HomeMale Bonds in Nineteenth-Century Art

HomeMale Bonds in Nineteenth-Century Art

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Published on Thursday, April 05, 2018


The conference will probe, challenge and expand upon the academic narrative of male homosociality through the lens of art history. It aims to establish an overview of a variety of male bonds that underpinned nineteenth-century art, and to consider the theoretical and methodological implications of the study thereof. In so doing, it seeks to build a bridge between traditional art-historical scholarship and the fields of gender and gay and lesbian studies: an interdisciplinary exchange of which the full potential for scholarship on the nineteenth century remains to be exploited.



Male Bonds is a two-day international conference that will take place in the Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent, Belgium, on Tuesday May 15 and Wednesday May 16, 2018. It is organized by Ghent University and the European Society for Nineteenth-Century Art (ESNA).

Male homosociality helped structure nineteenth-century European and American society. Its pre-eminence at that time follows, inter alia, from the general separation between men and women in social roles if not in social spheres, and from the lack of a strictly binary view of male sexual orientation. The personal lives and careers of men bore the marks of their relations with other men: with brothers, friends, colleagues, pupils, business associates and many others. Such relations were characterized both by the dynamics of comradeship and by the hierarchies of class, age, race, professional status, etc. They were both established between individuals and in collectivities, especially as fraternal organizations flourished from the late eighteenth century onwards. So intense could men’s relations be that they seem to have included possibilities of a romantic and erotic kind that are foreign to normative relationships between men today, even if male-male intimacy relied upon women’s bodies for its consolidation.

Especially in the fast-paced decades around the turn of the century, changes arose in Europe and the United States that affected male homosociality to varying degrees. Categories such as ‘inversion’ (i.e. the reversal of masculine gender identity) and ‘homosexuality’ came into being through the interplay of increasingly visible queer subcultures and of a discursive explosion emanating from the fields of medicine, psychiatry, law, etc. The increasing conception of same-sex sexualities coincided and intermingled with other challenges to traditional notions of manhood – e.g. fears of degeneration, women’s entry into education, politics and the work force – to such an extent that scholars have described a wide-ranging fin-de-siècle “crisis of masculinity”. Men’s answers to these challenges altered the ways in which they related to other men, establishing for instance a “rough and tough” hegemonic masculinity and what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has designated a “male homosexual panic”.

This conference strives to probe, challenge and expand upon this academic grand narrative of male homosociality through the lens of art history. It aims to establish a multifaceted survey of the male bonds that underpinned nineteenth-century art, and to consider the theoretical and methodological implications of the study thereof. Gender studies, queer theory and gay and lesbian studies have made available a great many histories and concepts with which to critically examine the specificity of gender and sexuality in art: an exchange through which all disciplines involved stand to be enriched. We welcome papers that undertake this interdisciplinary endeavor, and mark men in art history as gendered historical subjects.


Professionals: € 70 (both days) | € 40 (1 day)
Students: € 15 (both days) | € 10 (1 day)
Online registration for the conference is now open.
You will find the registration form on the Male Bonds Conference webs


Day 1 – Tuesday 15 May

  • 09.00-09.30 registration / coffee & tea 
  • 09.30-09.45 : Welcome by Johan De Smet, Museum of Fine Arts Ghent
    Introduction by Marjan Sterckx, Ghent University
  • 09.45-10.45 : Patriarchy, masculinity, and homosocial relations: Mapping the territories - 
    Abigail Solomon-Godeau, UC Santa Barbara

Session 1: Fraternal bonds: Mediating masculine intimacy.
(Chair: Jan Dirk Baetens, Radboud University Nijmegen)

  • Brothers-in-law of the brush: The domestic dramas of Édouard Vuillard and Ker-Xavier Roussel
    Rachel Sloan, Courtauld Gallery
  • The relationship between Gauguin and Laval: A re-evaluation – Joost van der Hoeven, Van Gogh Museum
  • Asher Durand’s Kindred Spirits and the homoerotics of transcendentalism – Alexis Monroe, New York University)
  • Brothers in arts: The strategies of Joseph, Alfred and Arthur Stevens – Tom Verschaffel, KU Leuven

12.20-13.45 Lunch + optional visit of the Medardo Rosso exhibition 

Session 2: Coercive bonds: Disciplining the male body 
(Chair: Katharina Pewny, Ghent University)

  • Undressing the army: Health and hygiene on display in Eugène Chaperon’s La douche au Régiment – Sean Kramer, University of Michigan
  • Western art and same-gender sexual abuse of enslaved men – Thomas A. Foster, Howard University
  • Bazille, painter-Zouave: Homosociality and hypermasculinity at the dawn of the Franco-Prussian war – Mary Manning, independent scholar
  • An alliance of virtue: Masculinity, self-reformation, and public actors in Hungary in the Reform Age– Éva Bicskei, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

15.20-15.45 Coffe + Tea

Session 3: Imperial bonds: Othering and the formation of masculine identities
(Chair: Jenny Reynaerts, Rijksmuseum)

  • Un être essentiellement sculptural’: Black manhood and nudity in the sculpture of Arsène Matton – Thijs Dekeukeleire, Ghent University & University of Antwerp
  • Mystical Manhood: Whirling dervishes in the orientalist imaginary Brigid Boyle, Rutgers University
  • Lions in the tigers’ den: Rival masculinities in the jungles of British India – Siddhartha V. Shah, Columbia University

Day 2 - Wednesday 16 may

  • 08.30-9.00 Registration / coffee & tea
  • 09.00-09.05 : Welcome by Thijs Dekeukeleire, Ghent University & University of Antwerp
  • 9.05-10.05 : Zahrtmann’s Symposium: Ancient Greek desire in a modern Danish scandal– Michael Hatt, University of Warwick

Session 4: Covert bonds: Queering the nineteenth-century man 
(Chair: Stefan Dudink, Radboud University Nijmegen)

  • Binding and unbinding bodies: Simeon Solomon– Jongwoo Jeremy Kim, University of Louisville
  • Raphael, Jonah, and Antinoüs: Problems of male beauty and sexuality on the Grand Tour– Crawford Alexander Mann III, Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Aesthetic of the closet: Robert de Montesquiou and the art of collecting– Damien Delille, Lumière University Lyon 2

Male bonding on the motif: Landscape painting and the formation of modern masculinities
Anthea Callen, University of Nottingham & Australian National University

12.20-14.00 Lunch + optional visit of the Medardo Rosso exhibition 

Session 5: Forged bonds: Competing for each other’s attention 
(Chair: Marjan Sterckx, Ghent University)

  • Strong, loyal, male: Artists as hunters– Maurice Saß, University of Hamburg
  • The heart is like many instruments’: Technology, engineering, and invention in the circle of Edgar Degas– Michelle Foa, Tulane University
  • Everybody’s darling: A male artist society grasping for Loïe Fuller – Thomas Moser, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
  • Difference and similitude: Gustave Caillebotte and the homosociality of stamps and yachts – Samuel Raybone, University of Essex

15.35-16.00 Coffe + tea 

  • 16.00-16.30 Concluding remarks– Henk de Smaele, University of Antwerp
  • 16.30-17.00 Discussion (Chair: Rachel Esner, University of Amsterdam | ESNA)


  • MSK – Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent - Hofbouwlaan 28
    Ghent, Belgium (9000)


  • Tuesday, May 15, 2018
  • Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Attached files


  • homosociality, nineteenth-century art, gay, lesbian, queerness, orientalism, race, gender


  • Malika M'rani Alaoui
    courriel : esnaonline [at] hotmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Malika M'rani Alaoui
    courriel : esnaonline [at] hotmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Male Bonds in Nineteenth-Century Art », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Thursday, April 05, 2018, https://doi.org/10.58079/zz4

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