This pencil sketch is of the writer and editor Gleeson White. It is by the well-known artist Walter Sickert. It is one of a large number of drawings by Sickert in the Walker Art Gallery collection.
Gleeson White (born 1851, died 1898) was best known for editing the influential art journal, 'The Studio’. The Studio was known for its modern graphic style and for its lavish use of high quality illustrations and photographic reproductions. Under White’s helm it became one of the most important magazines of the period. Its influence extended throughout Europe and North America. Despite the number of images it was relatively inexpensive and commercially successful. It helped make the avant-garde of the day popular.
White was homosexual. His house in Christchurch, Hampshire was the meeting place for a circle of homosexual artists, writers, actors and intellectuals. ‘The Studio’ helped promote the homoerotic art and literature of some members of this circle. It was used by White to enhance the public’s appreciation of art associated with the Uranian movement.
The term ‘Uranian’ was originally used to describe a female mind or spirit within a male body. It was adopted by advocates of homosexuality to promote a form of comradely love that they believed could break down class and gender boundaries. The movement included artists such as Henry Scott Tuke (born in 1858, died in 1929), intellectuals such as Edward Carpenter (born in 1844, died in 1929) and writers such John Addington Symonds (born in 1840, died in 1893) and Oscar Wilde (born in 1854 died in 1900). The magazine also introduced the public to the art of Aubrey Beardsley born in 1872, died in 1898), Charles Ricketts (born in 1866, died in 1931), and Frederick Rolfe (born in 1860, died in 1913).
In the mid-1890s Oscar Wilde stood trail for the crime of gross indecency (a term meaning homosexual acts not amounting to buggery). The revelations of the trial led to an upsurge of homophobic attacks. Aubrey Beardsley was fired as editor of another art journal ‘The Yellow Book’ after a mob incited by the trials attacked their offices. Soon after the trial, White’s open support of Wilde’s work and the homoerotic tone of ‘The Studio’ also led to him being forced out as editor. He continued to contribute to the magazine until his death from typhoid fever in 1898.