Patrick Angus - He will survive  


Patrick Angus – He will survive
by Douglas Blair Turnbaugh
Published in ERATO, 1997


merican social–realist painter Patrick Angus died in 1992, at the age of thirty-eight, of AIDS-related complications. His was a short, unhappy life but almost miraculously, Patrick died in a glow of contentment, a kind of apotheosis. His greatest malaise was fear that his artwork would never be seen and indeed that it would end up in a dumpster. This paranoia that his work would never be accepted was reinforced by the reality of the art scene in New York and captured on film in Resident Alien, a documentary on the life of Quentin Crisp. There we see the playwright Robert Patrick drag the reluctant Patrick Angus to show his work to a smart dealer in the chic East Village. The art dealer does indeed recoil in horror, and Patrick, deeply humiliated, rolls up his canvases (too poor to afford stretchers) to retreat to his tiny room. However, in the final year of his life, after no previous showings of his work, he enjoyed three one-man exhibitions, and was included in several group shows.  On his deathbed in St. Vincent's hospital, I was able to show him the colour proof sheets for a book of his paintings, and he whispered, "This is the happiest day of my life."

Patrick Angus, Boys do fall in Love

Patrick would be gratified to know that his work was shown recently at a prestigious international art institution, the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. The stupendous 100 Years of Gay Liberation exhibition was a kind of World's Fair of Art and History. David Hockney once said if you have to be in a group show send a big picture. Hockney lent a big picture to this exhibition, and one of its organisers Andreas Sternweiler (of the Gay Museum in Berlin) chose an equally big canvas by Patrick, his Boys do fall in Love. The two hung side by side in Berlin. A detail of this painting was used as the cover illustration for Die Sehnsucht der Menschenfrescher, by Alfred Chester (Albino, 1993).

Although he has been called the "Emily Dickinson of the art world" and the "Toulouse Lautrec of gay Times Square", Patrick Angus work remains unacknowledged by the American art establishment. But his genius for observation, his humanism, his compassion for his subject, and the obvious power of his artistry mean his pictures have only to be seen once to be remembered, and to create a desire to see more. They are unique and beautiful accounting of a fascinating époque, and they will take their place in our cultural history. They will survive.

Douglas Blair Turnbaugh

Douglas Blair Turnbaugh is author of Duncan Grant and the Bloomsbury Group (1987); Private: the Erotic Art of Duncan Grant (1989); Strip Show: Paintings by Patrick Angus, published by Editions Aubrey Walter (Gay Mens Press), London 1992.

He is also a contributor to Ecrits sur Nijinsky (1992), and is a member of the Comite Nijinsky and on the Executive Committee of the Conseil International de la Danse/UNESCO.

Paintings by Duncan Grant and Patrick Angus are available for purchase from

Mr. Turnbaugh, 2. West 55th Street, New York City 10019.

 
 
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© 2001 Douglas Blair Turnbaugh