Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

George Dureau

King of the New Orleans Art Scene




New Orleans based painter, sculptor and photographer George Dureau (1930-2014) died earlier this year from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. His black and white photographs, charcoal sketches and arresting paintings captured the spirit of New Orleans at its highest and lowest levels. Many of his art works were strongly homoerotic in nature, and he favored nymphs and satyrs, as well as live male models who were dwarves and amputees. His art was placed all over New Orleans, in restaurants, bars, museums and outdoor public spaces.

Dureau was a larger than life character, often seen on his bicycle or black Jeep cruising through the old quarter. His unkempt long hair and beard, coupled with his booming bass voice spewing forth bawdy comments, led some to label him Mephistopheles. Dureau called himself a “neo-classical homosexual,” a reference to elements depicted in his paintings. He had a rare talent for being able to paint outsiders, often picked up off the streets, in a way that elicited no pity. There was always a dignity in the expression of his subjects.

George was a legend in his own time, and seemingly every citizen of New Orleans knew who he was. While it would have been to his professional advantage to relocate to NYC, he stayed put, reigning over his home town art scene. In fact, Dureau managed to forge a national and international reputation while staying home.

He had a vibrant personality and sharp wit, and he was a great entertainer. His buffet spreads looked like still life paintings, everything arranged just so. He youthful work as a window dresser was evident. Dureau’s apartment/studios were a riot of “arranged” clutter, a delight to the eye, which joyfully darted from one surprise and treasure to the other.

When recent medical costs led him to sell artworks and furnishings, his friends rallied and made sure the bills got paid. They were more than willing to give back to a local denizen who had brought such quirky interest and joy to their lives.



3 comments:

  1. I didn't know about this guy ! Very interesting. (Someday you should cover Lyle Saxon, too, that other great New Orleans figure). -Joe

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    1. Yes, Lyle Saxon would be a perfect entry for this site. His longtime lover, African-American Joe Gilmore, had to pose as Saxon's valet in order that the two might live together unquestioned.

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  2. I'm from New Orleans and met him numerous times. He was sublimely strange and, in turn, quite charming. He could be seen prowling the back rooms of gay bars in the French Quarter looking for the exotic African-American beauties he loved to photograph and paint ( and have sex with). You neglected to mention his very close personal friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. Indeed, it was Dureau's photography of black men that had the greatest influence on Mapplethorpe's work. Dyreau, however, achieved far greater mainstream, commercial success than Mapplethorpe ever did. Most of the blue-blood Uptown mansions in New Orleans boast Dureau canvases.

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