About the Photographer
American, b. 1930
IIn photographic portraits and paintings, artist George Dureau focuses on the human figure. Some of his photographs, such as Battista Painted (1989), convey a classical or even heroic kind of beauty, while portraying the form of the male body with a candid homoeroticism. Yet Dureau is invested more broadly in holding notions of beauty up to scrutiny. In an extensive series of revealing black and white portraits, Dureau has photographed men who have historically been excluded as subjects of nude photography, namely men with disabilities, amputees, and dwarves. His subjects' bodies are not beautiful by traditional standards, but Dureau's portraits impart a sense of nobility and desirability.
Dureau was an early influence on Robert Mapplethorpe, who was a friend of his in the 1970s. The styles and sensibilities of the two photographers, however, diverge in many respects. While Mapplethorpe's nudes are often cool and detached in feeling, self-consciously formal even at their most erotic, Dureau's portraits are chracterized by emotional engagement and attentiveness to the personal qualities of the subject. As Edward Lucie-Smith writes of Dureau's nudes of disabled men, "The photographer and his subjects have entered into a shared enterprise, whose purpose is to record not only the outward appearances, but an inner sense of worth in the person being photographed — achieved sometimes against overwhelming odds." Dureau titles his works with the subject's name and often has them pose with objects that suggest their individuality and personal interests, as in the photograph of Leonard Frazer (1981) who holds a clarinet as he sits on a plinth.
Dureau is also a painter, and he has often used models from his photographs as the basis for the figures in his oil and charcoal paintings. These works typically make use of classical imagery and narratives from mythology, but Dureau imbues them with a candid homoeroticism as well. Dureau was born in New Orleans and, with brief exceptions, has lived there all his life. He attended Louisiana State University, completing a BA in Fine Arts in 1952. After serving in the United States Army he briefly enrolled at Tulane University to study architecture. While establishing his career as an artist he worked as an advertising manager for department stores in New Orleans.