QUEER BRITISH ART 1861-1967 Edited by Clare Barlow
Published to accompany a major new exhibition at Tate Britain in London, curator Clare Barlow has assembled impressive expert contributors to write about aspects of the featured art for this companion book.
There’s an introductory essay by trans academic Jack Halberstam, an essay from Neil Bartlett (author, director and performer) on theatrical types, Neil McKenna writes on the Fanny and Stella court case (a subject he devoted an entire book to), and Rupert Smith contributes on physique photography.
Smith is better known for the erotic novels he writes as James Lear, but back in 1997 he wrote a biography of John S Barrington, a pioneering post-WWII pornographer. There are also various academics writing on their specific areas of expertise from the Bloomsbury set to Arcadianism. Barlow opens the book with a fascinating critique of John Minton’s painting of a Whitehall Horseguard (1953), pointing out the homosexual subtext to the work. Other highlights include the section on artist Simeon Solomon, whose career was blighted when twice arrested in public lavatories.
An interesting inclusion is the art of playwright Joe Orton and his lover Kenneth Halliwell. The pair borrowed and stole books from the Islington Library, reworked them with “collaged interventions” (transgressive new cover images and content), and then returned them to the shelves. Although initially enjoyed by the staff, the cost of these defaced books mounted up, and the pair were eventually sent to prison for six months.