Mar 16, 2017

Men at an Anvil: Edwin Austin Abbey's Beefcake Art

This is "Men at an Anvil," one of the homoerotic paintings of the Gilded Age, now on display at the Yale University Art Gallery.  (the men are holding hammers, not hanging by their arms).

The artist, Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) was a Philadelphia illustrator before he moved to England and became involved with the pre-Raphaelite Movement.  Famous as a muralist, he received a commission in 1902 to paint murals for the Pennsylvania House and Senate Chambers and the Rotunda.

This study, completed 1904-1908, was for "The Spirit of Vulcan," a mural praising Pennsylvania industry.

Here's the version on the mural.

Abbey also did a study of naked miners or geologists for "Science Revealing the Secrets of the Earth," another mural in the Rotunda.

Here's the completed version.


Abbey was a friend of gay artist John Singer Sargent, who drew this portrait, and didn't marry until he was in his 40s.  Those facts would ordinarily set off my gaydar, except:

There is no other beefcake in Abbey's work, not a single bicep or chest anywhere.

Why he wait until his life was nearly over to express his joy in the male form?

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