Bernard Perlin – Art history
1948. Like many artist’s painter Bernard Perlin (left) finds his way to Fire Island and the PAJAMA group of fellow artists.
“Bernard Perlin (1918-2014) was an extraordinary figure in twentieth century American art and gay cultural history, an acclaimed artist and sexual renegade who reveled in pushing social, political, and artistic boundaries. His work regularly appeared in popular magazines of the 1940s, fifties, and sixties; was collected by Rockefellers, Whitneys, and Astors; and was acquired by major museums, including the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate Modern. His portrait clients included well-known literary, artistic, theatrical, political, and high society figures. As a government propaganda artist and war artist-correspondent, he produced many now-iconic images of World War II. From the 1930s on, he also daringly committed to canvas and paper scenes of underground gay bars and nude studies of street hustlers, among other aspects of his active and dedicated gay life.
Socially, he moved in the upper echelons of New York gay society, a glittering “cufflink crowd” that included George Platt Lynes, Lincoln Kirstein, Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler, Paul Cadmus, Jared French, George Tooker, Pavel Tchelitchew, Truman Capote, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and Jerome Robbins.
He also counted among his most intimate companions such luminaries in the arts as Vincent Price, Clifton Webb, Ben Shahn, Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti, Aaron Copland, Christopher Isherwood, Don Bachardy, Martha Gellhorn, Betsy Drake, Muriel Rukeyser, Carson McCullers, Philip Johnson, and E.M. Forster. Yet he was equally at home in the gay underworlds of New York and Rome, where his unbridled sexual escapades put him in competition with the likes of Jean Genet and Tennessee Williams.
Truman Capote by Bernard Perlin (below) and George Platt Lynes (right.)
Perlin would join fellow artists on Fire Island Paul Cadmus, Margaret and Jared French known together as PAJAMA. This was before leaving for duty in the near east as a war artist. Perlin and Paul Cadmus were companions for a short time during these early years of war.
Fire Island became a haven for many artists. A place where they could not only explore their art, but their lives…
Perlin moved to Italy for six years, and his work became more brightly colored. After moving back to New York City , Perlin grew distasteful towards the competitive culture of the city’s art scene. He moved to Ridgefield Connecticut , and continued to paint until the 1970s. After several years of retirement, a friend encouraged Mr. Perlin back to the canvas in 2012, and after completing two new pieces the Chair and the Maiden Gallery (New York City) hosted a retrospective of Mr. Perlin’s work in 2013.
Perlin was married to Edward Newell. When he stopped painting, Perlin took up growing flowers.
Perlin died at the age of 95 in 2014 in his home in Ridgefield.
In One-Man Show, Michael Schreiber chronicles the storied life, illustrious friends and lovers, and astounding adventures of Bernard Perlin through no-holds-barred interviews with the artist, candid excerpts from Perlin’s unpublished memoirs, never-before-seen photos, and an extensive selection of Bernard Perlin’s incredible public and private art.”