Bruce Sargeant, the Gay Deceiver?

Thumbing through the always excellent Gay & Lesbian Review, I was struck by an arresting image, a painting by Bruce Sargeant, Wrestler in Singlet.

As the article promised, I had never heard of Sargeant.

Apparently, a painter of promise, born 1898, that golden period before the war. Gifted, inspired, his talents enhanced by a stint at the Slade School, tragic affairs with young pretty boys, familial exile and ultimately a tragic early (1938) death when a wrestling match goes awry ( I assume with quite a cute lad).

Is all this some sort of E.M. Forster fantasy? If so,  the G&LR doesn’t let on that it is.

Upon research it appears to be some high camp romp. Mark Beard,  a”distant relative”, seems to have created Sargeant as his alter ego. The mainstream gay rags, Out and The Advocate in particular seem to be a bit more clued in.

I confess I am still a bit baffled, but evidence suggests it is a bit of a prank.

In the end it doesn’t matter, painted in the 20’s in some Bloomsbury haze, or yesterday by some smart fellow in New York, the images are a  joy to behold, undeniably sexy, well crafted,  and worthy of our attention be it directed at Beard or Sargeant.


Swimmer Drying Himself

Berlin Olympics

1936

John Stevenson Gallery

 

Portrait of a Wrestler

John Stevenson Gallery

Untitled

Weight Lifter

Mark Beard as Bruce Sargeant

Carrie Haddad Gallery


Standing Male Nude

Mark Beard as Bruce Sargeant

Carrie Haddad Gallery


Unidentified Surfer

Mark Beard as Bruce Sargeant

Carrie Haddad Gallery

Young Wrestlers

Mark Beard as Bruce Sargeant

1938

(the year of his wrestling match “death”)

Sargeant’s/ Beard’s draftsmanship is exceptional as the following images illustrate.

both sourced from Carrie Haddad Gallery.

My suspicions were raised by this high camp scene, but really is it any more extreme then some fantasy by George Quaintance?

La Chasse aux Cygnes

Mark Beard as Bruce Sargeant

1892?

(he was supposedly born in ’98)

Carrie Haddad Gallery

Great fun.

This mysterious play has left me yearning for flesh and blood vintage beefcake, so I close with some actual dapper fellows.

Tim Murnane

1874

1898

source

Butch (indeed)

1925

source

If interested there is a book which seems to accompany Beard’s/Sargeants work, Bruce Sargeant and His Circle, Figure and Form, by Mark Beard.

I hope you have enjoyed these rather naughty images as much as I have.

Take care,

Babylon Baroque

Addendum: my chum Serge, far worldlier (not to mention a collector of Beard/Sargeant) has set me straight so to speak, follow this link for the complete scoop.

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5 Responses to “Bruce Sargeant, the Gay Deceiver?”

  1. Oh they are so quintessentially a modern ruse, I’m surprised you couldn’t see the distinct similarities. The book was interesting upon first viewing but I didn’t feel it necessary to buy, something too calculated and formulaic about the images doesn’t appeal to me. I think photographs would have been more interesting in this case.

  2. Jane Schofield Says:

    Thought you might be interested in the second para of this review below…..

    “Sargeant’s work itself is simply stunning, beautifully drawn young men, mostly athletes, rendered in the artist’s relatively limited palette with predominant blue/grey tones. It is a tragedy that Sargent died so young, the result of a sports accident, yet as Thomas Sokolowski points out in the foreword, maybe had he lived the only recourse would have been despair as he grew older and wiser in the ways of the world.

    However, the truth of the matter it appears is that the real name behind all the work in this book is Mark Beard himself, who uses the various identities, for each of whom he has created biographies, to suit the different styles in which he likes to work, from the more graphic work of “Sargeant”, apparently a spoof on John Singer Sargent, to the expressionist work of “Steeruwitz” and the post-modern “Coulter”. “

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      Hi Jane,
      Yes, I’m gathering it is all a ruse.
      What caused confusion was Tom Sokolowski’s remark, I have met him on several occasions, he is quite a serious fellow; I wouldn’t have thought he would go along with such a spoof, no matter how clever.
      But as I said, I do enjoy the work no matter the artist.
      Thanks,
      LG

  3. Although there are some 20s/30s qualities to the drawings, they seem to me to have a contemporary aesthetic to them. The amazon.com listing confirmed that the drawings were indeed by Mr Beard. That does not lessen my appreciation of the artistry however.

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      <strong
      Yes, you are quite right, I see the contemporary aesthetic now that the romantic cloud has passed; I had fantasies of a Sargeant/Duncan Grant friendship (perhaps more).
      My friend Serge , a collector of Sargeant/Beard set me straight, so to speak.
      I enjoy your blog, will pop in again, happy to see the Palm Beach article as that is old stomping ground for me.
      Take care,
      Leonard

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