“The Flamboyant Life and Forbidden Art of George Quaintance” | 3rd July | LA

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When it comes to mid-century homoeroticism, one name comes to mind—Tom of Finland. His overtly homoerotic art defined a pre-Stonewall era, when overt gay art was not only not in vogue but flat-out illegal. Yet Finland and his contemporaries—Harry Bush and Etienne, among others—had a forerunner. George Quaintance, the 1940s and ’50s illustrator whose work will be on display with that of Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland; artists who explored the limits of the male physique before others dared to. Tom of Finland in his early career, in fact, aspired to become as good an artist as Quaintance.

GEORGE QUAINTANCE, TOM OF FINLAND, BOB MIZER (Details) Copyright held by the artists.

GEORGE QUAINTANCE, TOM OF FINLAND, BOB MIZER (Details) Copyright held by the artists.

One of the most invaluable resources was Tom of Finland Foundation, which held a large number of oils by Quaintance and it’s president and cofounder, Durk Dehner, who tracked down the last residence of Quaintance’s partner, Victor Garcia, and found Quaintance’s lifelong scrapbooks in a carport in Hollywood. Bob Mainardi and Trent Dunphy of The Magazine in San Francisco graciously made available their many original sketches, physique photos and various ephemera related to Quaintance, as well.

Before dying of heart failure in 1957, Quaintance’s work usually appeared in magazines that celebrated the male physique, including Body Beautiful, Demi-Gods and Physique Pictorial—publications that skirted tight content regulations by ostensibly appealing to bodybuilders and others with an acceptable and “healthy” interest in the male physique. His oil paintings featured full-color semi-nudes, pushing not only the homoerotic bounds of acceptability but the edges of polite society in the ’40s and ’50s. His painting Dashing was featured on the very first cover of Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial.

That same year, Tom of Finland’s first drawing appeared on a Physique Pictorial cover—a clear passing of the torch to the next generation. Dian Hanson, TASCHEN editor, states “No one worked in oil on canvas like Quaintance did, in the scale and with the facility he did, in the ’40s. Tom of Finland was a fantastic graphite, and pen & ink artist, however he produced less in color.”

Quaintance and his highcamp erotic art existed in a demi-monde of borderline legality. His subjects also veered from the mainstream, featuring many aspects common in the West. Spaniard and Mexican bullfighters and religious symbols populate his work, along with traditional oil paintings of cowboys and stereotypical masculine Western figures.

Quaintance was not a prolific painter, only producing 55 canvases during his lifetime. TASCHEN released a book of Quaintance’s art back in 2010, but the objective was always to spotlight the L.A.-based artist in an exhibition. Hanson recommends an in-person visit. “The results were a beautifully produced, large format book. It did justice to the work, but there’s nothing like seeing these big canvases in person!”

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GEORGE QUAINTANCE – THE FIRST GAY CELEBRITY
BY RICHARD HAWKINS

TASCHEN is famous for books like Quaintance, The Complete Reprint of Physique Pictorial, Bob’s World and numerous titles on Tom of Finland, but also for their stunning Collector’s Editions. In the other half of the gallery every Collector’s Edition they’ve ever published is on view.

8070 Beverly Boulevard, 90048

 

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George Quaintance Joins Tom of Finland and Bob Mizer in Sexy New Exhibition

The mid-century’s most popular physique painter will have his work on display beginning 2nd July.

GEORGE QUAINTANCE (American, 1902-1957), Gloria, 1953, Oil on canvas

GEORGE QUAINTANCE (American, 1902-1957), Gloria, 1953, Oil on canvas, 40″ x 32″, © George Quaintance, Courtesy of Taschen

When it comes to mid-century homoeroticism, one name comes to mind—Tom of Finland. His overtly homoerotic art defined a pre-Stonewall era, when overt gay art was not only not in vogue but flat-out illegal. Yet Finland and his contemporaries—Harry Bush and Etienne, among others less celebrated—had a precedent. George Quaintance, the ’40s and ’50s illustrator who set the parameters of gay art for nearly a half century, and whose work will be on display at the Taschen Gallery beginning July 2, explored the limits of the male physique before other artists dared to.

Taschen released a book of Quaintance’s art back in 2010, but the objective was always to spotlight the L.A.-based artist with his own show. Speaking about Quaintance’s output, Dian Hanson, editor of the coffee table book, states the paintings are “so big and impressive, and culturally vital, it was always intended to give them a gallery show.”

Before dying of heart failure in 1957, Quaintance’s work usually appeared in magazines that celebrated the male physique, including Body Beautiful, Demi-Gods and Physique Pictorial—publications that skirted tight content regulations by ostensibly appealing to bodybuilders and others with an acceptable and “healthy” interest in the male physique. His oil paintings featured full-color semi-nudes, pushing not only the homoerotic bounds of acceptability but the edges of polite society in the ’40s and ’50s.

“There really wasn’t anyone doing what Quaintance was doing in the 1940s and early ’50s,” says Hanson. “His painting Dashing was featured on the very first cover of Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, and Mizer used his work on covers right up until his death,” over a decade before the modern gay rights movement found its mainstream footing.

“That same year, Tom of Finland’s first drawing appeared on a Physique Pictorial cover—a clear passing of the torch to the next generation,” she says. “No one worked in oil on canvas like Quaintance did, in the scale and with the facility he did, in the ’40s. Tom of Finland was a fantastic graphite, and pen & ink artist, but he did less in color.”

Quaintance’s subjects also veered from the mainstream, featuring many aspects common in the West. Spaniard and Mexican bullfighters and religious symbols populate his work, along with traditional oil paintings of cowboys and stereotypical masculine Western figures.

Despite his outsized influence, Quaintance was not a prolific artist, only producing 55 oil paintings during his lifetime, leaving a very potent seed of creativity but a dearth of material for progenitors to follow.

Creating the show at the Taschen Gallery involved tracking down the remaining Quaintance paintings on the market. “Fortunately, the small circle of collectors knew each other, and there were rumors about who might have what and where missing links might be. I was surprised how secretive much of it was—people not wanting their names used, paintings hidden in closets, artifacts here and there,” says Hanson.

One of the most invaluable resources was Tom of Finland Foundation, which held a large number of oils by Quaintance. “The Foundation tracked down the last residence of Quaintance’s partner, Victor Garcia, and found Quaintance’s lifelong scrapbooks in a carport in Hollywood, and Bob Mainardi and Trent Dunphy of The Magazine in San Francisco, who own many original sketches, physique photos and various ephemera related to Quaintance.”

Taschen’s Quaintance tomb ($100, 168 pp.) has many exclusive and pristine prints of the painter’s groundbreaking work, but while Hanson spent a long time putting together the edition, she recommends an in-person visit.

“The results were a beautifully produced, large format book. It did justice to the work, but there’s nothing like seeing these big canvases in person!” Come July, anyone in Los Angeles can see Quaintance’s beautiful, detail-oriented and groundbreaking work the way it was produced.

The Art of George Quaintance
2nd July
Taschen Gallery

By Patrick RosenquistFrontiers

 

 

 

 

 

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GEORGE QUAINTANCE – THE FIRST GAY CELEBRITY

CaptureRight from the cover of the first issue of the first muscle magazine, Physique Pictorial, in 1950, George Quaintance was the advance guard of gay erotic art in the 1950s. His paintings portrayed a homoerotic Southwest from such a campy, even faggoty, point of view they were a leap forward for an underground gay culture that was just beginning to awaken. His sexy males were almost overtly subversive of the muscle magazines’ obligatory heterosexual facade, but not enough to keep them from frequently publishing his work.

Capture2Quaintance was the first among his contemporaries to pass away, in 1957. Many of them, including Tom of Finland and Bob Mizer, outlived him by almost 40 years. Consequently, today a biographer has a difficult time finding Quaintance’s paintings, much less his friends, lovers or models. Fortunately, the Tom of Finland Foundation has amassed a number of rare materials on Quaintance and much initial research was done by its president, Durk Dehner. By building on this material and on the personal remembrances of close friends like the Rev. Robert W. Wood, I am beginning to see a shadowy trail emerge.

The above photograph of young Quaintance from his own scrapbooks shows him as a lithe, stylish youth of the late Teens and Roaring Twenties. However, anyone who remembers Quaintance from the ’50s knew him as the muscular blond seen below. Whether these photos betray an early Valentino-esque affectation or a later “gentlemen prefer blondes” coloring, it may, in the end, be too late to tell.

An interesting life is unfolding: a birthdate 10 years earlier than he would later have people believe, a childhood in Virginia, a move to New York where, in the late 20s, he had a surprisingly successful stint as an adagio dancer on the vaudeville stage, followed in the 30s by a side-career as a touring “coiffure designer”, before moving in the late 40s to Hollywood where he developed a painting style and subject matter which was to forge the direction of male art and photography for many years before the final move to his beloved Arizona in the early 50s.

GEORGE QUAINTANCE (American, 1902-1957), Shore Leave (Detail), 1952. Oil on canvas

GEORGE QUAINTANCE (American, 1902-1957), Shore Leave (Detail), 1952, Oil on canvas

During the last ten years of his life George enjoyed frequently-tumultuous relationships with the macho Mexican-American models who epitomized his desires. Many of the blonds in George’s paintings from the 50s are reputed to be self-portraits, somewhat idealized, of course.

What has been most exciting for me so far is having found out that, of the approximately 50 paintings from Quaintance’s physique period, over 30 are in good condition and reside in the homes of private collectors.

By Richard Hawkins, 1997Dispatch

 

GEORGE QUAINTANCE (American, 1902-1957), Siesta, 1952, Oil on canvas

GEORGE QUAINTANCE (American, 1902-1957), Siesta, 1952, Oil on canvas

George Quaintance was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the only son of a Stanley Virginia, farming family. From a very early age, he spent much of his time doodling. His parents, with some foresight, realized he would never be a farmer and didn’t force him into their way of life. Instead, they supplied him with paint and brushes and, later, with fine art training. In his early twenties, he moved to NYC, working primarily for advertising firms. By the ’40s, he had moved to LA to dedicate his life to painting the incredible images he’s best known for.

In the ’50s, one last move took him to Phoenix, where he could be surrounded by the Western scenery he loved to paint. He spent the rest of his life painting commissions, running his mail-order business selling reproductions and sculpture, and maintaining a ranch with a large staff of cowboys, a series of hispanic lovers, assistants and friends.

Quaintance died in a LA hospital of a heart-attack on November 9, 1957 and is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

F. Valentine Hooven III’s book, Beefcake published by Benedikt Taschen Verlag features a Quaintance on the cover, a short synopsis of his life and a few color reproductions.

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