This book carefully considers the myriad and complex relationships between queer male masculinity and interior design, material culture and aesthetics in Britain between 1885 and 1957 - that is bachelors of a different sort - through rich, well-chosen case studies. It pays close attention to particular homes and domestic interiors of Lord Ronald Gower, Alfred Taylor, Oscar Wilde, Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, Edward Perry Warren and John Marshall, Sir Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, Noel Coward and Cecil Beaton. The book underscores the discursive history and conceptual parameters of the bachelor as these collided with queer sexualities through social and cultural perceptions. It focuses on the seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor: queerness, idolatry, decadence, askesis, decoration, glamour, and finally, artifice. The seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor comprise a contested site freighted with contradiction, vacillating between and revealing the fraught and distinctly queer twining of shame and resistance. Together the furniture and collections that filled Gower's Windsor home compel us to search out the narratives that bric-a-brac at once enliven and expose well beyond the shadows of the endless and meaningless accumulation that late Victorians were said to been have afflicted by.
Richly illustrated with over 110 colour and black and white images, the book
productively contests the supposedly exclusive feminine aspect of the style
moderne (art deco). It explores how alternative, parallel and overlapping
experiences and expressions of decorative modernism, nationalism, gender and
sexuality in the heady years surrounding World War I converge in the protean
figure of the deco dandy. As such, the book significantly departs from and
corrects the assumptions and biases that have dominated scholarship on and
popular perceptions of art deco. The book outlines how designed products and
representations of and for the dandy both existed within and outwith normative
expectations of gender and sexuality complicating men’s relationship to consumer
culture more broadly and the moderne more specifically. Through a sustained
focus on the figure of the dandy, the book offers a broader view of art deco by
claiming a greater place for the male body and masculinity in this history than
has been given to date. The mass appeal of the dandy in the 1920s was a way to
redeploy an iconic, popular and well-known typology as a means to stimulate
national industries, to engender a desire for all things made in France.
Important, essential and productive moments in the history of the cultural life
of Paris presented in the book are instructive of the changing role performed by
consumerism, masculinity, design history and national identity.
Commissioned from Greek craftsmen in 1-20 CE by a Roman client, the infamous so-called Warren Cup is a rare silver Roman skyphos depicting explicit sex acts. The cup acquired its name from its first modern owner, Bostonian collector, antiquarian and Uranian writer Edward Perry Warren who likely acquired the crowning glory of his collection around 1911. This chapter explores the 'cognitive maps' the spaces of Lewes House enabled as well as the apologetic writings found in A Defence of Uranian Love, and discusses how Uranian bachelors might have used the domestic realm as the site for the performance of a modern identity made possible through the practices of askesis. At the heart of what constituted the beau idéal for Warren was a sort of masculine minimalism, a decidedly ascetic antidote to the perceived frivolity of the feminine and the degeneracy warned against following the Wilde trials.
Cedric Morris, Arthur Lett-Haines and the decorative ideal
The young Cedric Morris moved to Paris where, in 1914, he attended the Academie Delacluse located in the centre of bohemian life in Montparnasse. This chapter explores Cedric Morris's unique and divergent modernism, which began while in Paris; a modernism that cavorted with abandon with the decorative, long held as anathema to the manly heroism modernist critics and historians have honoured and privileged and continue to do. Arthur Lett-Haines believed firmly in Morris's abilities and declared 'that next to Matisse, Cedric was the finest colourist' of the twentieth century. The chapter is concerned with the distance (both emotional and physical) that develops, rather than simply and only the proximity that flourishes in a sustained intimate relationship. It suggests that there are other sides to relationships, ones that can teach us much, perhaps even more about the material and visual cultures of bachelors of a different sort.
Interwar glamour and the performances of a queer modernity
This chapter shows the affect of glamour on the relationship between identity and the interior through the auspices of theatre and lived spaces. It necessarily moves back and forth between life and design on and off the stage; after all, interiors from the 1920s and 1930s constructed a 'stage-set modernism'. Interwar glamour was not simply a product of entertainment, but equally one of design, or perhaps more appropriately of a design for modern living. Not without contradiction and a heavy dose of shame, Noël Coward's modernity was akin to a new generation of continental architects who viewed homosexuality as deviant and dirty, best set in relief and exposed against the whitewashed walls of modern interiors. Set against this background Coward nevertheless provided his generation with a decidedly queer display of glamour, a quality more often than not associated with the feminine.
This chapter charts a man's fraught and tense place within the home and underscores the discursive history and conceptual parameters of the bachelor as these collided with queer sexualities through social and cultural perceptions. It aims to align the fraught terrain (sexual and otherwise) of the queer bachelor, that is, bachelors of a different sort, with ideals of material culture and the domestic realm. The chapter elucidates what the author identify as the seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor, terms which simultaneously mark sites of derision and shame and sources of empowerment and liberation, antagonistic forces in the experience and expressions of embodiment. The seven deadly sins (lust, envy, gluttony, greed, wrath, pride and sloth), as they were conceived in early Christendom, are seen as the origins of all other sin. The chapter explores the first and deadliest of sins, queerness.
Lord Gower, idolatry and the cult of the bric-à-brac diva
This chapter seeks to question what exists beyond the, at times, obviousness of the homoerotic and the restrictive associations attributed to what might constitute a truly queer collection and domestic design. It focuses on the writings, interiors and collections of Lord Gower. The chapter briefly entertains important diversions into the early aesthetic theories and domestic practices of Oscar Wilde, initiated while a student at Magdalen College and developed in the first residence he took up with Frank Miles in Tite Street. Gower performed and understood these ideals on his own terms; his alternative masculinity embodied a life-world in which bric-à-brac and idolatry, specifically the diva worship of the tragic heroine, conspicuously diverged from the social perceptions and cultural expectations of the preferred performances of masculinity premised on heroism, militarism and chivalric idealism.
Charles Ricketts, Charles Shannon and the Wilde factor
This chapter seeks to uncover the material traces of identity by que(e)rying how the perception and performances of masculinity intersects with domesticity at a time when the two were said to be incompatible. It continues the exploration of Wilde as a shadow figure in the lives of these two men at a particularly fraught and ultimately decisive moment in the Irish poet and playwright's life. By including Wilde in the discussion, the chapter also seeks to problematize the relationship between Aestheticism, the interior and sexuality as worked out through Charles Ricketts's own tense and complicated relationship with Wilde. The impact of Ricketts and Charles Shannon's numerous homes together is made tangible in both the contemporary and posthumous accounts of the theorists, painters, critics and poets whose lives were touched by these two formidable aesthetes.
Celebrated photographer, diarist and stage and costume designer Cecil Beaton was consumed by other peoples' interiors, the way they lived and the manner through which they staged the spaces of their notoriety and creative work. Artificiality, artifice and affectation infected in varied ways Beaton's fascination with the interior, principally produced within him through the sheer joy and genuine appreciation of thoughtful workmanship and the art and refinement of taste. Noël Coward self-consciously performed, Beaton had the courage to go public with his resistance, to place front and centre his effeminacy, artifice and sexual otherness within the public domain. Through the culturally burdened notion of taste, men like Beaton threatened the modernizing zeal of the new century. In the exercise of their taste in objects and interiors, queer men reinforced, even if unwittingly, stereotypes they were burdened with, stereotypes loaded with fear and loathing.
What makes the men in this book exceptional and compelling is that they dared to appropriate normative codes of domesticity to forge a material culture and design aesthetic toward distinctly queer ends. If one's identity is circumscribed by laws and amendments then queer designs, purchases, decorations, patterns, movements, bodily inscriptions and certainly sexual appetites are often viewed as excessive, that is, in excess of the law that binds and defines them. Queers are always placed in a position of having to justify their actions, often perceived to be excessive or their experiences deemed too particularized, unable to suggest or support a supposed and often privileged universal experience. The descriptive interiors explored in this book are all unique and different, while all remaining positively queer.