Wednesday 20 September 2017

All hands manfully to the ship's gushing pumps: Henry Tuke and Mrs Peggy

I've just found out that artist Henry S Tuke's (self-portrait, left) image of men manfully manning the ships' pump has been discussed as a maritime narrative that can be read homo-erotically. See yesterday's blog here about a woman, Peggy X doing it so staunchly.

Jongwoo Jeremy Kim devotes several pages to Tuke's 'All hands to the pumps!' in Painted Men in Britain, 1868-1918: Royal Academicians and Masculinities, Ashgate Publishing, 2012.

'The sensuality in this brotherhood of seamen 'is suggested in the action of pumping as well as the water gushing out from the pipes' Kim writes on p103

Kim also discusses The run home (1902) from a homo-erotic point of view:'the Cornish fisher-lads are celebrated as heroes who restore the beauty of the male sex, and a homo-erotic gaze is encouraged as a an aesthetic virtue. Tuke's naturalism capturing "views of labour" must be understood in this context of love between men.' p107.

So what does it mean, symbolically, for Peggy (this short, non-beauteous female outsider) and for the limp-spirited sailors who she allegedly showed up by pumping so much better than them? Can she be read as inadvertently causing a crisis of masculinity and queering a proud, formerly all-male team's collective gendered identity?

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