Jun 14, 2014

Irv Docktor: The Power of the Male Form

Some of the my favorite childhood books were illustrated with striking, often frightening beefcake images.  Nude or semi-nude, muscular men at weird angles, merging into the objects around them or into the text itself, as if their potency was too strong and powerful to be contained by their bodies.

Science fiction like Robert Heinlein's Glory Road (1963), Podkayne of Mars (1963), Orphans of the Sky (1963), and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1963).

Horror anthologies like Great Ghost Stories (1962), Stories of Suspense (1963), Ghosts and More Ghosts (1963).

Boys' adventure like Benkei, the Boy Giant (Marjorie Fribourg, 1958) and  Bimo, Young Hero of Java (Marjorie Fribourg, 1958))

Christine Noble Govan's "Lookouts" kid-sleuth mysteries, such as Mystery at Fearsome Lake (1960)

William Goldman's gay-subtext Temple of Gold (1958) about a young man who is struggling to overcome his grief over the death of his buddy.

And classics like War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, and the novels of Herman Melville. 

Turns out that the artist was Irv Docktor (1918-2008, top photo), who was born and raised in Philadelphia, worked as briefly as a ballet dancer, served in World War II, and then moved to Fort Lee, New Jersey, where his surreal, psychologically-dense work was in demand during the neuroses-obsessed 1950s.

He illustrated books, magazines, record album covers, and the posters for Broadway plays such as the gay-themed Tea and Sympathy and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  Beginning in the 1960s, he concentrated on fine arts, with several exhibitions.

He maintained an interest in the ballet -- and in physical fitness -- throughout his life.

Probably not gay -- he was married with three children, and his paintings include an inordinate number of female nudes.  But he understood the power of the male form.

His daughter, B. (Barbara) Docktor, a "talented gay photographer for weddings, celebrations, portraits and photo art for your walls," has a very nice website full of her memories of her father in Fort Lee in the 1950s and 1960s.  

You can also buy prints of much of her fathers work.  

And hire her to be the photographer for your gay wedding.

See also: The Homoerotic Horror of Edgar Allan Poe.