Boyhood: Re-examining an Edwardian Obsession

Thursday 8 July 2021, 12pm – 5pm
Free to attend and open to all, online via Zoom

Book tickets online

Supported by Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

To coincide with its summer exhibition, Henry Scott Tuke (7 June – 12 September 2021), Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village is holding an interdisciplinary half-day conference which looks to re-examine the Edwardian obsession with boyhood through the lens of the twenty-first century.

While the boy, as precursor to the man, has always held a certain degree of cultural capital in western history, this reached a particular zenith at the turn of the twentieth century. Edwardian Britain obsessed over the potential and perils of boyhood and youth with extraordinary intensity.

Chaired by Professor Michael Hatt, Dr Nicholas Tromans, and Dr Cicely Robinson, this event aims to contextualise the art of Henry Scott Tuke (1858–1929), an artist best-known today – as in his own lifetime – for his almost relentless depiction of boys and male youths. Generally depicted boating, bathing or lounging naked on Cornish beaches, Tuke’s ephebic youths speak to an apparent golden age fictionalised in the visual and literary culture of the day.

Papers will consider how both artists and writers used the young male figure (especially the exposed male body) as an evocation of health, beauty, classical perfection, power, morality, potential or erotic desire in Edwardian Britain. The conference will close with a keynote by Professor Joseph Bristow (UCLA).


Professor Fae Brauer (University of East London)
‘Virilizing Boyhood: “L’inverti supérieur” at the Paris Salons and Royal Academy’

Eleanor Keane (Doctoral Researcher, Goldsmiths)
‘Boys of Ruby, Gold and Ivory: Oscar Wilde’s Construction of Bejewelled Boyhood’

Kathy Rees (independent researcher)
‘Edmund Gosse’s “glorious life among wild boys on the margin of the sea” in Father and Son (1907)’

Professor Patricia Pulham (University of Surrey)
‘Venetian Blues: Beauty, Boyhood, and Impossible Love at the Fin de Siècle’

Dr Nick Bubak (independent scholar)
‘“fit in wind, limb, sight and hearing”: Bodily Health and National Efficiency in the Edwardian Scouting Movement’

Professor Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina (University of Massachusetts)
The Secret Garden and Imperial Boyhood

Dr Paul Bench (University of the Arts London)
‘Representations of Male Youth: Queer Readings of Paintings and Photographs by Henry Scott Tuke and Beyond’

Peter Parker (independent scholar)
‘An object of almost divine worship’: the Edwardian cult of the schoolboy

Keynote – Professor Joseph Bristow (UCLA)
‘Boy-Love in the Circle of Henry Scott Tuke: Charles Masson Fox, Frederick Rolfe, and The Venice Letters’

This post has been re-published by permission from the
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