Vintage eye candy


Tommies Bathing by John Singer Sargent (1918).

More discoveries from recent image trawls. There’s been plenty of speculation about the sexuality of John Singer Sargent—see here, for example—and this watercolour depiction of relaxing British soldiers would seem to be another of his works which confirms an enchantment with the male form. Lust aside, it’s a remarkable and typically assured sketch in a difficult medium.


Hermes by Will H. Low (1885).

Will Low’s Greek god is from an illustrated edition of Keats’ Lamia, a PDF of which can be found at the Internet Archive although the compression setting is so severe that the drawings are pretty much ruined throughout. This is how Microsoft and Google are safeguarding the world’s artistic heritage… The copy above comes via another Flickr set.


Also at, and far better quality, is another book illustrated by Will Low, In Arcady by Hamilton Wright Mabie, a rather insipid parable in a faux-Classical manner which gave the artist an opportunity to fill the pages with piping fauns and naked youths. It wouldn’t be fair to paint Low as another closet Uranian like Sargent solely on account of this handful of drawings; for now he can remain a further victim of our salacious modern sensibilities.

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John Osborne’s Dorian Gray


I wrote recently about John Selwyn Gilbert’s television play, Aubrey, an hour-long drama concerning the artist Aubrey Beardsley. The play was only screened once in 1982 and, like most one-off studio works of the period, is unavailable on DVD. John Osborne’s 1976 adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray is a welcome exception to this neglect and can be acquired in a box set along with three BBC productions of Wilde’s plays and a more recent Wilde documentary.

The stage plays are decent enough although the cast in the 1952 film version of The Importance of Being Earnest takes some beating. Dorian Gray is for me the essential work in the collection, even if its 100-minute running time cuts the story to the bone. The principal attraction in an entirely studio-bound work with few actors is the leads, and for this we have two great performances from John Gielgud as Lord Henry and Jeremy Brett as artist Basil Hallward. The tragic Dorian is played by Peter Firth who has difficulty keeping up with these heavyweights, especially in the later scenes when the story concentrates more fully on his predicament. Matters aren’t helped by his Yorkshire accent which frequently rises to the surface in a manner that would surely raise eyebrows in Mayfair drawing rooms.


Lord Henry & Basil Hallward admire the portrait.

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