7 Overlooked Queer Paintings That Deserve The Spotlight

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Famous Queer Paintings That Changed History

Art has long been a powerful means of expressing the many aspects of human experience — and the celebration of queer love is no exception. Take a look at some of the famous queer paintings that have been overlooked.

Throughout history, countless artists have made it a point to defy the status quo and societal norms just to create a piece that embraced same-sex relationships. Created with affection in mind, these seven classical queer paintings are an ode to love.

Queer art is constantly changing, always beautiful, and it has no limits. It welcomes diverse identities and amplifies LGBTQ+ voices through all different styles and techniques.

Queer people have used art to better understand themselves and the world around them. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, David Hockney, and Keith Haring are just a few pioneers who brought this inclusive evolution to life.

Are you ready to explore some of the famous queer art that will give you a warm feeling at your core? Let’s go!

Related: 6 Famous Paintings About Emotions That Will Make You Cry

7 Famous Queer Paintings That Changed History

1. Simeon Solomon, ‘Sappho And Erinna In A Garden At Mytilene’ (1864)

7 Famous Queer Paintings That Changed History

One of the most important artists of the Victorian avant-garde, Simeon Solomon was undone by his sexuality, which led to prison and ruin. But in “Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene,” he made a joyous manifesto for queer love.

Commitment, music, poetry, divine benediction, and the security of a garden are all painted together here to suggest that even if life is hard now, there’s another spring up ahead.

2. David Hockney’s ‘Going to be a Queen for Tonight’ (1960)

In Hockney’s abstract masterpiece “Going to be a Queen for Tonight,” created in early 1960s London, the artist played with and against “queening” as an ongoing performative trope.

Scrawled words and numbers sit alongside and break apart an unmistakable depiction of the Queen herself, distorted so much she could no longer occupy her traditional role. This work also highlights the fluidity of identity as developed in Susan Sontag’s oft-cited notions on “Camp.”

3. Duncan Grant’s ‘Paul Roche Reclining’ (1945)

Duncan Grant, a Bloomsbury artist, used sensual freedom to paint the male body with his characteristic vibrant Post-Impressionist color scheme. ‘Paul Roche Reclining’ forces you to look at it.

There’s a provocative arch of the model’s back and splayed legs. Even though the artist had a difficult personal life, and Roche became a Catholic priest, Grant was willing to explore desire even if it made others uncomfortable.

4. Keith Vaughan’s ‘Drawing of Two Men Kissing’ (1958-73)

Keith Vaughan’s pencil drawing “Drawing of Two Men Kissing” is historically significant and radical in its simplicity. Rare in European queer art history, this delicate line sketch makes a passionate embrace between two men visible.

Created during one decade of fear and finished during another of liberation, the black-edged drawings hint at the looming AIDS crisis nearly 20 years before it actually hit.

5. Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, “Sappho and Alcaeus” (1836-1912)

If you’re seeking examples of famous queer art, Sappho of Lesbos is a widely known figure who wrote poems about the beauty of women.

The words lesbian and sapphic come from her name. In the painting by Tadema, the group listens to Alcaeus play an instrument on the island of Lesbos.

6. Fresco From Paestum (470 BC), The Tomb Of The Diver

In ancient Greece, images depicting queer relations were often intertwined with bravery and courage — themes central to the country’s narratives about war. One well-known example is an erotic fresco from Paestum’s Tomba del Tuffatore.

7. Suzuki Harunobu’s Women Embracing In A Green House (1765-1770)

Same-sex relations among men were celebrated in ancient Japan and depicted in various artworks from the period known as the Tokyo period.

In works like “Embracing In A Green House,” we can see the same openness and acceptance of queer love plus the recognition of diverse expressions of human relationships.

Related: Zodiac Signs As Art: Which Painting Are You Based On Your Zodiac Sign?

These famous queer paintings are from all over the world, some even from a long time ago. They were made to show love and desire that didn’t fit with society’s wants, but they were still painted.

Each work has its own story, one that makes you question why it was ever made in the first place. The point is for people to embrace all kinds of connections between humans since art has a special way of moving us through time and space.

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