What's It All About?

Join art historian Daniell Cornell for his lecture about the evolution of the work and lives of Theophilus Brown and Paul Wonner. Cornell speaks about these artists’ perspective as Bay Area Figurative artists both prior to and following the development of queer art theory.


Theophilus Brown and Paul Wonner upended expectations about gay relationships in their domestic and artistic lives. Beginning in the 1950s, when McCarthyism defined gay sexuality as immoral and dangerous, Brown and Wonner lived openly as a couple among their friends and colleagues in the Bay Area. Rather than engaging in political activism, they chose a kind of utopian action, living and working together as a tangible and viable alternative to the cultural norms around them.


Several themes emerge when analyzing male bodies in the drawings and paintings of Wonner and Brown. In addition to the politics of sexual attraction, their works reveal how they shifted a number of traditional settings and genres through a queer point of view. Most notably, they presented male bodies in parks and at leisure activities to suggest a utopian vision where their sexual identities were normal and welcome.


Wonner and Brown also mined the art historical tradition, often alluding to earlier artists but

reworking their approaches through a queer lens. Manet, Cezanne, Bonnard, Matisse, and Picasso provided them with aesthetic and stylistic inspiration for artworks that render the male body, which they celebrated unapologetically. Contemporaries interested in figuration and the male body, including artist friends David Hockney and Don Bachardy, were also a source of innovations that allowed Wonner and Brown to incorporate their sexuality into paintings and drawings.



Advance tickets recommended.

Museum members: $12

Non-members: $18

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