Partner Duncan Grant

Black in Bloomsbury: What Duncan Grant's Portrait of Patrick Nelson Reveals  | FriezePatrick Nelson (March, 1916 - July, 1963) emigrated from Jamaica to North Wales in 1937, before settling in London to study law the following year. While living in Bloomsbury, Nelson worked as an artists’ model and soon became acquainted with Edward Wolfe. Nelson would also meet other prominent gay artists at this time, including his sometime boyfriend and lifelong friend Duncan Grant.

Patrick Nelson was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1916 and first migrated to Britain in 1937 to rural North Wales. In Jamaica he trained as a valet, working at the Manor House Hotel in Kingston and in Wales he worked as a 'gentleman's valet' for Lyulph Stanley, 7th Baron Stanley of Alderley. He returned briefly to Jamaica and then remigrated to Britain in 1938 where he studied law and worked as an artist model in London. In 1938 he met Bloomsbury Group artist Duncan Grant, who became his boyfriend. They kept in touch with one another for the rest of his life, writing to each other throughout the forties and fifties until Patrick's death in 1963. In early 1940 Patrick joined the military and went to France with the British Expeditionary Force, where he was captured and was a Prisoner of War for over four years. Patrick was repatriated to Britain in late 1944 and returned to Jamaica in 1945 before re-migrating back to London in the early 1960s.

Edward Wolfe’s depiction of Nelson against the rich green background is exoticising and his pose invites the viewer to admire his body. Such objectification was typical of many depictions of black men from this time and reflects an uneven power dynamic, although Nelson’s friendship with members of the Bloomsbury group adds a level of complexity to the relationship between artist and sitter. Nelson was Jamaican and moved to Bloomsbury in 1938 to study law. He worked as an artists’ model and met his boyfriend Duncan Grant through Edward Wolfe. Black men were often portrayed as objects of desire.

EDWARD WOLFE R.A. (SOUTH AFRICAN/BRITISH 1897-1982) PORTRAIT OF PAT NELSON, 1930S
EDWARD WOLFE R.A. (SOUTH AFRICAN/BRITISH 1897-1982) PORTRAIT OF PAT NELSON, 1930S | Sold for £118,750

Black in Bloomsbury: What Duncan Grant's Portrait of Patrick Nelson Reveals  | Frieze
by Duncan Grant

Male Nude
Male Nude (Pat Nelson) Duncan Grant (1885–1978) St Peter's College, University of Oxford

Gemma Romain's 'Race, Sexuality and Identity in Britain and Jamaica: The Biography of Patrick Nelson, 1916-1963' was published by Bloomsbury Academic in September 2017. Romain's biography explores themes such as Patrick's Queer Black identity and Queer Black London in the 1930s, Patrick's experiences in the Second World War, his experiences of race, colonialism and imperialism in Jamaica, and his experiences of the interwar London artworld through an examination of personal letters, newspapers, artworks and other sources.


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