Queer artists of the 20th century: from “transgression” to pride

10 February 2022

Queer artists from the twentieth century were celebrated in Sheffield today.

Dr Nicky Hallett gave a talk about the infamous Bloomsbury Group, a circle of artistic and intellectual pioneers in the first half of the 20th century. Largely queer women and men, they sought sexual, social and artistic liberation, while the LGBT community was discriminated against and oppressed in Britain. 

The talk was hosted in the Millennium Gallery, for the exhibition Beyond Bloomsbury: Life, Love and Legacy.  

Dr Hallett introduced the works by the group members, including Virginia Woolf. Woolf explored and expressed the idea of the existence of dual personality in Orlando: A Biography, which made a sociological significance on British history.

Dr Hallett explained the artists’ unique perspectives on gender and sexual identity through and creative and experimental literature, play, dance and photography. They used their bold, unconventional personalities and lifestyles to against the censorship of sexual depression. 

She also analysed the self portraits by French surrealist photographer Claude Cahun and her lover Marcel Moore, who contributed to French artificial art history, showing the way they rejected to be defined and embraced variability. 

She said: “The modern art has always been experimenting through varied ways, Bloomsbury was one of the avant garde groups. I think and I hope these artists from the last century are influencing the young generation.

Dr Hallett said: “LGBTQ+ History Month is really important. It is about exploring and to remember history, to remind ourselves about how people before us have created the space that we’re now occupying.”

Lucy Burley, 24-year-old photography student, said: “We would love to have more exhibitions and talks about the art and LGBTQ+ culture which are parts of our history, and have been influencing us.”

Written by Yiying Fan

Journalism student at the University of Sheffield.

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