penises in art

Penises in Art on the Unhung Heroes Tour

Penises in art are a bigger theme than you might think.  After all, what is the number one question people ask in the Greek and Roman collection of any museum?  There is no competition:  why the penises in Classical art are smaller than real-life average adult penises.  And the second is:  whether Christians really broke off the penises that are missing from so many male nude statues.

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LGBT trail

First LGBT trail in a US museum!

Over the last few years, several museums in Europe have organized an LGBT trail, i.e. a self-guided trail following LGBT themes through the museums’ collections.  The British Museum and the Prado are both prominent examples.  No museum in the US has ever put together such a trail until now, when the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford has launched one.  The trail, called “Out On View,” covers 16 artworks spread through the museum.

The Wadsworth has a particularly rich LGBT collection.  This is partly due to the influence of the Director in the 20’s-40’s, A, Everett “Chick” Austin.  Austin was an important member of the (closeted) LGBT art scene in pre-war New York.  He created a connection between the Wadsworth and a number of prominent LGBT artists of his day, while also purchasing a number of homoerotic works for the collection from earlier periods.  It is an ideal museum for America’s first LGBT trail.

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The Revolutionary War Hero Who Was Openly Gay

Gay men have always been part of the American military. In an era before gay marriage or open pride, military men fell in love, formed passionate friendships and had same-sex encounters same-sex encounters. Due to social and official discrimination, though, most of their stories have gone untold. But in the case of one of the military’s founding heroes, homosexuality was always part of the story.

Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian military man hired by George Washington to whip the Continental Army into shape during the darkest days of the Revolutionary War, is known for his bravery and the discipline and grit he brought to the American troops. Historians also think he was homosexual—and served as an openly gay man in the military at a time when sex between men was punished as a crime.

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gay history in Morocco

Gay history in Morocco and Southern Spain

Here is an interesting article about gay history in Tangier.  Oscar Wilde Tours would love to organize a tour to southern Spain and Morocco in 2017.  Southern Spain has a fascinatingly complex history, including a lot of gay history.  Rome’s gayest emperor, Hadrian (whose male lover Antinous appears in museums in New York, London, Paris, Rome, Delphi, etc.) was from a city called Italica, the ruins of which are near modern Seville.  Later on, there was a whole tradition of male-male poetry in Arab Spain, and sadly, the Inquisition was particularly active in southern Spain. As a result, Southern Spain’s lovely cities—Córdoba, Seville, and Granada—are a great place to learn about both tolerance and prosecution.  And Seville is also the setting for one of the all-time favorite operas, Bizet’s Carmen.  In fact, the once famous cigar factory (where Carmen works) is now the main building of the university.

And Morocco has a fabulous gay history as well.  A certain fluidity about sexuality in the native culture attracted a host of gay Western artists in the 19th and early 20th century.  As the article says:

“Morocco…has always been a nation where tolerance is practiced but not preached” As a result, “there was a time when Morocco was renowned as a haven for gay Americans and Britons, who fled restrictions in their own countries to take advantage of its relaxed atmosphere.  And “Tangier’s huge literary legacy…includes Jean Genet, Andre Gide, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal and Joe Orton, all of whom were gay or bisexual.”

Plus of course Morocco is gorgeous, with wonderful crafts and food, and….we would love to go there.  But of course the Arab world is far less tolerant than it was in the days of the Spanish Arab love poets.   Morocco is clearly the most stable, safest, and most tolerant Arab country left, but we would love to hear from our readers about their experiences there.

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Gay Heroes of Ancient Athens

While I was in Greece researching Oscar Wilde Tour’s 2016 Greece tour, I was following a great story from gay history: the story of the ancient Athenians’ favorite heroes—right up there with Theseus, the city’s mythical founder— Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the male-male couple who assassinated the brother of the last tyrant of Athens and whom the Athenians regarded as the founders of the democracy. It would be hard to exaggerate how honored these guys were in Athens.

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