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George Quaintance

A masculine fantasy world

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George Quaintance

George Quaintance (1902–1957), 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. His paintings, prints, and drawings celebrate the homoerotic, tiptoeing along the boarders of acceptability and censorship of his era.

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. 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.

TASCHEN Books monograph on Quaintance pulls together his art in an XXL format. Including photographs and his complete oil paintings, the book traces the artist’s biography and remarkable life. While Quaintance was never able to render the full frontal form of the male body, his imaginative and sensual images hold a significant place in the history of homosexual art. Perhaps the original ‘beef cake’ images, the erotic art of George Quaintance is bursting at the seams with camp, sex and, masculine energy.