Henry Scott Tuke

Henry Scott Tuke

Infobox Artist
name = Henry Scott Tuke

imagesize = 180px
caption =
birthname =
birthdate = birth date|1858|06|12
location = York
deathdate = dda|1929|03|13|1858|06|12
deathplace = Falmouth, Cornwall
nationality = British
field =
training = Slade School of Art
movement = Newlyn School
works =
patrons =
influenced by =
influenced =
awards = Royal Academician

Henry Scott Tuke, RA (12 June 1858–13 March 1929), a British painter and photographer, is best remembered for his paintings of naked boys and young men, which have earned him a status as a pioneer of gay male culture.

Life and works

Tuke was born in York into a prominent family of Friends (Quakers). His father Daniel Hack Tuke was a prominent campaigner for humane treatment of the insane. His great-great-grandfather William Tuke had founded the Retreat at York, one of the first modern insane asylums, in 1792 . His great-grandfather Henry Tuke, grandfather Samuel Tuke and uncle James Hack Tuke were also well-known social activists. The Tuke ancestry can also be also traced back to Sir Brian Tuke (replacement of Sir Thomas More) as adviser to King Henry VIII of England.

In 1874 Tuke moved with his family to London, where he enrolled in the Slade School of Art. After graduating he traveled to Italy in 1880 , and from 1881 to 1883 he lived in Paris, where he studied with the French history painter Jean-Paul Laurens and met the American painter John Singer Sargent (who was also a painter of male nudes, although this fact was little known in his lifetime).

During the 1880s Tuke also met Oscar Wilde and other prominent poets and writers, most of them homosexual (then usually called Uranian) who celebrated the adolescent male. He wrote a "sonnet to youth" which was published anonymously in "The Artist", and also contributed an essay to "The Studio" [ [http://www.studio-international.co.uk/ "The Studio": Art Journal, founded in 1893] ] .

Tuke returned to Britain and moved to Newlyn, Cornwall joining a small colony of artists. These included Walter Langley, Albert Chevallier Tayler and Thomas Cooper Gotch a lifelong painter of the girl-child, who became a lifelong friend. These painters and others are known to art historians as the Newlyn School.

In 1885 Tuke settled in Falmouth, a fishing port in Cornwall, then still a remote and romantically rustic part of the country, with a very mild climate which is more agreeable for nude open air activities than in most other British regions. He bought a fishing boat for 40 pounds and converted it into a floating studio and living quarters. Here he could indulge his passion for painting boys in privacy. Most of his works depict boys and young men who swim, dive and lounge, usually naked, on a boat or on the beach.

Tuke also produced more saleable works on narrative or historical themes. In these paintings Tuke placed his male nudes in safely mythological contexts, but critics have usually found these works to be rather formal, lifeless and flaccid.

From the 1890s, Tuke abandoned mythological themes and began to paint local boys fishing, sailing, swimming and diving, and also began to paint in a more naturalistic style. His handling of paint became freer, and he began using bold, fresh color. One of his best known paintings from this period is "August Blue" (1893-1894), a study of four mostly nude youths bathing from a boat.The Looe artist, Lindsay Symington ( 1872-1942), modelled for the blonde boy holding onto the boat in the water; though not a regular model, Symington was a good friend of Tuke, the latter often visiting the Symington family home, Pixies' Holt, at Dartmeet.

Although Tuke's paintings of nude youths undoubtedly appealed to those gay men who found adolescents attractive, they are never explicitly sexual. The models' genitals are almost never shown, they are almost never in physical contact with each other, and there is never any suggestion of overt sexuality.

Tuke formed close friendships with many of his models, but it has never been established that he was sexually involved with any of them, on either a romantic or commercial basis. Although it is possible that he was sexually active with local youths, it is equally possible that, like many gay men in this period, he sublimated his sexuality into romantic friendships, and into his art.

Because of his subject matter, Tuke was unable to sell many of his works, except to a select circle of homosexual art collectors. But he was also well known as a portraitist, and maintained a London studio to work on his commissions. Among his best known portraits is that of soldier and writer T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia").

Technically, Tuke favored rough, visible brushstrokes, at a time when a smooth, polished finish was favoured by fashionable painters and critics. He had a strong sense of colour and excelled in the depiction of natural light, particularly the soft, fragile sunlight of the English summer. Had his choice of subject matter been more orthodox, Tuke might have become a major name in British painting: as it was he remained a niche painter.

Nevertheless, Tuke did enjoy a considerable reputation, and he did well enough from his painting to be able to travel abroad, painting in France, Italy and the West Indies. In 1900 a banquet was held in his honour at the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1914 . In later life he was in poor health for many years, and died in Falmouth in 1929.

After his death Tuke's reputation faded, and he was largely forgotten until the 1970s, when he was rediscovered by the first generation of openly gay artists and art collectors. He has since become something of a cult figure in gay cultural circles, with lavish editions of his paintings published and his works fetching high prices at auctions.

Exhibitions and publications

During the 150th year after H.S. Tuke's birth, there were three exhibitions of his work:
* 2008-05-03 to 2008-07-12: "Catching the light: the sunshine paintings of Henry Scott Tuke" [ [http://www.falmouthartgallery.com/Seasonal%20Exhibitions/Seasonal%202008/catchingthelight.html Falmouth Art Gallery website - Page on the "Catching the Light" exhibition".] ] .
* 2008-09-06 to 2008-09-27: "Tall ships".
*10 May – 12 July 2008: "Catching the Light: A Retrospective of Henry Scott Tuke", Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro
*7 June – 12 July 2008: "A Hidden Treasure Revealed: A selection of the works on paper by Henry Scott Tuke from the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society",a the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro.
* 21 July - 28 August 2008: "Catching the Light : The Art of Henry Scott Tuke" at the Fine Art Society, New Bond Street,A book by Catherine Wallace, to accompany the exhibitions, entitled "Catching the Light: The Art and Life of Henry Scott Tuke", has been published by Atelier Books (reference below).


The student halls of residence at University College Falmouth are named after him, a tribute to Tuke as an artist, as well as a famous resident of the town. They were built and named when the University was previously called Falmouth College of Arts.


* Emmanuel Cooper, "The Life and Work of Henry Scott Tuke" (with 35 colour and 25 monochrome plates), Heretic Books, 2003.
* David Wainwright & Catherine Dinn, "Henry Scott Tuke 1858-1929: Under Canvas" (Sarema Press, 1991).
* Catherine Wallace "Catching the Light: The Art and Life of Henry Scott Tuke 1858-1929", Atelier Books (2008) ISBN 1873830203
* Catherine Wallace "Henry Scott Tuke Paintings from Cornwall", Halsgrove (2008) ISBN 1841147052 (This features paintings in the collection of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society.

External links

* [http://andrejkoymasky.com/liv/tuk/tuk00.html Biography and extensive gallery of his paintings]
* [http://www.geocities.com/tuke_site/ Gallery with paintings by and photographs of H. S. Tuke]


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