Artist Spotlight: George Towne

By Christopher Harrity

Originally published on March 22 2014 8:37 AM ET

George Towne is a New York artist who has been painting rich and seductive oil portraits of men. The men are friends, or former partners. Others are sexy friends who have offered to pose.  Some of the works are erotic, seductive nudes. Other paintings are introspective portraiture, with the men casting discomforting glances or engaged in confrontational attitudes.  

The sexual appeal of Towne's painting often comes in the imperfections of his models: tissue that has mellowed with age, a moody scowl, a ragged shirt. Then there is the erotic detail of his settings: the ruched fabric on an arm chair, eyeglasses, a pair of shoelaces rendered as lovingly as a pair of beautiful eyes. Towne has adopted what he calls a "Painterly Realistic" style which, unlike Photo-Realistic work, still shows the brushstroke. We are aware that we are looking at a painting, and at the same time we can feel the emotion that the painter feels about the subject.

"The men I paint are usually friends of mine, it's pretty obvious that I find them sexy in some masculine way.  So the work at its root is about my obsession with gay male 'Beauty' or my 'Desire'.  But I also usually choose friends who have given me something somehow; maybe they've taught me something... or they were there for me at a difficult time in my life." Towne explains.

"Portraiture also fascinates me because it has that element of stopping time. People I love have come and gone in my life, and loss has not always been easy for me to deal with.  But if I have been able to paint them, it's like capturing them and holding them with me forever."

Interspersed with these portraits are Towne's paintings of the sexual playing fields on Fire Island. Some are quiet, almost elegiac, others have a Fauvist, psychedelic feel, as if taking a stroll through the Meat Rack on LSD.

Andy, Seated

Isauro with Bike

About George Towne: Born in Pennsylvania and raised in Port Jervis, New York, George Towne realized he loved drawing as a young man, and often found himself copying caricatures out of old Mad Magazines.  After his high school art teacher bought him his first set of oil paints, he started to become more serious about art making, and then interested in old master’s works of Caravaggio, Velasquez and the American painter Thomas Eakins.   

Towne came to New York City 20 years ago to attend the School of Visual Arts, where he earned both a B.F.A. and M.F.A. degree.  His paintings have been featured in galleries including the Leslie/Lohman Gallery in New York City, The Barbara Ann Levy Gallery, in Cherry Grove, on Fire Island, New York; and Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, in Narrowsburg, New York.  He will be the subject of a one-person exhibition called "Painted Love: Artwork by George Towne" at Michael Mut Gallery in July 2013.

His work has been reproduced and written about in publications such as American Artist Magazine, Time Out New York, and HXNext Magazine put a piece on the spring 2010 cover.  Recently, he has been attending the gay men's "Erotic Life Drawing" groups, including  "The Leslie/Lohman Erotic Drawing Studio".

George has settled in New York's East Village neighborhood, and has continued with his love of painting and depicting masculine images.

You can find out more about George Towne and see more of his work on his web site.

Click through for more of Towne's work.>>>

Rich and Seth

Meatrack Swamp

Fabio, Plaid Shirt

Lennart and Stevie

Ricardo with Tree

Meatrack Clearing

Eric, Seated

Michael Lucas Nude (detail)

Meatrack, Fire Island Study

George, Self-portrait

Roberto with Blue Drapery

Meatrack, Dune Entrance

Mark Allen

Guiovanny, Seated

Adriano with Coffee Mug

Fire Island, Boardwalk, Ocean

James Orona


Abandoned Capote House

Jeff, Hand on Head

Nando, Rooftop

Mike Standing, Red Drapery

Peter Staley