Artist Spotlight: Otho Cushing

Contemporary with J.C. Leyendecker, and Charles Dana Gibson, and heir to the licentious line art of Aubrey Beardsley, Cushing was a mainstream illustrator with a decidedly gay pen stroke.

BY Christopher Harrity

April 12 2014 4:00 AM ET

Above: The Afternoon of a Faun. Hard to picture a context in which this wasn't overtly gay.

Frustratingly little is known about Otho Cushing. Such is often the case when a family scrubs the historic evidence of a gay family member after his or her death. Sometimes the less biographical information that can be found, the greater the the chance the family or business associates felt there was something to hide.

The Smithsonian Archive records that Cushing was born in 1871 in Fort McHenry, Maryland. He received art training from the Boston School of Fine Arts, graduating with honors. He later studied at the Académie Julian in Paris. He returned to the United States and became a professor of drawing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He returned to Paris to accept the position of art editor for the European edition of the Herald-Tribune after the turn of the century. Cushing submitted his first cartoons to Life in late 1906, which were accepted and accompanied by an offer to join the magazine's staff. During World War I Cushing left Life and served in the Army Air Corps. He retired to his home in New Rochelle, New York, after the war and was a successful watercolorist. Cushing died in New Rochelle, New York, 13 October, 1942.

He was considered a cartoonist but Cushing's style led him to overlay an Olympian air over all his subject matter, whether it was appropriate or not. And failing the option to add a god or satyr or two to the illustration, his wry style of social criticism catches a knowing eye.

Influences of Lyenendecker, Beardsley, and his own noted favorite Lord Frederic Leighton can be detected in his beautiful proportions and the haughty attitude of his young male subjects.

Have you any information our sources you can point us to on the art of Otto Cushing?

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