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Peter Flinsch - The Body in Question

Peter Flinsch

The Body in Question

By Ross Higgins
Categories: Cultural Studies, Biography & Memoir, Visual Arts, History, Erotica, LGBTQ+, Gay Literature
Paperback : 9781551522371, 176 pages, 2008


Peter Flinsch, who passed away in March 2010 at the age of eighty-nine, was one of the art world's unsung heroes; for more than 60 years, he produced hundreds of paintings, drawings, and sculptures which depict the eroticized male body. In 2006, he won the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation in New York, and now, for the first time, his work has been collected in a beautiful, full-colour edition that celebrates his life and art.

His biography, included in this book, is as remarkable as his work. Born in Leipzig, Germany in 1920, he was obliged to become a member of the Hitler Youth Movement, and subsequently a soldier in Nazi Germany. During the war in 1942, he was accused of homosexuality after getting caught kissing a fellow soldier; he was court-martialed and sentenced to prison, a decision that may have saved his life, as his old unit was sent to the Russian Front and few survived.

After the war in East Germany, he was assigned to produce portraits of Communist heroes before he moved to Paris and finally to Canada in 1952. Free from the threat of persecution, in an age when the gay community was starting to emerge from the shadows, Flinsch began to produce a huge volume of art that over the decades has been acclaimed for its sinewy, modernist interpretations of the male body. His work and this book are a fascinating chronicle of his life as a courageous, openly gay man.


Peter Flinsch: The Body in Question is an entire artistic life composed of stunning art and a story and text that's as stunning as the art. This is Thomas Waugh's Out/Lines brought to full, poignant life, with the flesh and blood of its creator providing the historical context it deserves. Higgns' essay is simply, heartbreakingly excellent.
-Chris DeVito, CD Syndicated

- Chris DeVito

The bio of Peter Flinsch reads like an epic novel, but its final chapter lies within a proud canon of artistic creation.

- Outlooks

Lavishly illustrated with pen-and-inks, watercolors and pastels, and there are even a few photographs of tabletop torsos, his rare ventures into sculpture.
-Bay Area Reporter

- Bay Area Reporter

In Peter Flinsch: The Body in Question, Ross Higgins both tells and shows why this artist ought to be a stop in any tour of Canadian art history. Higgins' elegant book offers a terrific and engrossing introduction to the man and his work. ... While rarely porno-sexual, the images are always alive with sensuality. Even the gently satiric images of cruising gay men are infused with erotic energy. ... The Body in Question will no doubt introduce [Flinsch's] work to a broad audience.
-Xtra! West

- Xtra! West

Lavishly illustrated . .. by having it on our coffee tables, we can prove to everyone who comes into our home that gay art is more than just Tom of Finland and Tom Bianchi.


Gay historian and archivist Ross Higgins recounts the artist's amazing life story in Peter Flinsch: The Body in Question. ... Flinsch's work is striking for many reasons--not least of which is its very existence. At a time when many gay artists were masking their sexual orientation, Flinsch was defiantly, brazenly erotic in his treatment of the male form.
-The Advocate

- The Advocate

Flinsch's art is unmistakably that of a gay man's imagination. All of his works are decidedly erotic, alive with worship of the male physique. ... The Body in Question is a long overdue testament to the power of Peter Flinsch's art, and one anticipates that the book will help to bring it to the attention of many more people. ... [It] is a fitting retrospective for an artist in the twilight of his career, telling an inspirational story about the power of art and the survival of a persecuted artist.
-Gay & Lesbian Review

- Gay & Lesbian Review