Glyn Warren Philpot (1884–1937) was a queer artist who mostly did society portraits.
He studied at what is now the City and Guilds of London Art School in 1900, and at the Académie Julian in Paris. After spending some time in Spain, he painted Manuelito, a portrait of a circus boy, which brought him many commissions for portraits and made him rather rich, with enough money to afford traveling to France, Italy, America and North Africa and allowed him continue to paint less commercial subjects. These paintings reflected his personal concerns and contradictions: Philpot converted to Catholicism, yet his interest in the male nude and portraits of young men, many friends, models and lovers, show his gradual acceptance and expression of his own queerness as he got older. He began using black men as models.
Unfortunately, critics and the art-loving public were not digging these paintings and his work no longer sold. He was forced to sell his home in Sussex home. He began to paint still lifes and portraits of Henry Thomas, his Jamaican servant.
In 1931 he traveled Berlin, where he encountered the decadent, exciting gay subculture of the Weimar Republic. This inspired Philpot and led him to a more minimalist, modernist style in his final years. He put on four exhibitions in five years, which put a strain on his health.
Philpot had a long, fraught relationship with fellow artist Vivian Forbes, whom he met during World War I. Like Philpot, Forbes’ work was affected by concern over the rise of Fascism in Europe. He also wrote poetry, all of it dedicated to Philpot and their romance.
Philpot died from a stroke in December 1937. Forbes committed suicide the day after Philpot’s funeral in Westminster Cathedral.
After his death Philpot’s work was mostly neglected, but an exhibition in 1984 at the National Portrait Gallery brought his work to a new audience. Several of his paintings were included in Tate Britain‘s Queer British Art: 1861-1967 exhibition in 2017.
Pictures via Pallant House, public domain