To quote the English writer E.M. Forster, the story of the LGBTQIA+ community is “a great unrecorded History.” Largely erased, remnants survive in meaningful glances, rare documents, and powerful visual testimonies that the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco treasure, preserve, and celebrate as part of a common history. While great progress has been made in the last few decades—most significantly with the gay-liberation movement, the legalization of marriage between same-sex partners in many countries, and the prosecution of hate crimes—up until very recent times relationships between two people of the same sex was (and, in many countries, still is) considered illegal.
In celebration of this year’s Pride Month, we would like to share a selection of works from the Museums’ collection that shed light on private moments of male same-sex intimacy. While justly normalized today, such depictions of tender acts were incredibly radical at the time of their conception and charged with powerful political meanings of love, freedom, and pride.
Jean Cocteau, “Lover Asleep” (1936)
A towering figure of the Dada and Surrealist movements of the twentieth century, Jean Cocteau (1889–1963) was hugely influential for European avant-gardes, thanks to an impressive body of work that included poems, films, paintings, decorative arts, set designs, and art criticism. While his work as a draftsman is somewhat lesser known, it is incredibly relevant to understanding Cocteau’s epic life and the making of his mythic character.