Gainsborough’s Blue Boy: The private life of a masterpiece


After the Blue Boy arrived in the United States, it became famous and appeared in pottery, textiles, and thousands of duplicate prints. How it was interpreted by the new host country was also exposed to the wind of cultural change. According to Hedkist, the formal episode was the so-called “lavender scare” of the 1950s, when gay men and women were perceived as a threat to national security and were cornered by government agencies. The common stereotypes of gay deports, now ignorant and laughable, such as lace cuffs and flashy shoes, were cited as symbols of these “inner enemies.”

Visual shorthand

It led to an ominous comedy parody of gay behavior perceived in popular culture, and there were outlets containing cartoon strips. In Mad Magazine in September 1970, a character named Prissy Percy appeared in a cartoon. This character is teased by a group of sporty US boys. In the final scene, you can see that Percy is a Blue Boy. The secret messages and emotions of the cartoon are homosexual disgust. Hedquist sees it as Blue Boy’s first “going out”. The Blue Boy also appeared in Dennis the Menace’s cartoon, published in 1976, and he was once again called the “Weakling.”

“A new idea of ​​how people see gay men is very important for how the Blue Boy becomes a symbolic image, first as a source of ridicule and then as a diversion,” Hedkist said. Says.

The diversion took place in the form of a gay magazine called “Blue Boy,” first published in 1974. The cover of the first issue featured a photo of Dale, a boxer from Ohio. There are no trousers and the position of the hat hasn’t changed, but it pays homage to Gainesborough’s masterpiece. Inspired by entrepreneur Don N Embinder, the magazine continued to publish until December 2007, promoting products and services that symbolized the Blue Boy. We recommended gay-friendly hotels and bars to foster a sense of community. “The first gay travel agencies were called’blue boys’,” explains Hedquist. “They had cruises and hotels where men could openly become gay, wearing “The Blue Boy” T-shirts and “The Blue Boy” travel bags. During the post-Stonewall Rebellion, this was a vibrant symbol, leaving behind the legacy of multiple “blue boy” gay bars around the world.



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