“Fit for a Queen: Perkins Harnly, Victorian Style, and Queer Identity in Midcentury America”

Born on a Nebraska farm at the turn of the 20th century, by the 1940s, Perkins Harnly was known for his paintings of lavish Victorian interiors (an era that had ended by the time he started his art career). His fascination with the more lavish things in life went beyond his artistic work—Harnly spent the ’30s in Los Angeles, where he acquired a colorful network of acquaintances and even won a few prizes at local drag balls. In a discussion hosted by the National Portrait Gallery, Sarah Burns, a professor emerita of art history at Indiana University Bloomington, will explore Harnly’s work through the lens of his queer identity. Burns, whose biography of Harnly will be available this September, sees the Victorian interior as a “metaphorical closet” sheltering the artist from a heteronormative society while offering an outlet for self-expression within it. Eduardo Ardiles, founder of the Philadelphia-based architectural and interior design firm Studio Edo, will moderate a Q&A following Burns’ lecture. The event, hosted by the National Portrait Gallery’s scholarly center, PORTAL, is part of the Smithsonian’s Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia Conversation Series in LGBTQ+ Portraiture. The event begins at 5 p.m. on April 6 on Zoom. Registration is available at smithsonian.zoom.us. Free.