Henry Scott Tuke born 12 June 1858 (d. 1929)
In the late 1880s, British artist Henry Scott Tuke became part of a circle of poets and writers who wrote about and discussed the beauty of male youth. Tuke's paintings typically celebrate male beauty, as well as the artist's lifelong love of the sea, swimming, and sailing.
After studying art at the Slade school of Art and in Paris [where he met American painter John Singer Sargent], Tuke met Oscar Wilde in the 1880s and developed connections with the Uranian poets and writers who celebrated the adolescent male.
He wrote a sonnet to youth that was published anonymously in the journal The Artist and also contributed an essay to The Studio, another journal that published Uranian verse and essays.
After returning from Paris moved to Newlyn in Cornwall and eventually Tuke settled in near Falmouth Bay in 1885. He converted his boat into a floating studio and living quarters where he could pose his models and entertain his friends in private. Although he was also an accomplished portraitist with a separate London career - he painted a well-known portrait of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) - most of his works depict young men who swim, dive, and lounge on a boat or on the beach.
Tuke's paintings of nude youths illustrate sensual, rather than sexual, feelings. They are not explicit either in the relationships they describe or in the details of the body.
In his day, he was a successful portrait artist but the subject matter of his other work limited his appeal to 'specialist' collectors, although girl-paintings were in the popular mainstream. Today, he would probably be considered 'suspect', but his beautiful work actually speaks more of beauty, innocence and freshness both of subject and in technique.
Tuke did well enough from his painting to be able to travel abroad, painting in France, Italy and the West Indies. In 1900 a banquet was held in his honour at the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1914.
He died after a long illness in 1929, in Falmouth. After his death Tuke's reputation faded, and he was largely forgotten until the 1970s, when he was rediscovered by a new generation of openly gay artists and art collectors. He has since become something of a cult figure in gay cultural circles, with lavish editions of his paintings published and his works fetching high prices at auctions.
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