Event: Boyhood: Re-examining an Edwardian Obsession

  • 23 June 2021

To coincide with its summer exhibition, Henry Scott Tuke (7 June–12 September 2021), Watts Gallery – Artists' Village is holding an interdisciplinary virtual event on Thursday, 8 July, supported by a Paul Mellon Centre Event Support Grant, which looks to re-examine the Edwardian obsession with boyhood through the lens of the twenty-first century.

While the boy, as precursor to the man, has always held a certain degree of cultural capital in western history, this reached a particular zenith at the turn of the twentieth century. Edwardian Britain obsessed over the potential and perils of boyhood and youth with extraordinary intensity. Chaired by Professor Michael Hatt and Nicholas Tromans, this event aims to contextualise the art of Henry Scott Tuke (1858–1929), an artist best-known today – as in his own lifetime – for his almost relentless depiction of boys and male youths. Generally depicted boating, bathing or lounging naked on Cornish beaches, Tuke’s ephebic youths speak to an apparent golden age fictionalised in the visual and literary culture of the day.

Papers will consider how both artists and writers used the young male figure (especially the exposed male body) as an evocation of health, beauty, classical perfection, power, morality, potential or erotic desire in Edwardian Britain. The conference will close with a keynote by Professor Joseph Bristow (UCLA). The event is free, more information and tickets can be found here.