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Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 30, 2006

19th-Century Queer Esthetics Focus of U of G Research

A person’s home says many things about its owner, and research by a University of Guelph art history professor is examining what the home interiors among Britain's 19th-century queer community reveals about fostering intimacy and how that was expressed artistically.

“If people approach art with an eye for its social and political messages, there is much to be revealed about society and about ourselves,” said Prof. John Potvin. “The way we view ourselves and those around us, along with the objects and images that we use to define ourselves, are heavily influenced by popular culture, which throughout history has been depicted through art.”

Potvin is studying a number of homes including one shared by 19th-century painter Charles Shannon and his partner, a well-known lithographer named Charles Ricketts, to learn how queerness was expressed through what was collected by partners and how those choices created a sense of community and comfort.

Shannon and Ricketts, who met in their teens and lived together as a couple for more than 50 years, worked and socialized with an inner circle of artists, including Oscar Wilde, who once commented that their home, known as “The Vale,” was “the one house in London where you could never be bored.”

“I'm exploring how these queer artists allowed for artistic communities and queer communities overall through the objects, paintings and spaces they possessed,” said Potvin. “Shannon and Ricketts were hard-core collectors and connoisseurs of Greek and Roman objects and paintings. The public areas of their home were luxurious and elaborate.”

This work is part of a book Potvin is writing called Bachelors of a Different Sort. His first book, Looking Beyond Male Bonding: The New Chivalry and the Boundaries of Same-Sex Intimacy in Turn-of-the-Century Britain, slated for release next year, investigates the representation, culture and spaces of same-sex intimacy.

“We are standing on the edge of a radically new future in regards to the recognition and legalization of same-sex unions, and this underscores that the nature of living arrangements, domesticity and intimacy is as varied as the homes we live in.”

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, Ext. 56982.

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