It’s our history | 1997 | Richard Hawkins on the first Gay celebrity

23rd March 2022, 3:14 pm


Richard Hawkins wrote the following piece in Tom of Finland Foundation’s 1997 Spring Dispatch.

Richard Hawkins, a contemporary artist with a special affinity for the physique artists and photographers of the ’50s and ’60s, is creating a website and eventually a book on the life and work of George Quaintance.

Portrait of George QuaintanceRight 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 ’50s. 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.

The photograph below 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.Portrait of George Quaintance

Quaintance 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 forty years. Consequently, today a biographer has a difficult time finding Quaintance’s friends, lovers or models. Fortunately, 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.

An interesting life is unfolding: a birthdate ten 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 Artwork Shore Leave

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

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

But my research is far from finished. I am specifically looking for owners of originals, personal acquaintances and correspondence, photos of models (especially color ones), ephemera such as his line of greeting cards and his work for women’s beauty magazines.




Cover of Quaintance: The Short Life of an American Art Pioneer








Art & Artists Online Gallery: George Quaintance

    As part of our commitment to protect, preserve and promote the erotic arts for three and a half decades, Tom of Finland Foundation is making online galleries of our erotic art collection available to the public. Patrons of The World of TOM Patreon receive the first look. This week, we are featuring American… View Article


Published: 23rd March 2022

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