How does Gender impact Art Historian’s approach in examining one’s sexuality?

I am interested in examining and reviewing how Art historians in particular examine the possibility of an alternative sexuality when it differs between men or women, especially prior to the 1800’s.

I feel this direct relates to gender and society for societal ignorance on the possibility of an alternative sexuality in Women or AFAB (assigned female at birth) people against that of men. If historians are only able to make connections or even attempt to when it is about men, it will prove there is a hierarchy of importance implied to a man’s sexuality over that of a woman’s.


The Homosexual Question

Smalls, James. Making Trouble for Art History: The Queer Case of Girodet. Art Journal.

This article within a journal, the Art Journal, written by James Smalls examines how homosexuality and queer theory within art history and art historians, questioning how different famous or well known art historians handled the case of Girodet and his homosexual tendencies within his painting. Many choose to go around how he rendered the relationship between two men, claiming it just as a creation which may be over looked, yet others choose to face it head on, straight out claiming his homosexuality. This book, while rather good covering the difficult topic of historians accurate and without assuming the sexual preference of a creator. The issue, however, is because of the prevalent of male artist within older history creating the ideal that there were no other queer people. This, the refusing of even examining the queer identity of a man, goes father into even accepting that there may have been queer women or people of a different identity being represented.

Mostly when examining works of art or historical context for years prior, we run into the wall that, if queer people were written about, it was just men. Homosexuality in men was, though not highly accepted, analyzed more then any kind of queer identity within women.


Header created by Girodet, titled Revolt in Cairo, in 1810, This is examined within the art journal for the relationship of the far right two figures.

The ‘Secret’

Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit, Caravaggio’s Secret, MIT Press, 1998

This written book examines the life and creation of Caravaggio, an artist of the late 1500’s. Caravaggio had the history of being a little bit of a ‘playboy’ as some might say, yet when analyzing his works, many art historians have gotten a deeper understanding of his life. The way he creates such things, and how certain elements may be analyzed as sexual in nature, have brought many to the conclusion that Caravaggio was gay. He created these works which held such a sexualized way of attractive men. Taking time to render the muscle, while yet leaving them soft enough to not masculinize his models.

This is an active thought process. Back in those times, as this written covers, that men could be gay, however it was only because they were actually women trapped in a man’s body. Yes, if you were a gay man, they basically believed you were trans. For you were having women urges even though you still were bodily a man. Men were not allowed to have the urges of a women, therefore they would assumed as another possible gender. A man trapped in the body of a woman.

That is why many examined his work in a more homoerotic nature, for how more androgynous his models were rendered. Yet, even though they were rendered more neutral, and that Caravaggio was accused of sharing a young man with another painter (and was brought to trial) it still cannot be confirmed that he was gay. This article covers how, even though we may try to get something out of his creations by how they looked, the deeper meaning, we cannot assign a sexuality to a painter just for that. It is wrong for Art historians to assume one’s sexual preferences just for their creations.

This is only for a man, however. If it was a woman painter in question, the male nude wouldn’t have been allowed even, therefor a woman painting other women, even in a very sexual or seductive manner, would not have been assumed as being sexualized. Art historians would not have assigned a sexual identity to women for their work, as they do men.

Header Image by Caravaggio, Bacchino Malato, 1593, which is brought up in the reading in question. This is a self portrait of himself as Bacchus, but ill, who is the god of wine and parties.

Connections, New Questions

Within the articles I have read, images I have searched for, and my main topic of focus, I can only rally think of one thing; now, in these current times, being queer or LGBT+ in any sense is less stigmatized than it previously was. Reading the article about gossip surrounding the underground queer art world in New York at the start of the Aids epidemic, and imaging just how further and further it progressed, has shown exactly how others viewed those who were queer, and just how hateful the word queer itself was until previous reclaiming efforts in the 1990’s. Also, the need for those to connect and collect gossip just for any information surrounding LGBT+ artist from the lack of desire or responsibility others felt about recording information is surprising.

Knowing more now, I can more direct my question towards something I, myself, am interested, which is more related towards stigma and fear driving artist creations in the past 20th century rather than that of this current year. How, if artist were not out yet then were forcibly outed from gossip chains or eventual AIDS infection, or even just decided it was time, if that affected their art work in subject matter or creation. Some queer artist of the past would choose to not create in relations to their sexuality at all, while others would show the act of queer sex itself within their artworks. I also would be interested in connecting how the AIDS epidemic, or the ‘gay disease’ as it was first titled restricted artist from showing sexual acts within their works. Also examining how this fear of being stigmatized or being degraded as being queer from creating works that were queer rather than straight effected artists lives.

Queer Comics

Queer master post

This is a link to a Huffington post which lists many different queer comics you may be interested in! I haven’t viewed them all myself, however they look interesting and this is a good reference for those who may desire more representation in their comics!

Please check the article and the comics themselves about how safe or not safe for minors they are!

Header image taken from site, all images and art belongs to their correct owners (listed within the link)

Queer Disclosure

Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World, 1948–1963

(Link will take you to a free sample on Google books)


This written works is a historical approach facing the disclosure of the queer art underground of New York during the early 1950’s to the mid 1960’s. This book, written by Gavin Butt, examines gossip and attempts to relate these to social surroundings to give them the strength to be more accepted as art history, and to add a more queer turn on traditional art history. This book is good in examining how people might have been potentially outed and the reactions during a time where queer was a direct insult.

Related to my research, I feel this is not only an interesting reading, but will help also answer the question, ‘who is quer, what is queer, and does that impact their art and their creation of art? Especially, during this time, was the AIDS epidemic within the queer community just beginning to spread and being very negatively connected with one’s sexual identity.

Featured Art work is from Activitst and Artist Keith Haring, Ignorance = Fear