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).


And speaking of kitsch…. George Quaintance (1902-1957) was a pioneer of a variety of beefcake erotica that isn’t particularly to my taste but which today looks distinctly…quaint? Also distinctly old-fashioned since most of his men have Burt Lancaster quiffs, even the alleged Spartans towelling themselves on this book jacket. The reproductions in the book, an 1989 exhibition catalogue from the Janssen Gallery, Berlin, are all black and white which means that much of the atmosphere of the originals is lost. But it does contain several pages of Quaintance’s magazine covers and period ads for his work.


Siesta by George Quaintance (1952).

Quaintance’s world is a largely female-free dreamscape of perfectly-muscled glamour boys showing their bodies to one another but never doing anything so salacious as kissing. This is a utopia of good clean fun and fifty years ago was more than enough to pack an erotic charge for men starved of homoerotic imagery. From our perspective today it looks rather innocent; even the bulges in their jeans are restrained by comparison with the later excesses of Tom of Finland. All the stereotypes from magazines like Physique Pictorial (which featured Quaintance’s work) are in place: cowboys, sailors, matadors, historical scenes of masters and slaves. Quaintance adopts the same tricks as Weird Tales cover artist Margaret Brundage, showing us as much naked flesh as possible but always ensuring that a shadow, wisp of smoke or trail of cloth falls across the forbidden area (this also ensures that your eye is drawn to that very place). Many of his scenes could almost be masculine versions of Brundage’s often vague illustrations for the pulps, a number of which caused a stir among the fantasy readers of the Thirties with their lesbian-inflected displays of bondage and whippings. Quaintance has an equivalent series of pictures showing naked men valiantly struggling with serpents or demons in scenes reminiscent of the superior (if robustly heterosexual) Frank Frazetta.


Hercules by George Quaintance (1957).

Unlike Philip Core, Quaintance is well-represented on the web. And should you require it, Taschen reprinted the whole run of Physique Pictorial.

Official A Quaintance site
A gallery of Quaintance art
George Quaintance at

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34 thoughts on “Philip Core and George Quaintance”

  1. Hi John

    i thought of you when i first saw this clip, I am not yet very familier with the works of H P Lovecraft (between you and Glycon loving his work i will certainly end up delving deeper soon). this clip is nice. serene. a little menacing.

    I would be interested in what you think.

    walker samuel

    from here:

  2. Thanks, received your email about this as well. Was going to look at it this weekend as I’ve had a very busy week finishing off some work.

  3. fair enough john, i am aware that many email address’ listed on blog sites are either fake, not often checked, or out of date, or have over zealous spam filters (often with good reason). not sure why i thought yours might fit into one of those categories, but i thought i better mention it here so that i can safely know the message got sent.

  4. I must say that while Core paints a nice picture, Quaintance is much more amusing. His kitschy illustrations tempt one to turn them into strange collages, although I doubt I’d go so far as to buy a book on him to do it.

  5. As the co-author of a soon-to-be-published comprehensive George Quaintance biography, I was interested in your review of the artists’ work. I must agree with most of your assessments, particularly your comment about the black-and-white reproductions in the Janssen book. Quaintance’s forte may have been his use of brilliant colors in an almost surrealistic representation of the male physique.

    I must point out that there is no “official” GQ website. The one you cite is a commercial website produced by persons who obtained some of the original color prints and negatives of Quaintance works. The text on the website was written by my co-author, Ken Furtado, of Phoenix, and myself. Likewise, the gallery website leans strongly on our writings and research. I wrote the GLBTQ Encyclopedia article from original research conducted over the past eight years and provided original photographs and art to illustrate the article.

    In sincerely doubt Quaintance was even vaguely inspired by Margaret Brundage’s magazine cover art. Long before Ms. Brundage entered the commercial art scene, Quaintance was producing art works far superior to hers.

    John Waybright
    607 7th Avenue
    Luray, VA 22835

  6. Thanks John, I’ve amended the link above.

    You misconstrue my comment about Margaret Brundage. I was only using her as an example of another artist from around the same period using a similar range of techniques to coyly guard against any genital (or in her case, nipple) exposure. I wouldn’t imagine he’d be influenced by her work at all.

  7. As Philip Core’s sister I am glad to see this page. If any of you have any lively anecdotes to enliven a book that I am writing about him ~ please respond.


  8. I still remember July 4th, 1976 at the Bromberg Meadow in Dallas and the silkscreen print Philip did announcing the event. I still have it. Marguerite: I think the last time I talked to you was 20 years ago when I move to New York and you had allready been here 10 years.

  9. I was a friend of Philip and have several of his paintings. I am also trying to get some interest for an exhibition of his work. It is great news to hear that his Sister is writing a book about Philip.


  10. Hello Marguerite

    I am interested in the progresss you have made with the book you are writing on your brother Philip. I live in Australia and own four of your brother’s paintings.

    Best wishes

    Bill Mason

  11. Dear John, For a long time I have been trying to trace the work of Phillip Core. He was a very interesting, magnetic man – I was lucky enough to meet him and be painted by him in the early 1980’s. He did the poster for a production of HAMLET for the RSC in which I played the title role. There is a painting – on several panels – in the book called “Around Hamlet” – that was a result of our friendship – though I’m the subject I dare to think it very beautiful; I’ve always wished to locate more of these paintings. I’m so pleased a remembrance and interest in his work goes on. I am glad, too, that his sister, Margaurte, is writing a book about him. I’d very much like to be in touch with you both; indeed anyone who remembers Phillip.
    Roger Rees.

  12. Hi Roger. The paintings in the book above are the only ones I’d seen until I searched online. There’s a couple more listed at the Adonis Art Gallery (where they seem to have swiped my words…hmm). I was thinking of his work again recently reading reviews of Brideshead Revisited since one of his paintings depicts the death of Lord Marchmain.

    You’re welcome to email me although I’m afraid I really don’t know any more about Philip Core than what’s written here.

    Also, if anyone still wants to speak to Marguerite Core (or vice versa) I can pass on emails privately. I won’t publish email addresses here without permission for obvious reasons.

  13. Dear John Coulthart
    I wonder if you can help. I’m writing a book for Thames & Hudson on 1970s art, architecture, fashion and design. I’ve read about Philip Core and was hoping to include an image of his work in the book, but don’t know anyone who might be able to help with this. I’m particularly interested in the pictures of his 20s idols, Colette, Dighahilev and Noel Coward. It would be good if his work could be documented in a book like this.
    Francis Kyle gallery, who put on a show of his work in the 70s, has no images of his work. If you can recommend anyone I could get in touch with about this, this would be great.
    I hope to hear from you. Best wishes, Dominic Lutyens/ phone: 07967 633507

  14. Nice work. Thanks for letting me discover these erotic yet beautifull and artistic representations of the male body.

  15. Hi John and others,

    I have the Painting “The Gold Slave” the subject is Dighahilev and Nijinsky. I will give you a call Dominic. I have several of Philip’s paintings including the Haunted Ballroom, Consular Families, Dail and Schaparelli, the first version of Rum Bum and Wind up Gramophone,which are mainly in London and happy to show them to anyone interested.

    Roger, I think I know where there is one of the Panels.

    Also the Composer Patrick Nunn has written, as tribute to Philip,a work called Hextych.

    Edward Lynch

  16. Thanks, Edward, I didn’t know that about Patrick Nunn. The rather battered book of Philip’s paintings which inspired this post includes a version (doesn’t say which one) of Rum, Bum and Wind-Up Gramophone.

    It also includes his lavish depiction of Lord Marchmain’s death bed from Brideshead Revisited. Having recently re-watched the TV series I was disappointed that the TV version failed to match the gloomy splendour of Philip’s painting.

  17. This may all be a little late but I knew Philip Core very well and have a number of his paintings. I also made a film about him for the BBC. I would love to talk to Marguerite Core if it is still relevant so please do pass my details on

  18. This is to Roger Rees.

    I have the original painting that Philip made for your “Hamlet” poster. If you want to make contact and see it and so on please do get in contact

  19. Hi John and all others,

    I have, somewhere, some posters of The Death Bed (Brideshead Revisted) and as soon as I find them, I am happy to send you one.
    Also, if you contact me by email, I can send you a copy of Philip’s portrait of me.
    If anyone wants to get in touch with me my email address is ”

    I really hope that we could all get together to remember Philip. 19 years ago, on 25th January 1989, I was invited to ” an event to celebrate the Life and Works of Philip Core” at Leighton House.

  20. Dear John, I’ve just discovered that Christopher Swann has one of the Phillip Core portraits of me as Hamlet is it at all possible that you, or one of the contributors can lead me to contact with SChristopher. I’d very much like to see the portrait.
    Great site, so beautiful.
    Thanks you, ROGER REES

  21. Hi John,
    Thanks for your thoughts on Philips Core’s work on your blog. I have wrangled Philip’s estate for almost twenty years. Philip’s work has gone through quite a few twists and turns. I have worked with a few galleries and had three shows in England. I am currently talking to a US gallery about another show. I have a very large body of his work (including Roger Rees paintings) stored in Los Angeles. I’d love to show a true retrospective of his work someday.

    I’m also working on a database of all of Philip’s known artwork. I have tried to match photos of artwork with titles and shows but there is not a lot to go on.

    I am particularly interested in information about his sculptural work. Philip spent quite a lot of time discussing his three dimensional work with me before he passed away. I have photos of quite a few pieces but I don’t know much more about them.

    If anyone has information about Philip’s work or wants to be posted with show information please feel free to email me.

    Mason Core

  22. Dear Mason Core,
    I’d love to be kept up to date with any opportunity of seeing Philip’s work. He was a wonderful man to know.
    Also, would it be possible to see any of the work you have, were I in LA? I am going to be working down in San Diego in August. John, of course, together with Christopher Swann and Edward Lynch have been very helpful too.
    Mr. Core has quite a fan club going on.
    Roger Rees

  23. I’m always impressed with my brothers many fascinating friends and fans. Quite a few people have contacted me with a “Philip” story to tell over the last twenty years. Philip left hundreds of slides of paintings to puzzle over without dates, titles or show information. If you have some of his works of art or a “Philip” story I’d love to share information with you.

    Mason Core

    Please feel free to email me at

  24. Philip was a great friend of mine in junior high school at St Martins Episcopal School in Metarie, Louisiana. He was my best friend for 3 years. We would go the the french quarter and wander around most of a day and have a great time. We even go mugged together by some thugs and were able to laugh it off. We even ran alemonade stand together one summer and we put up a sign that said “If Cleopatra Loved it So will You. We sold out. He helped me thru some hard times back then and became a great friend. I think I always knew he was gay, when Gay wasn’t cool, but that did not change my feelings or attitude about him. I will always remember him as a great friend. I wich I could have seen him as an adult, but we lost touch. I wonder if he ever went to Harvard University and if he ever lost his interest in the work of a wonderful artist,Aubrey Beardsly.

  25. Hi John and Others,

    I have still not found the Posters, but I know I have them.
    Richard, Philip graduated from Harvard cum laude. You can get the book mentioned above and Camp (resently reprinted) on ebay and other online sites. My email is mentioned above, so it would be good to hear from you.
    Although mainly in England, I have spent most of this year in Houston, Texas.
    I am still trying to get Philip an exhibition in the UK.

    Best wishes to all for happy days and holidays.


  26. I was the Publisher of various gay mags in the 1970s – Him Exclusive was our main title – and got to know Philip when he painted various set designs for our male nude photo sessions, and then some “dungeon style” wall-paintings in the basement of our leather shop in Old Brompton Road. This store was very short-lived, but we had the occasional coffee in the Troubadour nearby and gossiped. I recall he spent a lot of time making life-size painted wooden cut-outs of the members of a London football team. Arsenal or Tottenham possibly, with the intention of getting sponsorship. I think this project was abandoned, though I may be wrong. He was living at 18 Holland Park at the time, across the hall from our house-photographer Alan Purnell. A lovely sharp wit . . . he could see the ridiculous aspect of any situation.

  27. Thanks for turning me on the work of this amazing man, Philip Core. I have found all three out of print books of his work, both fine art and print and am astounded at his breadth of vision. I consider the Camp book to be an undiscovered masterpiece of curatorial esprit. Philip’s paintings are unusual and erotic. Haunting and slightly disturbing but with a languid beauty as well. In his writing he seems resentful of Hockney who was the chosen gay painter (besides Warhol who counts less as a painter than a multimediast) of the day, probably because he felt superior to his talents. I like Hockney’s work but its not as visceral as Core’s, although his paintings are not all equally successful. There is no doubt this man still had much to do at the time of his unfortunate death. It would be wonderful to see more examination of his legacy.

  28. The painting of the lifeguards was done for me and the opening of my restaurant Speedo 690 in 1990 in San Francisco. Philip stayed with me while a similar huge project of Bondi Beach paintings were done on site.

  29. i was great friend of Philip Coe in New Orleans growing up We went to the same school and I cared for Philip greatly. I suspected he was gay back then, but I didn’t care. He a[was great friend when I needed one and we used to send many an hour wandering around the French Quarter. Back hen he was a fantastic artist at he age of 13-17 and was a big fan of Aubrey Beardsly. I emember is Parents and bother nd sister well. I thought Marguerite was beautiful back then. Jst in case you doubt me Marguerite Philip and I went to St.Martins School in Metairie,La; I especially remember Marguerite and would love to talk to her again. My best th her and Maison.

    Richard Buck
    Coloado Springs.Co

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