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

April 6th, 2021 @ 5:00 PM


Born on a hardscrabble Nebraska farm, artist Perkins Harnly crossed paths with legendary celebrities and colorful characters while visiting famous graveyards, winning prizes at drag balls and toiling in an upscale Los Angeles cafeteria. From the 1930s on, Harnly produced paintings of exuberantly overstuffed Victorian rooms embedded with sly jokes alluding to his own queer selfhood. Looking through the lenses of Harnly’s life and art, this talk considers the role of the Victorian interior as metaphorical closet that served as a refuge from the judgment and dangers of the outside world. Free, but registration is required.

Presented by Sarah Burns, Ruth N. Halls Professor Emerita, Art History, Indiana University. Kate Clarke Lemay, Portrait Gallery acting senior historian, will moderate the Q&A. This program is a part of the Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia Conversation Series in LGBTQ+ Portraiture and is hosted by PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center.


April 6th, 2021
5:00 PM
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National Portrait Gallery
(202) 633-8300
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