Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fred Holland Day: Part I

As part of the series of Journal entries about contemporary alternative gay male art versus traditional gay male art I explore the history and relationship of photography in general to gay male photography in particular.

He was the ultimate representative of the Pictorialists, and achieved the height of his career when in 1900 he organized an exhibition of 375 photographs at the Royal Photographic Society. His homoerotic art was in the mainstream at the turn of the 19th century precisely because Victorian society had an approach/avoidance relationship to sexuality, with titillation v. fear in constant play. Day’s use of naked youths in pseudo classical settings was part and parcel of the Pictorialist use of the pastoral to suggest an imagined nubile antiquity.* His use of religious subjects in which he himself posed (The Seven Last Words of Christ) though based in his own concerns was, however, perceived by the Victorian Culture as either blasphemous or spiritual in nature. His use of soft focus and other techniques also helped to draw Victorian acclaim, and the attention to composition and lighting assured the eventual Modern and Post-modern approval of his work. His work - ignored for more than fifty years after the early part of the Twentieth Century - was perhaps the most influential in placing fin de siecle photography in the fine art mainstream.


*1 *Day, F. Holland,"Suffering: The Ideal," Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Day%2C_Fred_Holland_%281864-1933%29_-_Da_Suffering_the_ideal_2.jpg. Modified 12 May 2006, at 16:03, Viewed 8:20 AM EST, Sunday, February 18, 2008.

* I must interject that very little is known of Day's private sexual life,and his homosexuality is most often assumed based on the subject matter of his photographs.


Boxer, Sarah, F. Holland Day – photographic exhibition, Boston, Art Forum, March 2001, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0268/is_7_39/ai_75761322/print , visited 9:55 A.M. EST., February 13, 2008.

Curtis, Verna Posever and Jane Van Nimmen (eds.), F. Holland Day, Selected texts and bibliography. (1995) Oxford, England: ABC-Clio Press,

F. Holland Day, The Exhibition Catalogue, Art and the Camera: The Photographs of F. Holland Day, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 12/06/00 – 03/ 25/01.

Goldman, Jason, Day, F. Holland, (Ed.) Claude J. Summers, glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. www.glbtq.com/arts/day_fh.html, Revised 10/29/06, Viewed 9:56 A.M. EST, February 13, 2008.

House and Norwood History Museum, “About Fred Holland Day: Common Errors/Suggested Readings,” http://www.norwoodhistoricalsociety.org/fhdread.html. Revised 06/20/05, Viewed 9:50 A.M. EST, February 13, 2008.

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