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Glyn Philpot: Artist at the Crossroads

Part 6: Coming out as a modernist

The scandal surrounding The Great God Pan, with its overt sexuality and experimental style, marked Philpot’s coming-out as a modernist. Yet for many years, his persistent and explicit treatment of the male nude had broken with convention. The Courtauld’s impressive collection of his nude studies, now available online, brings to the fore his systematic examination of the male body. Though not obviously erotic, these are arguably rooted in Philpot’s own homosexuality.

The bodies in Two Male Nudes, for instance, are flirtatiously curvy, while the red chalk Male Nude, Back View projects a sensual solidity. The representation of male nudity remained taboo far longer than that of female. The fact that friends and dealers went so far as to destroy some of the images demonstrates their potential to shock his contemporary audience.

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