Today in Gay History

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September 21

Sascha Schneider (right) with Karl May 1904 [photo credit: unknown]
1870 -

Rudolph Karl Alexander Schneider, commonly known as SASCHA SCHNEIDER was a German allegorical painter and sculptor born on this date (d: 1927). A piece of his work ("The Vision") graces the banner on Gay Wisdom.

Schneider was born in Saint Petersburg in 1870. During his childhood, his family lived in Zürich, but following the death of his father, Schneider moved to Dresden, where in 1889 he became a student at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. In 1903, he met best-selling author Karl May, and subsequently became the cover illustrator of a number of May's books including WinnetouOld SurehandAm Rio de la Plata. A year later in 1904, Schneider was appointed professor at the Großherzoglich-Sächsische Kunstschule Weimar.

During this period, Schneider lived with painter Hellmuth Jahn. Jahn began blackmailing Schneider by threatening to expose his homosexuality, which was punishable under §175 of the penal code. Schneider fled to Italy, where homosexuality was not criminalized at that time. In Italy, Schneider met painter Robert Spies, with whom he traveled through the Caucasus Mountains. He then traveled back to Germany, where he lived for six months in Leipzig before returning to Italy, where he resided in Florence.

When the First World War started, Schneider returned to Germany again, taking up residence in Hellerau (near Dresden). After 1918, he co-founded an institute called Kraft-Kunst for bodybuilding. Some of the models for his art trained here. Schneider's painting Hypnosis (in Gallery below) inspired a key shot in the Robert Eggers' 2019 film The Lighthouse.

Schneider, who was diabetic, suffered a seizure during a ship voyage in the vicinity of Swinemünde. As a result, he collapsed and died in 1927 in Swinemünde. He was buried in Loschwitz Cemetery, Germany.

Tchelitchew - Self Portrait
1898 -

PAVEL TCHELITCHEW, Russian surrealist painter, born (d: 1957) His father, a follower of Tolstoyian principles, supported his desire to become a painter. In spite of his father's liberal views, however, the family was expelled from its property in 1918 following the revolution of 1917. Tchelitchew joined the White army, and the family fled to Kiev, which was not yet under Communist control. While in Kiev he studied with Alexandra Exter and produced his first theater designs.

By 1920 he was in Odessa, escaping the advancing Red armies. He went on to Berlin via Istanbul. There he met Allen Tanner, an American pianist, and became his lover. In 1923 they moved to Paris and Tchelitchew began painting portraits of the avant-garde and homosexual elite.

Tchelitchew developed a predilection for outrageous blues and pinks, calling himself the "Prince of Bad Taste." Gertrude Stein noticed his entry in the 1925 Salon D'Automne, Basket of Strawberries (1925), and bought the entire contents of his studio. In addition to becoming an accomplished painter, he also became one of the most innovative stage designers of the period and designed ballets for Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes in Paris. Tchelitchew's American debut was in a group show of drawings at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1930.

In 1934 he moved to New York with his new lover, writer and critic Charles Henri Ford, and exhibited in the Julien Levy Gallery. He and Ford were at the center of a social world of wealthy Gay men, such as Lincoln Kirstein, for whom he also designed ballets. He continued his work in design for Balanchine's fledgling American Ballet and for A. Everett "Chick" Austin, a friend and director of the pioneering Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut.

In 1952 Tchelitchew became a U.S. citizen, but shortly afterwards moved to Frascati, Italy. He suffered a heart attack in 1956 and died on July 31, 1957 in Rome, with Ford by his bedside.

While Tchelitchew was trained in traditional classical drawing, his earliest influences were cubism and constructivism. He soon reacted against their emphasis on the geometric shapes of cones and cubes and began working in curves, a decision that led to his representational style, which used every traditional device of anatomy and perspective.

In 1926 he was included by the Galerie Druet, Paris, in a group show the title of which gave rise to the appellation "Neo-Romantic," a designation applied to an amorphous combination of figurative painters of various temperaments and attitudes. The artist always disapproved of the term; and in spite of similarities of his work with such artists as Salvador Dalí, he also always denied any association with Surrealism.

Phenomena (1936-1938), the first painting of a projected series of three major works, aroused violent reactions because of its lurid color and characterization of persons then still alive (including a self-portrait and images of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas). The most prominent of the nude male figures in this painting is Nicholas Magallanes, a favorite model, who later became a famous dancer.

The second work, Hide and Seek (1940-1942), a strikingly red painting of an enormous tree composed of human body parts, remains one of the most popular paintings in the Museum of Modern Art. The final work in the series was never finished. Tchelitchew's later style developed as a result of his search for "interior landscapes" inspired by metamorphoses of the human body.

His works include, in addition to well-known nudes such as Tattooed Man (1934), a number of pen-and-ink sketches that illustrate homoerotic desire, some of which are housed in the Kinsey Collection of erotic art. The artist also executed watercolor illustrations of the Gay novel by Ford and Parker Tyler, The Young and Evil (1933). These illustrations were not published with the text until 1988.

Tchelitchew's critical reputation declined in the 1950s and 1960s along with the decline of interest in figurative art. The retrospective that was the opening exhibition of Huntington Hartford's conservative Gallery of Modern Art in New York in 1964 was the last museum survey of his career until the 1998 exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, New York.

Producer Ellis Haizlip
1929 -

ELLIS B. HAIZLIP, born on this date (d: 1991), was an American television and theatrical producer, broadcaster and promoter of African American culture. Haizlip is best known as the creator, producer and host of the television variety show, SOUL!.

He was born and grew up in Washington, DC. He attended Howard University, where he produced plays and theatre shows before graduating in 1954. He moved to New York City, and began producing plays with actors such as Vinnette Carroll, Cicely Tyson, Calvin Lockhart, and James Earl Jones, as well as performances by Alvin Ailey's dance company. He also produced shows in Europe and the Middle East, including plays by James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, as well as a concert tour by Marlene Dietrich.

In 1968, Haizlip created and executive produced Soul!, an arts program which became a showcase for many African American artists and musicians, such as Ashford and Simpson, Roberta Flack, and poet Nikki Giovanni. He also presented the show, after a few initial programs with other presenters. According to one biography, "Haizlip’s vision was for a program that would use the variety show format to display the breadth and variety of Black culture. The mission of “Soul!” would be not merely to entertain African American viewers, but to challenge them to ponder the possible meanings of Black culture and Black community at a time when African Americans were driving America's social transformation... Soul! was unapologetic about aiming its diverse and self-critical weekly affirmation of Black culture and politics to African American viewers, a group that had previously not had the pleasure of seeing itself widely, or truthfully, represented on television.."

Haizlip continued to actively promote African American culture through events such as the first Congressional Black Caucus Dinner in 1970; and "Soul at the Center", a 12-day festival of performing arts held at the Lincoln Center. After the television show ended in 1973, when funding was reduced, he remained active in the media. He also coordinated work at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer in the 1980s, and then with a brain tumor. He died in 1991, at George Washington University Medical Center, aged 61.

In 2018, a documentary film about Ellis Haizlip entitled Mr. Soul! was written, directed and produced by his niece, filmmaker Melissa Haizlip.


Today's Gay Wisdom
2017 -

In 1992 White Crane #15 looked at The Wild Man, Robert Bly and Gays, and included a spirited debate among Harry Hay, Mark Thompson, and Arthur Evans on the origins of the Faeries. J. Michael Clark issued a call to ecological reflection:

Toward A Gay Ecological Perspective: the Gay Experience and Ecology

One important theme in Gay liberation is the realization that we cannot wait for others to sanction our efforts in theology or spirituality. We must instead find our own prophetic voice and assume our own authority to speak in theology and spirituality. Ultimately, neither Gay men and Lesbians, nor Native Americans, nor the poor, nor any other oppressed people can afford to wait for an external conferral of authority to speak. Moreover, the shared nature of oppression means that as we create our own liberation, so also are we obliged to seek the liberation of other people, and of the Earth itself, from objectification, disvaluation and exploitation.

Gay spirituality and theology, borne out of our experience of oppression, can contribute something unique to ecological reflection. While we would not expect the so called deep ecologists and other straight male writers to include our particular perspective, it is surprising that the majority of feminist writers also do not include Gay/Lesbian oppression as part of their analysis of human and ecological oppression and exploitation. Even when women, African Americans, Native Americans and Third World [sic] peoples and their environments are acknowledged and examined, Gay men and Lesbians are consistently absent and invisible. The extension of rights to Blacks, to women, and in a limited extent to some endangered species and the environment, conveniently passes over certain groups which, therefore, remain disenfranchised — most Native Americans, the poor, the homeless, and Gay men and Lesbians. These groups of people are all too much of the biosphere as well as invisible, even to so-called liberals, and treated as disvalued and disposable.

According to deep ecology, human self-centeredness has led to environmental problems. According to feminism, masculine privilege and social structures have devalued and exploited both women and nature. A Gay perspective would insist that not only are women, nature and the Earth devalued, but our society, with its fear of diversity, disvalues anyone (Gays, Lesbians, Native Americans, the poor and homeless, etc.) and anything (the environment, the Earth) designated as “other.” What we see is not just a devaluing which leads to domination and exploitation, but a disvaluing which strips away all value leading to exclusion, to being disposable, to being acceptable for extinction. This insight is one unique contribution to ecology which Gay people can offer, Gay thinking must move beyond the issues of domination and exploitation to those of disvaluation, exclusion and expendability to radically celebrate diversity and the intrinsic value of all that is, the human, the biospheric, the geospheric. Gay people must work against the disvaluation and exclusion of self and world as disposable, worthless commodities in a society that disdains diversity and eliminates the unnecessary — that which has no utilitarian value.

As Gay men and Lesbians look out on our disposable society of planned obsolescence and throw-away consumerism, we cannot help but be aware of the growing trash heap, the over-burdened landfills, the industrially polluted water and the wastelands of deforestation. We are able to see out society throwing away our Earth, our home, because we are also aware of how often human beings themselves have been treated as disposable and expendable. Historically, African-Americans, Native Americans, the poor and the homeless, the physically and mentally challenged and virtually all Third World [sic] peoples have been treated as either expendable after use (in slavery or minimum wage work) or as totally useless.

In the history of our own community, never has our expendability been so evident as in the rising incidence of anti-Gay violence and in the AIDS health crisis. Our government continues to spend money in the pursuit of protocols and vaccines, while ouor politico-medical system drags its feet in regard to approving treatment protocols or to finding a cure. Gay men, IV-drug users, people of color, and Third World [sic] communities where AIDS rages heterosexually are still devalued and/or disvalued. Our expendability becomes an example of our society’s attitudes toward all the Eart. Hence, our Gay ecological perspective must adamantly oppose any disvaluation and exclusion that leads to dispensing with diversity and disposing of life. Neither Gay men and Lesbians, nor the biosphere, nor the geosphere, nor any of the great diversity which god/dess creates and delights in is expendable.

An ecological perspective will also address our own lives as Gay men and Lesbians. We must be held accountable whenever we accede to or cooperate with the forces of oppression, exploitation and expendability. We must challenge any Gay/Lesbian assimilation which mitigates our diversity. Gor Gay men in particular, we must also examine our socialization as men. We must discern how we as men have been conditioned to accept exploitation, disvaluation and expendability — worthlessness — in our lives. If the typical masculine socialization process of our society works against a compassionate, caring, empathy for nature, spiritual Gay men who escaped that socialization may be able to demonstrate, for all men, a male-embodied love and care for nature.

As we (re)confront the abuses that imperil the environment, we can begin to create a Gay ecology that discloses that our Gay and Lesbian existence is not only a mode of being-in-the-world, but also a way of being-with-the-world, as co-partners in the process of healing and liberation throughout the Earth. Granted, in some respects Gay men and Lesbians, as a larger community, may lag behind other groups in wrestling with ecological issues and environmental causes because our energies are so consumed with dealing with AIDS, homophobia and other forms of oppression. Even with our considerable in-house agenda, which absolutely must not be forsaken, groups such as the various faerie circles and Gays United Against Nuclear Arms have pursued ecological concerns, while individuals have worked within local neighborhood groups on similar issues. Developing a broader, ecological perspective can help us see the connection among all forms of oppression, exploitation and disvaluataion and can facilitate liaisons to confront all of these. Not through co-option, but through cooperation, working together to achieve liberation for all peoples and the Earth itself, will we find out own liberation achieved as well.

Michael Clark is the author of Beyond the Ghetto: Gay Theology in Ecological Perspective, Pilgrim Press 1993

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