George Quaintance (June 3, 1902 – November 8, 1957) painted pictures of muscular, depilated men. Trained at the Arts Student’s League, New York City, Virginia native Quaintance rejected life on the farm he grew up on to pursue a career as “a designer of women’s hairstyles”.
Ken Furtado notes that while working as Art Editor of the Joe Weider publication Your Physique, Quaintance considered The Male Coiffure in a September 1946 article, writing:
“The male coiffure, like sex, is something we are all conscious of, but something we aren’t supposed to talk about! Whether it is a thing of glamorous beauty or something resembling last year’s birds nest the male coiffure is supposed to be an accident of comb and brush, and about its whys and wherefors there is as much hush-hush as there is about the formula of the atomic bomb.”
In 1934, Quaintance began to pursue his career in art, drawing covers for such throbbing organs as Gay French Life, Ginger, Movie Humor, Movie Merry Go-Round, Snappy Detective Mysteries, Snappy Stories, Stolen Sweets and Tempting Tales, signing himself Geo. He was a huge success. The National Gay Art Archives proclaimed Quaintance “the founding father of gay beefcake art”.
As Gay News tells us, Quantaince was an artist of international repute and in demand:
After the Second World War, Quaintance started his gay erotic work that would make him most famous. He drew the cover illustration of the very first issue of Bob Mizer’s innovative “Physique Pictorial” in 1951 and soon he published his work in other magazines like “Grecian Guild Pictorial,” “Adonis,” “Demi-Gods” and “Young Physique.” In 1954 his photos and prints of his paintings appeared in the Swiss magazine “Der Kreis,” one of the first magazines to openly aim for a gay audience.
Quaintance’s work is not only fun and saucy but daring, too. He worked at time when homosexuals were firmly oppressed. It was not until 1962 that Illinois becomes the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. In 1973 The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders.
And that penis. Quaintance went for the meaty bulge in denims and undies, all signs of fleshy bellend masked by loin clothes, falling water and soapy suds. In 1982, The Voice stated, “Quaintance was gifted with so much drive and artistic talent that he had the ability to transcend the puritanical restrictions of the times and leave us something of his daring imagination in his paintings.”
Not everyone was so subtle in the age of prurience. In 1956, Elvis Presley made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, gyrating through a performance of Little Richard’s Ready Teddy. Fearful of driving the US public insane with rage and lust, cameras then showed Elvis The Pelvis from the waist up only.
John Coulthart adds:
George Quaintance was a pioneer of a variety of beefcake erotica that isn’t particularly to my taste but which today looks distinctly…quaint? Also distinctly old-fashioned since most of his men have Burt Lancaster quiffs, even the alleged Spartans towelling themselves. …
Quaintance’s world is a largely female-free dreamscape of perfectly-muscled glamour boys showing their bodies to one another but never doing anything so salacious as kissing. This is a utopia of good clean fun and fifty years ago was more than enough to pack an erotic charge for men starved of homoerotic imagery. From our perspective today it looks rather innocent; even the bulges in their jeans are restrained by comparison with the later excesses of Tom of Finland.