Re choreographer Jerome Robbins and his rejection of the "implicit homosexuality of that depiction"

Re this wiki note on the life of noted choreographer Jerome Robbins what are they talking about re

What/whose depiction are the talking about re that statement? " The "The Fleet’s In!" paintingdoesn’t seem gay so they are obviously talking about something else.

Also per this note he was unpopular with the players despite his success. The text doesn’t say why he was unpopular.

I knew it would be that painting before even clicking on it. It feels very gay to me. There are women present, but the sexualization is all about the men (except for the woman to the left - and that is about her buttocks).

I don’t see it either.

in Eroticism and Art Alyce Mahon discussing the furore about the painting and its banishment from public viewing writes, “But it was not just their cavorting with women which seems to have insulted the Navy. The men are all positioned in a composition that recalls a bas-relief in it’s horizontal, left to right framing device, with the men lined up in such a way that their tight trousers catch their firm buttocks; even the poses of the women emphasize ‘an anal erotic logic’” and “Thus while no-one spoke of the latent homoeroticism of The Fleet’s In! it’s coded satire of Navy life was undoubtedly at odds with the American nation’s vision of its Navy boys, and led to it’s quick censorship.”

Let me see if I can explain it at all. First off, buttocks abound. They are emphasized and inviting. Out of the thirteen people depicted, only two are making direct eye contact with each other. Both men. In the rather intimate process of lighting a cigarette (phallic symbol? maybe too far). And look at the way that blonde man is looking at the sailor and he’s looking back. There is a lot being exchanged in that look. The fact that the reclining sailor also seems to be looking at suit man echoes this, especially as he’s in a relaxed “take me” pose. And why is the woman trying to pull him up (and how did he even get there in the first place)? She looks like she wants to reclaim him, or is maybe even embarrassed.

Well… looking at it again I suppose it is pretty ass centric, but other than Mr. Smooth with the bedroom eyes sharing his cigarettes, that’s some pretty finely tuned gaydarness for the 1930’s and 40’s. I thought they were supposed to be oblivious to low level crypto queerness in those days

In looking more closely at the picture it is unusual that all the clothes are so tight. Most of the IRL 30’s & 40’s men’s and women’s clothes I’ve seen photos of were nowhere near that tight. The most telling gay feature of the painting (looking at it analytically) are the prominent cock bulges of the reclining sailor and the one to the far right. It’s almost getting into proto Tom of Finlandterritory.

You’re right - there’s a strong resemblance. And it’s not so much the prominence, but the fact that, as you say, the clothing is tight enough to show all of that. But look at what is NOT being shown - breasts. Out of six women, we can only see breasts on one of them. And while those may not seem small, they are when you look at her legs. Plus there are tucks in the fabric, and one of the sailor’s hands is hiding most of one. And again notice that there is no double entendre with the hand - it is NOT trying to cop a feel. If anything, it is pulling back, ready to smack that booty just asking for it.

I’m a lesbian who enjoys gazing at a fine caboose on a specimen of any gender, so ymmv and there could be all sorts of biases at work, but the best I can do is consider it stylized in such a way that asses are emphasized. Reading much more into it than that is a harder sell for me, but I am a thirty-mumble-year-old child of this particular crazy world, not that one, and art interpretation and I have a love/hate relationship.

The feet are large and over-emphasized in lots of illustration and animation that I don’t consider as hotbeds of sexual foot fetishism.

Now, the tightness of the clothes + ass-emphasis (including the amount of attention to detail in the basically disembodied ass of the sailor third from the right)…that is somewhat more compelling evidence that the emphasis was of a sexual nature and not a merely stylized one, but you completely lose me with the eye contact and facial expression stuff. They guy lying down looks like he’s passed out drunk to me.

Concerning the female threesome at mid-right:

a) It isn’t just that there’s no lascivious attention to their bodyshapes. The body poses and facial expressions aren’t inviting to viewer or sailors either.

b) You don’t see them as separate individual women but as a sort of threesome-blur. On closer inspection you seem to be looking at a three-headed two-bodied amalgamation, with the middle head sort of sprouting between the inner shoulders of the woman to her (its?) left and the woman to the right. Only with very careful study can you make your eyes track down the middle head and join it to the black-clad body. And conjure up the third woman as the head with the amused grin attached to the blue skirt 9/10ths hidden behind the other two women’s bodies. Of the three of them the only one you can sort of focus on easily is the one closest to us in the sunset-toned dress. She’s the one with the snooty haughty expression. Not only is she very flat-chested, her chest is very bony. (Nice ass though).

c) The one with the rather naughty amused grin is the most likely owner of the hand that seems to be contemplating a grab at the rounded sailor ass that the women are walking past.
ALSO behind the peculiar threesome, in goldenrod, that’s a very sexually ambiguous person who is rejecting the attentions of the seated sailor. The hair length and ruffled collar (and heterosexual normativity of course) suggest female, but something about the body shape is more reminiscent of a young boy drawn to adult size (think little lord fauntleroy). If that’s a female she’s the only one not wearing high heeled shoes. And this person’s other hand seems to be reaching for a feel of the snooty-haughty woman’s ass while the passed-out sailor’s hand is positioned for a backhanded brush against ambiguous-person’s butt. All three ass-grabs are visually suggestive when you only look at the hand and the relevant ass, then seem to be just accidental juxtapositions when you back out to see what the owner of the relevant hand is doing, but that’s a lot of accidental juxtaposition.

You just gotta love a forum like this one! Where else can you expect to find impromptu art history/criticism discussions?

Then I must be seeing something very different than you are.

I was initially looking for something a bit more overt. Deconstructing the elements does illustrate why the Navy and others were unhappy with the picture, but I’m still a bit surprised that people in the 40’s and 40’s came to the conclusion that this picture was a pack of queers at play. Maybe seeing the expressions life sized between Mr. Smooth and the Navy guy he’s giving the cigarette to would have more impact. How big is the painting anyway?

Paul Cadmus was gay, and his work is rife with homerotic imagery, some of it a lot more overt than this particular piece. You can see a lot of his work here. The other paintings in the Sailor Trilogy are pretty gay too. He liked him some man ass.

The blond guy with the cigarette lighter looks like Ted Haggard. If he had a word balloon it’d read “Hey thailor.” That along with all the buttocks, bulges, and men with arms around each other makes the painting look fairly gay, yes.

YEAH, BABY! YEAH! We’re the Female Mid-Right Threesome What Threesomes at Mid-Right! I says tell me I’m wrong and he says “I CAN’T, BABY, 'cause you’re RIGHT!!!”

The painting looks pretty gay all right, even considering that masculinity was defined somewhat differently in the 1930s than today. But I can sort of see what astro is objecting to in the quote - there is a fashion in academic circles to “create” a “gay history” by outing people or works that don’t seem to reflect conventional sex stereotypes as we think they existed at the time. The painting doesn’t fall into that category, though - it’s almost flaunting. I’m not surprised it was censored in its day.

Tangentially related but a great performance: an excerpt from ZERO HOUR, Jim Brochu’s one man show. In this scene he discusses (his hatred for) Jerome Robbins.

Oops. This got left out of the above:

Excerpt one from ZERO HOUR, Jim Brochu’s one man show about Zero Mostel, in which Mostel discusses the origins of his hatred for Robbins.

Excerpt 2 in which Mostel and Robbins are professionally reunited years later (not happily).

I am taking **Blue Mood **a little out of context, because I didn’t want to limit my question to The Fleet’s In, but isn’t it possible to have a painting that sexualizes the men and is still hetererotic? Is anybody painting for the ladies in the audience?