Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas

Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas

by Christopher Reed

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This bold, globe-spanning survey is the first book to thoroughly explore the radical, long-standing interdependence between art and homosexuality. It draws examples from the full range of the Western tradition, including classical, Renaissance, and contemporary art, with special focus on the modern era. It was in the modern period, when arguments about


This bold, globe-spanning survey is the first book to thoroughly explore the radical, long-standing interdependence between art and homosexuality. It draws examples from the full range of the Western tradition, including classical, Renaissance, and contemporary art, with special focus on the modern era. It was in the modern period, when arguments about homosexuality and the avant-garde were especially public, that our current conception of the artist and the homosexual began to take shape, and almost as quickly to overlap. Not a chronology of gay or lesbian artists, the book is a fascinating and sophisticated account of the ways two conspicuous identities have fundamentally informed one another. Art and Homosexuality discusses many of modernism's canonical figures—painters like Courbet, Picasso, and Pollock; writers like Whitman and Stein—and issues, such as the rise of abstraction, the avant-garde's relationship to its patrons and the political exploitation of art. It shows that many of the core ideas that define modernism are nearly indecipherable without an understanding of the paired identities of artist and homosexual. Illustrated with over 175 b/w and color images that range from high to popular culture and from Ancient Greece to contemporary America, Art and Homosexuality punctures the platitudes surrounding discussions of both aesthetics and sexual identity and takes our understanding of each in stimulating new directions.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It's not the first book on the subject, but 'Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas' is certainly among the best."—Los Angeles Times Culture Monster blog

"Reed's book carries forward a long-overdue reckoning that began in a very public and controversial way with the exhibition 'Hide/Seek' at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery late last year."—Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post

"Art and Homosexuality succeeds brilliantly at addressing the profound question: Why have art and sexual variation been linked for so long, across so many cultures, and in such disparate ways? Reed's perceptive interpretations of artists and works build one upon the next, offering a forceful argument while also weaving a fascinating new social history."—James Saslow, author of Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts

"Christopher Reed's groundbreaking and long overdue discussion of the historically intertwined relationship of artistic and homosexual identities is smart, intensively researched, beautifully written and illustrated. His thoughtful interpretation of events and superb visual analysis of individual artworks, make Art and Homosexuality central to any discussion of contemporary art. An excellent teaching resource, it belongs on every reading list and in every library."—Harmony Hammond, author of Lesbian Art in America: A Contemporary History

"This is an extremely thorough and timely addition to the literature on homosexuality and art. Wide-ranging and handsomely illustrated, it is also appropriately controversial"—Simon Watney, author of Imagine Hope: AIDS and Gay Identity

"Art and Homosexuality offers a brilliant and accessible account of the complex links between art and sexuality. With case studies drawn from societies around the world, attention to lesbian, as well as gay, artists and audiences, and its demolishment of longstanding orthodoxies, Art and Homosexuality is destined to become the go-to book on this controversial topic."—Martin A. Berger, author of Sight Unseen: Whiteness and American Visual Culture

"Christopher Reed deftly synthesizes recent scholarship and historical sources to demonstrate how art and sexual dissidence productively intertwine. His vivid examples and elegant prose make this study accessible without sacrificing complexity. Art and Homosexuality requires (and equips) us to rethink what we think we know about art history."—Tirza True Latimer, author of Women Together/Women Apart: Portraits of Lesbian Paris

"Reed's arguments strike me as admirably lucid and ambitious and they are well-illustrated by a variety of plates, many in color." —Jon Lackman, The Art History Newsletter

"In this gorgeously illustrated work, Reed examines the long standing link between sexual identity and art. From the ancient world and the Renaissance to a thorough examination of modernism's active exploration of sexuality, Reed will open up your eyes to homosexuality's prevalence in the history of art." —Joseph Pedro, Passport Magazine

"It is difficult to criticize this book because it truly is well written and interesting. Art & Homosexuality will be a very interesting read for anyone interested in the history of homosexuality and art and for individuals interested in learning more about prevalent societal attitudes concerning gender role expectations, homosexuality, heterosexuality (and sexuality in general) at different point of time throughout history."—Elin Weiss, Metapsychology Online Reviews

"Reed makes an important contribution to an understudied and complex topic—the persistent linking of art and homosexuality over time and across cultures.... Accessible writing and judiciously chosen illustrations combine with scholarly methods to produce a volume capable of serving multiple audiences, and useful as both a reference source and a textbook. Highly recommended."—CHOICE

Library Journal
Smith (history, Grove City Coll.; Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush) here focuses on how Americans have portrayed heaven from the time of the Puritans through the first decade of the 21st century. So far, regarding what it has been believed that heaven will offer, certain themes have continued with varying prominence, e.g., communion with and the worship of God, a more perfect life with family members than one had on Earth, social/leisure life, the service of others, and deeper experiences of God; but each cultural period proclaimed its own themes as well. Only as life became more leisured after the Civil War was there fear of boredom in heaven; late 20th-century thought attended increasingly to the earthly and eternal advantages of focusing on heaven; and the 21st century's religious and spiritual diversity is undercutting the prominence of previously consistent themes. VERDICT This book involves research from a wide variety of sources: the visual and literary arts, the social sciences, religious and devotional sources, and popular culture. Suitable for clergy, scholars, and the general reader, it is highly recommended for those interested in sociology as well as in religion.—Carolyn M. Craft, emerita, Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
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Product dimensions:
6.80(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Reed is Associate Professor of English and Visual Culture at Pennsylvania State University. His previous books include Not at Home: The Suppression of Domesticity in Modern Art and Architecture and Bloomsbury Rooms: Modernism, Subculture, and Domesticity, winner of a 2005 Historians of British Art prize.

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