser, then you'll be glad to know that, for a measly 60 percs at, you can have a goodly supply of 'Pharaoh Curse Starter' !!!

Or a 'Deluxe Pharaoh Hat' (!!!) for the begging price of $44.90 as item 970 at

For the next time you are in the mood for some serious revenge OR are feeling a bit regal !!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950) - Early Gay Ballet Icon

In street clothes 1909

In Rehersal - Rare action photograph

Nijinsky, perhaps most famous of male ballet dancers, had an exotic and effete eroticism that created a sensation among (particularly gay) men as well as women in the early years of the C20 - a phenomenon usually associated with pop singers of today. His technique was unparalleled, including an extraordinary 'ballon', or elevation or jump. Wits commented that he seemed painted on the ceiling. This prodigous physical facility was linked to an uncanny ability to identify with and transmute into the character he was portraying.

Of Polish descent, he joined the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg in 1898 at the age of 9, graduating into the Maryinsky Theatre (now the Kirov Theatre) in 1907. He caught the attention of Sergei Diaghilev, an impressario whose idea it had been to export Russian art to the west. An exhibition of primitive and modern painting in Paris in 1907 evolved into performances of opera and ballet in 1908 and 1909 as the 'Ballets Russes'. And these continued, as seasons of ballets in ever-increasingly dispersed theatres all over the world, till the impressario's death in 1929.

Nijinsky had become Diaghiliev's lover and premier dancer of the company in that first Paris season, creating the principle male role in many of the early works of the great choreographer Michel Fokine. The dancer's career however was short - he went mad over 1916-7, writing a diary explaining his sense of his life, and drawing 'The Third Eye' through which he felt he observed the truth of things:

Nijinsky lived on till 1950, cared for by his wife Romola. His body was transferred to Cimetiere de Montmartre, in Paris, in 1953.

His sex appeal seems to stem from physical and psychological sources. From his luscious heavy muscularity and from his soft asexual but animal eroticism, with respect to his stage persona. This eroticism was passive and unengaged - knowingly observed but non-participating. A quality he shares with Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich.

Something of all this can be glimpsed in photographs of ballets he danced for the 'Ballets Russes':

'Giselle' 1910

'Scherhezade' 1910

'La Spectre de la Rose' 1911

'Le Dieu Bleu' 1912

'L'apres midi d'un faune' 1912 (sorry - no accents on my puter!)

I'm not sure if this nude drawing is from life. But it's possible - certainly Nijinsky had a following of gay balletomanes, particularly in Diaghilev's social circle.

The definitive life of this great dancer is Richard Buckle's 'Nijinsky' (1971). Perhaps somewhat over-burdened with less than salient detail. But, as Mr Bennet in 'Pride and Prejudice' says to his daughters when they are reading aloud Mr Gardiner's letter about the discovery of Kitty's discovery in London with the infamous Mr Wickham, 'Read on! read on!'. You know what I'm saying!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Alan Oldfield (1943-2004) - Australian Painter

I knew Alan Oldfield when he was working in a somewhat David Hockney mode:

Interior with Banana Chair, 1973

I met Alan through Peter Z, the brother of my partner of the time. Peter was living with Alan and his partner James Davenport, a nuclear scientist involved with the development of nuclear technology in Australia. Alan and James lived a certain art-oriented middle-class gay Paddington life-style, which was very typical of the period - fast, smart, sexy. Focusing on the dinner party ... with a dolop of religion.

The slim, white, three-story terrace house had the ubiquitous pool, surrounded by a terracotta-tiled apron, dotted with chairs.

Very David Hockney.

Alan had graduated from the National Art School in 1966. And added teaching to practice from the 1970's on, becoming a lecturer both at the Alexander Mackie College and the NSW University College of Fine Arts. With art being a parallel venture.

Lizard Island and Points North

Occasionally I come across his work at auctions And realize I'd forgotten it at times had religious themes:

And considered buying such a work - wish I had as it was not expensive.

I lost contact with Alan when I separated from my partner, and moved to live in Europe. But regret not having known him more. I loved his sharp intellect and wit, accompanied often by great story telling skills - which at times drifted into serious gossip in an inimitably gay mode.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

My Grandmother and Antinous and Gay Sex

I think my preference for men rather than women came partly to consciousness through looking at photographs of Greek and Roman sculpture in the great Victoria Art books at my grandmother's house. Maybe not an uncommon story!

Sculptures like:
Perseus Antikythera - Greek 350 BC

Marathonian Ephebe - Greek 330 BC
Portrait of a Man - Greek 300 BC Temple of Apollo at Cyrene, Libya
Head of a Wrestler

Barberini Faun or Sleeping Satyr - 200 BC, found in Hadrian's Mausoleum (d.138AD

In particular, I became intrigued by the sculptures and the story of Antinous (AD 110-130). Even more so after I visited Delphi in my early 20's, and saw the sculpture below first-hand:

Delphi Antinous - 130-138 AD. Archaeological Museum, Delphi

Delphi Antinous - 130-138 AD. Archaeological Museum, Delphi

Of Greek descent, Antinous was born in Bithynion-Claudiopolis, in what is now north-west Turkey. When the Emperor Hadrian passed through the Roman province of Bithynia in AD 124, the boy was taken into the imperial paedagogium. This institution trained suitable candidates to become palace or civil servants. However, between Hadrian's return to Italy in 125 and his next trip to Greece in 128, Antinous became the ruler's lover and favourite. The boy was 11 or 12 years of age. He was said to be beautiful, have great intelligence and a sharp wit, and be a great hunter and athlete. Tragically, he died at the early age of 20 - drowning in the Nile in October AD 130. It is unknown whether this was an accident, a suicide, a murder or a religious sacrifice.

Hadrian was grief-stricken. Antinous was deified and temples built to his cult. Obelisques were erected, and sculptures and busts produced in great numbers, appearing in cities all over the ancient world. A city of Antinioopolis was founded in Egypt.

Some rather blander later representations of Antinous:

Barbarini Antinous

Antinous Ecouen C18 Copy from Villa Adriana at Tivoli, Le Louvre

I quite fell in love with this hunk .... of marble! At the time. But have now and happily moved to more flesh and blood versions.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Michael Leunig - Cartoonist Philosopher and Social Critic

Michael Leunig
is an Australian cartoonist (b. 1945), whose work can seem at first sweet and gentle ... but then there can be a biting and thought-provoking after taste. Like the delicious bitterness of very dark chocolate. Using irony like a razor sharp hatchet, his concerns seem to fall into three distinct categories: political, religious and humanist.

Some examples of the first group:

Some of the second:

And some from the last and my favourite group:

When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken
Do not clutch it
Let the wound lie open

Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt
And let it sting

Let a stray dog lick it
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell
And let it ring

Let it go. Let it out.
Let it all unravel.
Let it free and it can be
A path on which to travel.

His is work that makes you think, long after you've put the book/newspaper/whatever away.