5 LGBTQ+ artists you might not know about

5 LGBTQ+ artists you might not know about

You’ve probably heard about Andy Warhol and David Hockney, but art history has so many more LGBTQ+ artists you might not have heard of yet. Here are five we think you should definitely get to know.

1.Marie Laurencin was a prominent French artist known for her distinctive contributions to the world of art in the early 20th century. Born in Paris in 1883, Laurencin emerged as a leading figure in the avant-garde movement, particularly associated with Cubism and the Parisian bohemian culture of the time. Her art style is characterized by its delicate, pastel-colored palette and ethereal, dreamlike imagery, often featuring elongated figures, particularly women and animals, rendered with flowing lines and soft brushstrokes. Laurencin’s works often evoke a sense of poetic sensibility and introspection, reflecting her own experiences and emotions. She is known to have had romantic relationships with both men and women, and her art occasionally explores themes of love, desire, and intimacy with subtle hints at her own experiences

2. Robert Rauschenberg was a groundbreaking American artist known for his innovative, genre-defying works that bridged painting, sculpture, and performance. Emerging in the mid-20th century, he navigated the turbulent social landscape of post-war America, blending elements of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art to create pieces that challenged artistic conventions. Rauschenberg, openly gay, often incorporated aspects of his personal experiences into his art, though he maintained a degree of separation between his public and private life. His contributions to the art world continue to influence contemporary artists and provoke new perspectives on the intersection of art and society.

via Wikimedia Commons

3. Sunil Gupta, an influential photographer born in India in 1953, has made significant contributions to the exploration of identity, sexuality, and social justice through his art. His photography often focuses on marginalized communities, particularly within the LGBTQ+ spectrum, shedding light on their experiences and struggles. Gupta’s work challenges stereotypes and confronts societal norms, offering a powerful and unapologetic portrayal of queer life and culture. As an openly gay man, his own experiences and identity have strongly influenced his artistic vision, with themes of desire, intimacy, and the politics of sexuality recurring throughout his body of work. Through his lens, Gupta captures moments of vulnerability, resilience, and joy, inviting viewers to confront their own preconceptions and empathize with the diverse narratives of LGBTQ+ individuals around the world.

4. Ma Rainey, known as the “Mother of the Blues,” was a pioneering African American blues singer and one of the first professional blues vocalists to record. Born Gertrude Pridgett in 1886, Rainey’s music and performances were influential in shaping the blues genre and popularizing it beyond the African American community. Beyond her musical contributions, Rainey’s life and art were intertwined with political and social implications. She navigated a racially segregated society and used her platform to assert her identity and challenge societal norms. Rainey’s songs often touched on themes of empowerment, survival, and resilience in the face of oppression, reflecting the realities of African American life in the early 20th century. Additionally, Rainey’s sexuality was a significant aspect of her identity; she was openly bisexual at a time when such identities were rarely acknowledged publicly. This aspect of her identity, along with her assertive demeanor and flamboyant stage presence, challenged traditional gender and sexual norms. Rainey’s unapologetic embrace of her sexuality and her refusal to conform to societal expectations further solidified her legacy as a trailblazer in both music and culture.

Frida Kahlo by Michelle Shore

5. Frida Kahlo, the iconic Mexican artist, is celebrated for her evocative self-portraits and profound exploration of identity, pain, and resilience. Born in 1907, Kahlo’s art is deeply rooted in her tumultuous life experiences, including her struggles with physical and emotional pain following a severe bus accident in her youth. Through her vibrant and often surreal paintings, Kahlo depicted themes of feminism, Mexican culture, and her own personal turmoil, becoming a symbol of strength and empowerment for generations of women. Her intimate and introspective artworks often blur the lines between reality and imagination, inviting viewers into her inner world of dreams and suffering. Kahlo’s sexuality, characterized by her bisexuality and complex romantic relationships, further informed her art, as she fearlessly explored themes of love, desire, and identity in a society marked by traditional gender roles and societal expectations.

Image to the left by artist Michelle Shore.

Today, LGBTQ+ artists are more visible than ever – from the visual arts, to music, to the performing arts. It’s important to acknowledge that not everybody LGBTQ+ is openly so, and so there are probably many more LGBTQ+ artists than we realise – both today and across history!

In February we and our sister brand, The London Art Bar, have been encouraging people to show their support for AKT. AKT provide invaluable support to young LGBTQ+ facing homelessness. If you’re able to, it would be fantastic if you could chip in too!


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