Artist Spotlight: Hans Thoma
BY Christopher Harrity
April 20 2013 4:00 AM ET
Shepherd Boy on Flowery Banks, 1893
Identifying as gay was unheard of at the time. But looking at the bulk of his output indicates that he was often taken with fantasies of young men as mythological characters, woodland sprites, or sleeping shepherds. And often nude. What little biographical information that is available on Thoma leads nowhere as far as his personal life goes.
Was Thoma gay? It was a different time. More than a few artists who have this kind of romantic and homoerotic output were married family men. We know that his idealistic images of men and boys seem to telegraph a connection to a modern gay aesthetic. Perhaps his same-sex attraction lived in and enlivened his art for us to enjoy today, like a message from the past.