Public Art, Private Expression

Why do so many public murals seem to have a homoerotic tone?



Duncan Grant mural, West Wall (detail), St Blaise Chapel, Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England

Grant was a conscientious objector in the First World War. Though homosexual, he had a daughter, Angelica, by his 40-year largely platonic relationship with Vanessa Bell (sister of Virginia Woolf), and several notable lovers including Bloomsbury set fellows, the economist John Maynard Keynes and writer David Garnett. His later life was spent with another Bloomsbury associate, poet and translator of the classics, Paul Roche.

The mural paintings in The Russell Chantry, St. Blaise Chapel in St. Mary’s Cathedral are dedicated to St. Blaise, patron saint of wool workers and depict a fanciful quayside scene in 15th century Lincoln. They were painted in 1958, when Grant was in his early seventies and were embroiled in controversy from the start. His initial designs were amended and his open homosexuality and history as a conscientious objector were frowned upon in the early post-war years. The Chapel was kept locked from around 1964 to 1977 when the first colour Cathedral guidebook made no mention of the murals and it continued to be locked and used as a storeroom with cupboards against the walls covering the murals until 1990. Some people objected to the near nudity of the figure of Christ, modelled on Grant’s homosexual lover Paul Roche and athletic young porters loading bales of wool on the quayside. Even today, some Cathedral guides omit the St.Blaise Chapel and Grant’s marvellous murals from their tour. Source:

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