Wednesday 21 December 2011

Images of transgressive sailors

When I was at the Edward Burra exhibition in Chichester last month (it's still on) I thought some of the very curvaceous and transgressive images of seafarers looked familiar in style. He definitely knew about trannies, but was he the first to visually comment on seafarers' sexuality?

I thought not, and now I've come across some paintings of mariners that seem to precede his. Try this 1929 painting by Austrian artist Marcel Ronay (lower image), 'Sailor and Girl'.(I found the image at Thank you, Barbara).

Surfing for more info about Ronay led to me another site where you will find many Weimar artists' images of 'sailors', of the kind not usually seen in maritime museums, for example Charles Demuth's 1918 'Sailors dancing' (centre).

Their sexualisation in these images is quite startling. It's easy to see the connections with Tom of Finland (see top picture, Seen Magazine, 'Tom arrives home') and his masculine gay men. Real name Touko Laaksonen, the late Tom's internationally acclaimed exhibition at Turku just closed 4 days ago. It was one of the official events in Turku's European Capital of Culture programme.

However the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art and the Åbo Akademi Library want to gather permanent collections of his work).

There is certainly room in the world for a maritime museum to show this very different angle on rugged Sailor Jack.

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