Come frolic and cavort in the water

Today’s Zippy has our playful Pinhead frolicking and cavorting in the surf, on a water trike:


In no particular order: the Aqua-Cycle water trike, seen above churning through the surf (and, quite possibly, several holiday-goers); the verbs frolic and cavort, great favorites of Zippy’s, which tend to come with a sexual tinge; the social custom of pleasurable frolicking and cavorting in the water, easily bent to homoerotic purposes, in displays of the body and playful contact between men; and one particular artist of that scene (from a great many), Keith Vaughan.

The water trike. I had somehow completely missed this giant toy device (hat tip to Kim Darnell for unearthing what you see below). Zippy’s riding a one-person model — the two-person numbers seem to be the most popular, for family fun — in gray, while the devices mostly come in bright eye-catching colors, like this blue one:

(#2) An Aqua-Cycle water trike in blue

Verbs of playful movement. Something of a Zippy specialty. In my 4/28/19 posting “All ˈlaundry ˈis a ˈblur of ˈstatic ˈcling”, Zippy strips on cavorting and gamboling —


and on cavorting and frolicking —


plus images of gay frolicking and capering.

From NOAD on the verbs, bringing out uses with a sexual tinge:

verb frolic: [no object, usually with adverbial] [a](of an animal or person) play and move about cheerfully, excitedly, or energetically: Edward frolicked on the sand. [b] play about with someone in a flirtatious or sexual way: he denied allegations that he frolicked with a secretary.

verb cavort: [no object] [a] jump or dance around excitedly: spider monkeys leap and cavort in the branches. [b] informal apply oneself enthusiastically to sexual or disreputable pursuits: he spent his nights cavorting with the glitterati.

Frolicking and cavorting in the water. The holiday pleasures of playing in the water — at the seaside, in lakes and rivers, and in swimming pools — are now well-established social customs. Such practices involve displays of the body and also playful physical contact between people, so the sexual suggestions of frolic and cavort easily spill over into the sexualization of frolicking in the water, including play between men.

This sexualization has been well illustrated on this blog, notably in strkingly homoerotic swimming suit ads from underwear companies, but also in representations of watery horseplay between men, in photographs, graphic artworks, and films (some of these pointedly homoerotic). From artists who specialize in just this sort of thing.

Keith Vaughan. One among these was the subject of an exhibition Keith Vaughan: On Pagham Beach at the Austin Desmond Gallery (in Holborn, London) in 2017.

From Another Man magazine on 11/2/17, “Lost Photos of Nude Men on the Beach from the 1930s”, about the exhibition:

Much is known about the British painter Keith Vaughan [1912-77] thanks to his extensive journals, written between 1939 and his death [by intentional overdose] in 1977, and described as some of “the greatest confessional writing of the 20th-century”. They document the trials he faced as a gay artist whose principal focus was the male nude, rendered first in an erotic, Neo-Romantic style, and later an increasingly abstracted one.

Now further light has been shed on Vaughan’s oeuvre thanks to the rediscovery of a collection of lost photographs, taken by the self-taught artist during covert visits to Pagham Beach in West Sussex in the 1930s, with a coterie of male friends. “When Vaughan decided to become a fine artist in 1938, he began to distil a visual language through photography, based on the male figure,” explains David Archer, curator of a new exhibition of the images in London. “After the war, he used the photographs to develop his unique drawing style, with compositional elements recurring in his gouaches and oil paintings until the mid-50s.”

The pictures depict Vaughan’s lithe pals cavorting on the beach, nude or semi-nude, performing handstands and drinking from shells. They brilliantly capture the abundant joy of their protagonists, temporarily freed from the shackles of societal prejudice, while their technical skill aligns Vaughan with the likes of Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy. “It’s as if he could disappear from his subjects’ presence; he was an observer but never a ringleader,” notes Archer. “Like all true works of art, these images transcend time.”

Two of the photos:

(#5) Keith Vaughan, Two male figures, one throwing, 1939

(#6) Keith Vaughan, Two male figures in silhouette, one holding wet cloth, 1939 (I have fuzzed out the penis of the young man on the right, even though it’s not a central feature of the photograph)

Vaughan mined some of this material in his paintings. From #5, we get:

(#7) Keith Vaughan, Figure Throwing at a Wave, 1950

As the years went on, Vaughan moved further and further away from figurative painting, eventually producing works like this one:

(#8) Keith Vaughan, Bather: August 4th 1961

From the Tate Gallery site about this painting:

The artist wrote (22 June 1962) that he considered this one of his best works. He felt he had achieved a special balance between the purely abstract and the figurative elements which had hitherto pushed his work into one or other of these categories.

The bather was naked, though you can’t really tell that here.

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