From Male Pathological to Male Positive: The Engendering of a Post-Heteronormative Gaze in Francis Bacon’s and David Hockney’s Depictions of Men in the 1960s

By Dennis S. Gouws.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Francis Bacon and David Hockney codified male desire in ways that contested conventional protocols of the heteronormative, or naturalized heterosexual, gaze. Through their frank depictions of the male body, Bacon’s and Hockney’s images of men in the 1960s deliberately explore the intricate process of male-male identification which is often circumscribed by the social pressures inherent in hegemonic masculinity, a sociohistorically contingent gender-identity pecking order among men, and a tendency of gynocentric gender critics to treat the male body as pathological or ridiculous. Many works from this period by both of these artists affirm embodied masculinities, by complicating the subject-object relationship, and resist being read as merely depicting the male body as essentially pathological, by celebrating the embodied male. The four exemplary works discussed in this paper; Bacon’s Three Figures in a Room (1963), his Two Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1968), Hockney’s Adhesiveness (1960), and his In an Old Book (1966); represent an engendering of a post-heteronormative gaze that offers a male-positive, rather than a male-pathological, depiction of men.

Keywords: Masculinities, Male-positive, David Hockney, Francis Bacon

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.181-188. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 590.509KB).

Dr. Dennis S. Gouws

Associate Professor of English, Humanities Department, Springfield College, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA

Dr. Dennis Gouws is an Associate Professor at Springfield College and a Lecturer at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. His research and teaching interests include masculinities, Victorian literature, and the education of men and boys. He has published essays on men's literacy and the manhood question in Victorian literature.

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