So in the end I decided to post all the material I found on George Quaintance, dividing the post in 6 part, everyone following a different period of Quaintance's life. As biographal reference, I will use the bio posted by John D. Waybright on GLBTQ; Waybright is also writing an official biography of Quaintance coauthoring with Ken Furtado.
1940 - 1951 (1 of 6)
The Crusader, 1943
Kanaka Fisherman, 1940
Stephen Barclay, 1940
Havasu Creek, 1948
Kanaka Fisherman, 1949
After the Storm, 1951
In the Arms of Morpheus, 1951
Night in the Desert, 1951
Noise in the Night, 1951
Young Stallion, 1951
Although now obscure, George Quaintance was one of the most influential figures in a unique American style of art and one of the most flamboyant and interesting gay characters for four decades of the twentieth century.
Though few people outside the gay world know it, Quaintance was a pioneer of male physique painting. This genre heralded a new American gay consciousness in the early 1950s.
Born June 3, 1902, in the tiny rural community of Page County, Virginia, Quaintance left home to study art in New York City in 1920. At age 18, he began studies at the prestigious Art Students League, which counted Georgia O'Keeffe among its graduates. His teachers included Ashcan School founder Robert Henri and the Polish-born American expressionist Max Weber.
Quaintance's drawing and painting soon took second place among his multiple artistic interests, however. He became enamored of the ballet and other dance forms. He studied with some of the great Russian émigré ballet dancers then in New York.
By 1928, Quaintance led classical and jazz dance instruction with friend and teacher, Sonia Serova. He also danced with a touring vaudeville group, the Collegiates. Quaintance's dance obsession led to a startling twist in his life. When his dance partner, Frances Craig, became ill, he met Miriam Chester, a classically trained ballerina. They formed a "professional partnership" and in August 1929, they married.
Both the marriage and partnership were short-lived. By July 4, 1930, Quaintance was pictured in the Washington Evening Star with a new partner, listed only by her first name, Karen.
From his teen years, Quaintance was obviously and actively homosexual. However, he was quite discreet and totally closeted among family, friends, and adoring fans in his native Virginia, repeating a pattern then quite common of gay men who left home in order to lead a homosexual life. During the 1930s and early 1940s, Quaintance often returned to Page County to direct musical revues and stage presentations using local talent.
In 1938, he spent an extended time in his hometown with his new lover, a handsome young native Puerto Rican named Victor Garcia. Garcia became the artist's model, life partner, and business associate until Quaintance's untimely death, despite the coming and going of several other handsome young Hispanic lovers.
Women, in general, sparked the next unexpected phase in the artist's career. An article in Quaintance's hometown newspaper in 1938 boasted that he was "acclaimed as America's foremost coiffure designer." In addition, the artist had turned his formidable talents to all sorts of popular design--stage sets, elegant interiors, department store windows on New York's Fifth Avenue, women's makeup, and, most notably, hair designs.
He created elaborate hairdos for Gloria Swanson, Jeannette MacDonald, Lily Pons, dozens of other Hollywood stars, New York socialites, and the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. His styles, some adapted for the heads of his male models, created beauty-parlor sensations across America as the 1930s ended.
In January 1939, an article in Picture and Gift Journal declared the artist's paintings of female figures " 'glamour nudes' who have all it takes to 'knock 'em dead' . . . ." In fact, the artist's most startling "glamour nudes" were still on the horizon and they were not females.
Before Quaintance turned to his hallmark erotic representations of male nudes, he earned a reputation as a portrait artist of the rich and famous, including Washington, D. C. diplomats, Hollywood luminaries, and other notables.
To pursue this new direction, Quaintance and Garcia had moved to the West coast around 1948. After a few years in Los Angeles, they set up a studio in Phoenix, Arizona sometime in the early 1950s.
In 1951, Quaintance was among the leaders in the new publishing phenomenon that photographers like Lon Hanagan had foreshadowed in the 1940s.
The very first cover illustration for Bob Mizer's pioneering magazine, Physique Pictorial, was a painting by Quaintance of a near nude youth astride a galloping stallion, a shocking new image of "the perfect man." For the next six years, the artist was prominently featured in Physique Pictorial.
One of the first of the iconic masterpieces, Night in the Desert--1951, portrays a reclining nude cowboy, well-honed musculature gleaming in the moonlight and blond hair perfectly coiffed. He is proffering a lighted match to a cigarette in the mouth of the dark handsome youth lying next to him, suggesting a shared post-coital moment. In the background, two equally hyper-masculine cowboys face each other clad only in Levis, legs provocatively spread.
1952 (2 of 6)
1953 (3 of 6)
1954-1956 (4 of 6)
1957 (5 of 6)
Afterword (6 of 6)