Montreal author John Potvin’s new book explores the homes of Oscar Wilde, Noël Coward and Cecil Beaton
This story was originally published in Daily Xtra
Montreal author John Potvin was researching his new book about the homes of famous gay men around the same time he married his husband in December 2010, in the home of a close gay friend. It was here and then that Potvin’s vision for his book Bachelors of a Different Sort: Queer Aesthetics, Material Culture and the Modern Interior in Britain crystallized.
“I’d been thinking about this for half a decade, and what fascinated me about these gay male couples were their lives together,” Potvin says. “Much of what is written about gay life and queer identity is geared at the public sphere. I wanted people to understand how these men created lives within their homes.”
Bachelors of a Different Sort gives readers an inside look at turn-of-the century bachelorhood by offering case studies of the private lives and homes of several prominent gay bachelors living in Britain. All the bachelors chosen were in the creative arts — writers, actors, painters, designers and photographers — and the book includes the domestic interiors of Oscar Wilde, Noël Coward and Cecil Beaton.
Potvin, an art history professor at Montreal’s Concordia University, explores a largely unseen side of queer sexuality by showing how these bachelors used interior design to set themselves apart from the constraints of the hetero-patriarchy that surrounded them.
“Although [gay men] have been written out of the histories of design and the home, a profound sense of community was forged as a result of [them] living in these homes,” Potvin says.