Hundreds of explicit sketches discovered under a bed after 60 years by Scottish-born artist Duncan Grant


After being “lost” for 60 years, hundreds of explicit sketches by renowned artist Duncan Grant have been rediscovered.

A gay man, Grant, born in Scotland, lived much of his life as a “criminal” – but that did not stop him from becoming one of the most prolific artists of his time in the mid-twentieth century as a member of the popular Bloomsbury Party.

The 20th Century. He was born seven months before the passage of the Criminal Law Reform Act, which criminalized all male homosexual activity in Britain, in Rothiemurchus, Aviemore, in 1885.

Drawing Untitled, ca. 1946-1959, The Charleston Trust © The Properties of Duncan Grant, Duncan Grant (1885-1978), approved under DACS 2020.

This state of affairs continued until 1967, when in England the Sexual Offences Act was passed – but it took until 1980 to fully decriminalize homosexuality in Scotland.

Now, after being thought lost for decades, hundreds of Grant’s explicit sketches, originally labelled “private,” are being made public.

In a folder marked “These drawings are very private.” the artist gave the 422 drawings to his friend Edward le Bas on May 2, 1959.

Until then, it was thought that they had been killed after the death of the sister of Le Bas, but in reality, for over 60 years, they had been saved and passed on from lover to lover, friend to friend.

Now the collection is on display in Grant’s former home and studio at The Charleston Trust in southern England, which is just launching its crowdfunding campaign to eventually reopen in spring 2021 after being forced to close during the pandemic.

Thanks to the present owner of the drawings and The Charleston Trust, after being locked under a bed for years, the pornographic illustrations expressing Grant’s lifelong obsession with the pleasure and beauty of queer sexual experiences will be made available to the public.

Drawing Untitled, ca. 1946-1959, The Charleston Trust © The Properties of Duncan Grant, Duncan Grant (1885-1978), approved under DACS 2020.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the new owner of the works, theater designer Norman Coates, was in conversation with Charleston about potentially returning these works to Grant’s home and workshop.

When Mr. Coates learned, however, that Charleston, a place of refuge and acceptance for Grant, was in acute danger of insolvency, he realized the significance of surviving Charleston and sharing with its visitors these sketches. For him, it was important that the drawings did not “go back in the closet.”

Today, on the eve of the 104th anniversary, the Charleston Trust is launching a crowdfunding drive to help save the city after the struggles of the pandemic. Duncan Grant, his friend David “Bunny” Garnett and his girlfriend Vanessa Bell first came to Charleston.

Dr. Darren Clarke, the Charleston Trust’s director of collections, research and exhibits, claims the drawings are an important part of the creative output of Duncan Grant and represent a “core part of his identity.”

“‘Never ashamed’ was a belief Duncan Grant lived by, so it may at first seem strange, even hypocritical, that this collection of works has been hidden away, marked ‘very private,’ that there is a palpable sense of fear about their discovery,” he said. “The works date from the late 1940s and ’50s, a time when these beautiful and consensual acts were outlawed.”

These works date from the 1940s and 50s and express Grant’s personality’s playful and erotic aspects.

After the relative freedoms of World War II, peacetime authorities in Britain started to impose a new Puritanism of authority, banning all that deviated from the heteronormative, Dr. Clarke continued.

There have been high-profile cases of prosecution of persons who moved in the circles of Grant. There was a real possibility of detection, conviction and incarceration. So, like so much of our LGBTQ culture, they remained secret.

The Charleston Trust © The Estate of Duncan Grant, licensed by DACS 2020, Untitled painting, ca. 1946-1959, Duncan Grant (1885-1978).

And Dr. Clarke thinks the works allow the Bloomsbury Community to be understood by historians, biographers, and artists in all its “intensity and tenderness.”

Historians and biographers speak in abstract ways about the complicated love lives of the Bloomsbury Party, in lists of lovers, in trials and jealousies,” he said. “But we see what love is in these works, in all its intense


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