Vintage swordplay #3


Another vintage find courtesy of The Other Andrew. (Thanks, Andrew!) The tag on this photo revealed the model to be one Steve Wengryn and since I’m not an expert on these beefcake types this was news to me. A swift search also revealed that Steve was a popular model in the 1950s and posed for Bruce of LA, among others, a photographer whose work was mentioned here recently. And sure enough, this isn’t the only picture of Steve with a sword, there’s also this photo of him posing with an épée.


Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The men with swords archive

Let’s get physical: Bruce of Los Angeles and Tom of Finland


Edgar Hayes (Beach) (1957).

Bruce of Los Angeles is a new exhibition of beefcake photos from the Fifties and Sixties at Wessel + O’Connor, NYC, which opens today and runs until December 20, 2008. Bruce’s name is a very familiar one to aficionados of physique photography and I imagine some of these prints will be pretty familiar too. There’s a couple of guys with swords among the selection but as a break from that particular obsession I picked out cutie Edgar Hayes instead.

Born Bruce Bellas in 1909, he was a chemistry professor from Nebraska who would wind up in Los Angeles as the top “Beefcake” photographer of the 1950’s.

He started out there in the 1940’s, shooting bodybuilding contests and met many of his models while working for Joe Weider’s muscle magazine empire, which chronicled the physical culture movement sweeping across America following WWII. Bellas photographed some of the most important figures of this era; bodybuilders Steve Reeves, Ed Fury, and George Eiferman, as well as models such as Joe Dallesandro, Mark Nixon, and Brian Idol.


Physique Pictorial cover by Tom of Finland (1961).

Meanwhile, and a bit closer to home for me, the Contemporary Urban Centre in Liverpool has been running an exhibition of drawings by Tom of Finland, another very familiar name in the world of gay art and erotica. Twenty-five works are on display there until November 30th.

From Finland with lust | Mark Simpson looks at the artist’s legacy

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Philip Core and George Quaintance

Vintage swordplay #2


Even though I never really noticed before it’s become fairly obvious that adding a sword to a beefcake photo was a way of lending some spurious historicity to an otherwise overt piece of male nudity, the cheap version of having models pose among Greek or Roman ruins. Not that I’m complaining, of course. This example comes from Bob Anthony’s New York studio of the 1960s. Thanks to Aristan for the tip!

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The men with swords archive

Men with snakes


Laocoön and His Sons attributed to Agesander, Athenodoros
and Polydorus of Rhodes (c. 160–20 BCE).

No jokes about snakes in a frame, please. Bram Dijkstra’s Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin de Siècle Culture (1986) is a wide-ranging study of the “iconography of misogyny” in 19th century painting. Dijkstra examines the numerous ways that women were depicted in late Victorian and Symbolist art, with one chapter, “Connoisseurs and Bestiality and Serpentine Delights”, being devoted to representations of women with animals, especially snakes. The story of Eve and the Serpent prompts many of these latter images, of course, while scenes with other creatures seem intended to demonstrate the Victorian attitude that woman was closer to the brute beasts than man and could often be found conspiring with them to bring down her masculine masters. Continue reading “Men with snakes”

Philip Core and George Quaintance


A solidly gay day for secondhand books with the discovery of two relatively scarce items by gay artists. Philip Core is probably more well-known as a writer than a painter, author of The Original Eye: Arbiters of Twentieth Century Taste and the masterful Camp: The Lie that Tells the Truth (both 1984 and both out of print, unfortunately). His paintings predominantly feature unclothed men but present these in a far more painterly style than one usually sees from gay artists, the approach too often being a kind of kitsch photo-realism that tends towards soft (or hard) porn. A shame that this volume is rather battered as it seems to be a rare book. Core died of AIDS in 1989 but his paintings are still being bought and sold, gay art being one genre that never lacks for an audience.


The Bermuda Triangle by Philip Core (1982).

Continue reading “Philip Core and George Quaintance”