Edward Burra (1905-1976) Market Day, 1926, watercolour on paper, On Long-Term Loan from a Private Collection (2004) copyright Estate of the Artist c/o Lefevre London

We have been working with our friends over at Pallant House Gallery, to explore queer identity in celebration of Pride Month. Pallant House writes about the artists that we both share in The Ingram Collection housed at The Lightbox and Pallant’s ‘collection of collections’.

Their current exhibition, Glyn Philpot: Flesh and Spirit, sheds new light on a modern artist who created work through which to explore his own identity and sense of self. Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, has two significant paintings by Philpot in the collection and he is also represented in the Ingram Collection of Modern British Art.

The painting An Ascending Angel has been lent to the exhibition and brilliantly encapsulates Philpot’s newfound sense of freedom when living in Paris in the early 1930s. An Ascending Angel provides a catalyst to think about other powerful examples of works by Queer artists in the collection, through the lens of a sense of ‘Arcadia’ and travel.

For his article ‘Arcadia and Soho’, Andrew Stephenson puts forward the idea that for many twentieth-century queer British artists living before partial decriminalisation in 1967, the idyll of both the ancient and modern Mediterranean, as well as travel to places further afield, was a way in which to signal shared queer desires and tastes, and explore alternative forms of masculinity.[1] These themes emerge in the work of artists such as Edward Burra, Glyn Philpot, John Craxton, John Minton and Keith Vaughan, explored further below.

Edward Burra (1905-1976) Market Day, 1926, watercolour on paper, On Long-Term Loan from a Private Collection (2004) copyright Estate of the Artist c/o Lefevre London

Edward Burra was an English painter whose vibrant paintings sought to capture the colour and character of the city in the interwar period. His work could be placed among that of the German Expressionists, there are parallels to be found between the exaggerated forms and relish for less than conventional ways of life of Burra’s paintings and those of artists such as Max Beckmann and George Grosz.

Market Day depicts a busy Mediterranean port scene. Two broad-shouldered soldiers walk towards us, paying scant attention to the provocative stance of the high-heeled woman to the right of the canvas. This port, for Burra, is a landscape of the imagination; Market Day was painted a year before he would travel to the South of France with his friend, the dancer Billy Chappell. It is an exotic and exciting space, an idealisation which seems to promise liberation and enticing encounters.

Glyn Philpot (1884-1937) Jamaican Man in Profile (Henry Thomas), 1934-35, oil on canvas, Bequeathed by Mrs Rosemary Newgas, the niece of the artist (2004) out of copyright

Glyn Philpot was a classically trained painter who shook off tradition to become increasingly more modern in his later years. He had a successful early career as a portraitist of society figures. Alongside these commissioned paintings, Philpot’s sitters included his family, friends and lovers, as well as writers and performers such as Siegfried Sassoon and Paul Robeson.

Throughout his career, he had a fascination with a wide variety of subjects including performance, religion and classical mythology, using visual codes in order to explore and express his queer identity.

In recent years, Philpot has gained recognition of his sensitive portrayal of Black models including Henry Thomas whose portrait is in the Pallant House Gallery collection. Henry Thomas was born in St Ann’s, Trelawny, Jamaica in 1900. He immigrated first to New York, and then to London, where he met Philpot in the National Gallery in 1928-29. He would sit numerous times for Philpot, developing a friendship that is evident in the intimate paintings of Thomas. Jamaican Man in Profile (Henry Thomas) features a side view of Thomas’ head against a vibrant batik backcloth in a format recalling the tradition of representing kings, queens and emperors in profile on coins and medals. There is also a sense of informality to the painting; Henry wears contemporary casual clothing and there’s a sense of serenity and pride to his expression. This reveals Philpot’s and Thomas’s relationship, which was built on a strong and enduring mutual affection.

Philpot travelled extensively in Europe and the US, where he was exposed to exciting new developments in the world of art across the globe, as well as the emancipatory scenes of cities such as Paris, Berlin and New York. This portrait was painted between trips, in the rural arcadia of Philpot’s country home, Baynards Manor, near Horsham in Sussex.

John Craxton (1922-2009), Cretan Shepherd (Study for ‘Homage to Alones’), 1948, pen and ink on paper, Presented by My John Morrish (2007) copyright Estate of John Craxton

John Craxton was an artist best known for his lyrical paintings exploring the harmonious relationship between the figure and a landscape. He started his artistic career sharing a studio with Lucian Freud, in cramped and by some accounts squalid conditions. Following the end of the Second World War, Craxton could finally relocate to the sun-drenched islands of Greece, a place he had always wanted to escape to. Craxton reminisced,

‘Greece was more than everything I had imagined and far more than I had expected.’[2]

Craxton had found a sense of authenticity, and was seduced by the virile physicality of the Greek landscape and rural communities, translated into his angular and semi-Cubist drawings and paintings of this period. Cretan Shepherd is a study for the painting Homage to Alones, depicting the unusual costume of the shepherd in the mountain village of Alones, a hooded cloak made from sheep and goats wool which also doubled up as a sleeping bag. Having often created animal still-lifes earlier in his career, Craxton became fascinated by the rare and restless Cretan agrimi goat, depicting the creature several times in his work. The image of the goat is aligned with Pan, the Ancient Greek horned god of shepherds, rustic music, who is often associated with sexuality.

John Minton (1917-1957) Landscape near Kingston, Jamaica, 1950, ink and watercolour on paper, Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council (1985) copyright Royal College of Art

John Minton was an artist associated with the Neo-Romantic turn in modern British Art in the 1940s and 1950s, but also well-known for his marvellous illustrations and book covers, including the now-iconic Elizabeth David cookbooks. Inspired by his travels and influenced by the idyllic modern landscapes of French artist Henri Matisse, he incorporated a bolder colour palette and simplified forms into his paintings.

In the autumn of 1950, Minton made a trip to Jamaica for several months with his boyfriend, Ricky Stride, a wrestler from the East End of London. Here he painted Landscape near Kingston, Jamaica, noting that;

‘The colour of the Jamaican landscape is that of coloured inks, of overripe fruit, acid-lemon yellow, magentas, viridians, sharp – like a discord. The vegetation, intricate, speckled and enormous, seems to grow before the eyes, bursting with sap, throttling itself in coils towards the sun.’[3]

This fervent and vitalising imagery is suggestive of Minton’s idea of Jamaica. He painted further works depicting young Black men at work on the island, the art historian Simon Faulkner comments on how Minton presented semi-naked Black male bodies within a tropical landscape as a way to explore ‘an escape to an exotic and potentially erotic paradise’.[4] The growth of tourism in the 1950s allowed Western men to experience an alternative to the restrictive atmosphere of England. For many, locations such as Jamaica were associated with a more socially and sexually exploratory lifestyle.

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) Musicians at Marrakesh, 1967, oil on canvas, Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to Pallant House Gallery from the Estate of Professor John Ball (2011)

Keith Vaughan was a self-taught painter, whose works experimented with ways of representing the male figure. His paintings border on abstraction; the landscapes are indeterminate, and the masculine body has been generalised. There is a dual sense of strength and vulnerability to the naked figure in his group nudes, which he referred to as ‘assemblies’.

Musicians at Marrakesh was painted following a trip to Morocco, where the artist also explored the cities of Casablanca and Agadir. The colours are restrained, and the forms within the painting are flat, mimicking the appearance of the Arabic djellaba, a robe that is worn by both men and women in North Africa. Vaughan’s journals of the period evoke the sensory richness of the landscape, and appreciative recollections of the people he met there; remarking of one Moroccan boy selling potatoes at a market that ‘he was so beautiful to look at that it took one’s breath away.’[5] Travels to Morocco, as well as Corfu and Denmark in the 1960s, renewed Vaughan’s abilities to capture the human body in nature.

Rather poignantly, Vaughan saw himself at the peripheries of life, often identifying himself as the separated figure from the group in his paintings. The seated man with his back to us in the foreground of Musicians at Marrakesh was attributed by Vaughan as a self-portrait.

The increasing access to travel in the twentieth century gave these artists the opportunity to explore their identity within a more liberating atmosphere; a breathing space which contrasted with the oppressive society at home. Furthermore, for each of these artists trips abroad had a fundamental effect on their work, by broadening their experience and providing new inspirations.


You can see Glyn Philpot: Flesh and Spirit until 23rd October 2022 at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester.


Barlow, Clare (ed), Queer British Art: 1861-1967, London: Tate, 2017

Collins, Ian, John Craxton, Farnham: Lund Humphries, 2011

Martin, Simon and Spalding, Frances, John Minton: A Centenary, Chichester: Pallant House Gallery, 2017

Vaughan, Keith, Journals 1939-1977, London: John Murray (Publishers) Ltd., 1989

[1] Andrew Stephenson, ‘Arcadia and Soho’, in Clare Barlow ed., Queer British Art: 1861-1967, London: Tate, 2017

[2] John Craxton quoted from Geoffrey Grigson, John Craxton: Paintings and Drawings, London 1948, in Ian Collins, John Craxton, Farnham: Lund Humphries, 2011, p. 82

[3] John Minton quoted in Vogue, London, 1951 in Simon Martin ‘A Longing to be Away: John Minton’s Images of Imaginative Escapism’ in Simon Martin and Frances Spalding, John Minton: A Centenary, Chichester: Pallant House Gallery, 2017, p. 60-61

[4] Simon Faulkner quoted in ‘Homo-exoticism: John Minton in London and Jamaica, 1950-51’, in Tim Barringer, Geoff Quilley and Douglas Fordham, eds., Art and the British Empire (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), in in Simon Martin ‘A Longing to be Away: John Minton’s Images of Imaginative Escapism’ in Simon Martin and Frances Spalding, John Minton: A Centenary, Chichester: Pallant House Gallery, 2017, p. 61

[5] Keith Vaughan, Journals 1939-1977, London: John Murray (Publishers) Ltd., 1989, p. 152