The Classical alibi in physique photography


Stowitts photographed by Nickolas Muray.

The title is from two gallery pages at the Queer Arts Resource which runs through a history of the old subterfuge whereby homoerotic pictures were decorated to look suitably Greek or Roman. This seldom fooled anyone, even in Oscar Wilde’s day, but it no doubt helped to keep the studios out of the law courts. Amid the plaster columns and antique props there’s a card I hadn’t seen before promoting dancer and artist Hubert Stowitts whose role as a satyr is one of the most memorable moments in Rex Ingram’s 1926 film of The Magician.


Jim Galahad.

Also at Queer Arts is a copy of The Dying Gaul with a model who’s in the peak of health and a lot more well-hung than most Greek sculptures.


This picture is something I found ages ago on a lost web page and now have a tenuous reason to post here. What looks like erotica is actually a fashion shoot (and he’s wearing swimming trunks) but it shows how the Classical mode persists. He looks like he wants to see more of Jim’s sword…

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive
The men with swords archive

The art of Hubert Stowitts, 1892–1953


Left: Stowitts photgraphed by Nickolas Muray, 1922.

Hubert Julian Stowitts had a number of careers, including dancer, film actor, painter, designer and metaphysician. As a dancer he worked with Anna Pavlova, who discovered him in California in 1915 and took him on tour around the world. His statuesque figure was used by Rex Ingram for the infernal scenes in The Magician (1926), an adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s rather limp roman-à-clef based on the exploits of Aleister Crowley. The scene with Stowitts as a satyr owed nothing to the book, however, being more inspired by the director’s fondness for the tales of Arthur Machen. Most photos that turn up from this film show Stowitts rather than Paul Wegener who played the sinister alchemist of the title.

Stowitt’s painting developed in the 1930s and included a series of 55 paintings of nude (male) athletes for the 1936 Olympics (see Ewoud Broeksma’s contemporary equivalents at Other paintings depicted dance scenes, costume designs, people encountered during travels in the Far East and, in the 1950s, a series of ten Theosophist pictures entitled The Atomic Age Suite.


Prince Suwarno in Mahabarata role (1928).


Briggs Hunt and William Golden (1936).


The Crucifixion in Space (1950).

The Stowitts Museum and Library
Stowitts at the Queer Arts Resource

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Nicholas Kalmakoff, 1873–1955