GEORGE QUAINTANCE, an American painter and illustrator was born on this date. Famous for his “idealized, strongly homoerotic” depictions of men in mid-20th-century physique magazines Quaintance used historical settings to justify the nudity or distance the subjects from modern society.
His art featured idealized muscular, semi-nude or nude male figures; Wild West settings were a common motif. His artwork helped establish the stereotype of the “macho stud” who was also homosexual, leading him to be called a ‘pioneer of an unabashedly Gay aesthetic’. He was an influence on many later homoerotic artists, such as Tom of Finland.
Quaintance has been described as “obviously and actively homosexual”, despite being closeted. At the age of eighteen he studied at the Arts Student League, where, as well as painting and drawing, he studied dance, which led to him meeting and briefly marrying Miriam Chester. In the 1930s, he became a hairstylist. His first art assignments were anonymous advertising work, but by 1934 he had begun to sell freelance cover illustrations to a variety of “spicy” pulp magazines, such as Gay French Life, Ginger, Movie Humor, Movie Merry Go-Round, Snappy Detective Mysteries, Snappy Stories, Stolen Sweets, and Tempting Tales. These were sold at burlesque halls as well as under-the-counter at discreet newsstands.
These illustrations, which were clearly influenced by Enoch Bolles, were often signed “Geo. Quintana.” In 1938, he returned home with his companion Victor Garcia, described as Quaintance’s “model, life partner, and business associate”, who was the subject of many of Quaintance’s photographs in the 1940s. In 1951, Quaintance’s art was used for the first cover of Physique Pictorial, edited by Bob Mizer of the Athletic Model Guid. In the early 1950s, Quaintance and Garcia moved to Rancho Siesta, which became the home of Studio Quaintance, a business venture based around Quaintance’s artworks.
In 1953, Quaintance completed a series of three paintings about a matador, modeled by Angel Avila, another of his lovers. By 1956, the business had become so successful that Quaintance could not keep up with the demand for his works.
I recently purchased a book of Quaintance’s paintings and illustrations. Along with the confirmation notice I received a wonderful note about Quaintance from the seller who said, “The man was born near where I now live in a rural Virginia county some 90 miles west of Washington DC. When I first retired and moved here, there were still people alive who knew of his wealthy family. George couldn’t wait to afford a ticket out of here.
“The local Baptist Church has one of his paintings on the wall behind the baptismal tank. It is of Jesus and his disciples, one of whom looks remarkably like Quaintance. It’s one of the Gayest looking wall paintings I’ve ever seen, but the Baptists don’t seem to know or notice.”
Quaintance died of a heart attack in 1957.