Art and Special Collections: LGBTQ+

Both our Art and Special Collections at the Albert Sloman Library have a wealth of LGBTQ+ material available for your teaching and research. The material spans the length of the 20th century and ranges from periodicals, books, drawings, and paintings. 

A majority of our archival LGBTQ+ holdings stem from the pioneering research done by the Department of Sociology on the study of sexualities from the 1970s onward.  Some of the material came from members of the Department, such as Emeritus Professor Ken Plummer, who gifted several mid-century American homosexual magazines; homosexuality wasn’t fully decriminalised until 2003.

Some of the material includes:

Mattachine Review

Various volumes from 1955 to 1966

Issued by the Mattachine Society, one of the earliest homosexual societies in the United States. Both the magazine and Society focussed on gay rights in the United States, in particular on the West Coast, at time when homosexuality was still illegal.

One: the homosexual viewpoint

various volumes from 1955 to 1965

This was the first openly-gay publication founded by One, Inc. in 1953, by members of the Mattachine Society and, much like them, focussed on gay rights on the West Coast of the United States.

In 1954, the US Post Office deemed the magazine as ‘obscene’ and refused to deliver it through their networks. One, Inc. filed a lawsuit against the Post Office in 1958 and the case, One, Inc v. Olesen, was the first US Supreme Court decision to deal with free speech in regard to homosexuality.

University Art Collections

Our University Art Collection has several works by Christopher Wood, an English artist who lived from 1901 to 1930, which were donated by Jim Ede, the founder of Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge.

Wood achieved some acclaim in his lifetime, but it wasn’t until the late twentieth century when art history began to fully study and exhibit his artworks. After moving to Paris in the early 1920s, Wood had relationship with the Chilean diplomat José Gandarillas who lived a lavish lifestyle and, through his social circles, introduced him Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. Wood had affairs with both men and women, but it was his relationship with Gandarillas which spanned the majority of his tragically short adult life.

One of Wood’s artworks in our Collection is Three Sailors (undated), which depicts three men at the door of a train. There is a feeling of sensuality amongst two of the men shown, made evident by the tenderness of the hand holding. Are they saying their goodbyes? Or is one man inviting the other to come with him? And the feeling of sensuality extends to the way Wood draws the bodies of the two men with the fluid lines curving down from their buttocks to their legs.
As a viewer, I see both of these types of sensualities as a kind of intimate window into both the lives of the two men and of Wood himself.

Three Sailors [undated] – Christopher Wood

Written by ESCALA and University Art Collections Curator, Dr Sarah Demelo

To find out more about our Art and Special Collections and how we can help you with your teaching and research, email libline@essex.ac.uk

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