Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929)


Figure 1.-- Henry Scott Tuke's favorite subject was nude boys in seaside locations (usually Cornwall), but he did paint some images of boys who are partially clothed. There is nothing prurient or pornographic in his work. An example which is now in the Bristol City Museum in England, shows a boy wearing only a shirt, underwear, and straw hat, while his companion is already in the sea with his head above the water. It is quite a charming evocation of boyish innocence.

The distinguished English painter Henry Scott Tuke devoted almost his entire career to painting boys and young men. We were not sure wheter to include him on the HBC list, however, as he generall painted them nude or semi-nude without much attention to clothing. Thus his work is of less interest to HBC than other painters we have listed who often painted only a few boys. We finally decided to include him when a reader submitted this entry because as HBC has evolved over time we have gradually devoped into a wider concern with childhood than an exclusive concern with clothing. Tuke's favorite subject was nude boys in seaside locations (usually Cornwall), but he did paint some images of boys who are partially clothed. There is nothing prurient or pornographic in his work. An example which is now in the Bristol City Museum in England, shows a boy wearing only a shirt, underwear, and straw hat, while his companion is already in the sea with his head above the water. It is quite a charming evocation of boyish innocence.

Family

Tuke came from a prominent Yorkshire family who held very progressive ideas in the nineteenth century. His father, Daniel Hack Tuke, was a Quaker and a well known promoter of humane causes including more enlightened treatment of the insane and mentally ill. An ancestor, William Tuke, founded the first modern insane asylum in 1792. The whole family were noted social activists.

Childhood


Childhood Clothing


Education

The the young Tuke moved to London and enrolled in the Slade School of Art (1874). Later he travelled to Italy and lived in Paris, studying with the famous French artist, Paul Laurens.

Associates

Tuke became acquainted with the important American painter, John Singer Sargent (who did give great attention to clothing but also, secretly, painted nude boys). Tuke was also a friend of Oscar Wilde, who shared his interest in attractive young men.

Newlyn School

After a stint on the continent, Tuke returned to Britain and moved to Newlyn, where he became part of a small colony of artists, known to art historians as the Newlyn School.

Body of Work

Tuke settled in Falmouth, a fishing village in Cornwall (1885). Here he could befriend and paint fisherman boys and young men swimming, diving, boating, and sun bathing. Tuke also kept a studio in London where he fulfilled commissions as a portrait painter. He painted, for instance, a well-known likeness of T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"). Tuke's favorite subject was nude boys in seaside locations (usually Cornwall), but he did paint some pictures of boys who are partially clothed. There is nothing prurient or pornographic in his work. An example which is now in the Bristol City Museum in England, shows a boy wearing only a shirt, underwear, and straw hat, while his companion is already in the sea with his head above the water. It is quite a charming evocation of boyish innocence.

Assessment

Tuke attracted a great deal of attention in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods although his preferred subject matter made it hard for him to prosper financially except within a limited elite who shared his liberal interests and attitudes. After his death, he was almost totally forgotten. But in 1970 interest in his work was strenuously revived, and he is now considered a very important British painter. His works are ardently colllected and examples of his art are shown in important museums such as the Leeds City Art Gallery, the Royal Academy of Art in London, and the Tate Gallery (London).







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Created: 6:37 PM 3/24/2006
Last updated: 6:37 PM 3/24/2006