Five artworks you need to know by LGBTQ+ artists

To celebrate Pride month, we’re spotlighting on five artworks in our collection made by LGBTQ+ artists.

Roxana Halls Horse McDonald, b.1958. Singer-songwriter 2019 © Roxana Halls
Horse McDonald by Roxana Halls

This joyful portrait of the celebrated Scottish singer Horse McDonald by award-winning artist Roxana Halls (born 1974) captures the vibrancy and experimental nature of their portraiture session.

As part of the creative process, Horse sang her best-loved song Careful for Halls in her London studio. The painting is currently on display in the Great Hall at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

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Toyen Poselstvi Lesa [The Message of the Forest] 1936 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022.
Message of the Forest by Toyen  

Toyen (1902–1980), a founder member of the Czech Surrealist Group, often depicted sinister dream-like worlds. Born Marie Čermínová, Toyen adopted a gender-neutral name in early adulthood.

Even though current terminology around gender fluidity was not in use in the early twentieth-century, Toyen upended gender stereotypes through their clothing, and used the masculine form of the Czech language.

Toyen was careful to not explain the meaning of this artwork, leaving the viewer to explore their own interpretation.  

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Gwen John Portrait of a Girl in Grey About 1918 - 1923
Portrait of a Girl in Grey by Gwen John  

Welsh artist Gwen John (1876-1939) is known for her calming paintings and subtle use of colour. Portrait of a Girl in Grey is one of a series of four similar paintings of a woman in a grey-blue cloak. It captures the sitter’s vulnerability under the artist’s intense stare.

Her identity is unknown although she appeared in nearly fifty of John’s works – almost half of her paintings of women – between about 1915 and 1925. 

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Agnes Martin Happy Holiday 1999 © Estate of Agnes Martin
Happy Holiday by Agnes Martin 

Agnes Martin (1912-2004) was a pioneering abstract painter, whose career spanned almost five decades.

At face value, the minimalist geometric composition of Happy Holiday might not strike the viewer as particularly profound. However, Martin argued that her paintings convey humanity’s unattainable search for perfection; she likened the irregularity of pencil lines to the human condition.

While Martin’s artwork evades biographical references, Happy Holiday is one of a series of paintings from the 1990s in which she used titles to evoke blissful memories from the past. 

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Dora Carrington Jane Maria Grant, Lady Strachey, 1840 - 1928. Writer 1920
Jane Maria Grant, Lady Strachey by Dora Carrington  

Dora Carrington (1893–1932) was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, a group of British artists and writers who famously “lived in squares, painted in circles, and loved in triangles”.

This sombre painting depicts Lady Strachey, the mother of writer Lytton Strachey, with whom Carrington had a relationship with. During her lifetime, Carrington received little critical attention; she is sometimes presented as on the fringes of the Bloomsbury Group, and not necessarily as a core member. Beyond our collection, she is best known for her vivid and surreal landscapes, and beautiful still lifes.  

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29 June 2021