Queer Portraits in History


As a project Making Queer History has always tried to push up other people and projects in the queer community and this month we are beginning a series with that exclusive purpose. This will be a monthly project that highlights a project we have encountered that is run by a queer person and works to enhance our community as a whole.

The first project that we are going to look at is Queer Portraits in History a project run by Michele Rosenthal (She/Her/Hers) an illustrator who works out of Brooklyn. The project focuses on creating portraits of prominent queer figures in history, including many we have covered in articles ourselves such as Frida Kahlo, Josephine Baker, Oscar Wilde, and Tamara de Lempicka. All the portraits include a short description of the person in question alongside to give information along with unique and vivid imagery. 

So in the month of January, we will be looking into this project and its founder and hopefully will give our audience a new resource to keep an eye out for in terms of queer history.


One of the principals that this project is founded on is the desire to push up other queer creators, and this month we truly begin adhering to that principle in earnest. And the creations we look at this month are definitely worthy of being the first to hold the center stage. Queer Portraits in History is a project run by Michele Rosenthal that works to provide faces to the stories of our community, and the work that they do is an invaluable service to the queer community and is one that we are excited to highlight for you all today.

The project we discuss began in 2014 and has grown to include just under 70 faces throughout its time, telling their stories in words and in vibrant colours. While we are sure we do not have to impress upon any of our readers the importance of knowing the history of the queer community, something we have discussed far less often is the visual aspect of it. That can be excused slightly by the fact that we do not have an artist in our ranks, but we are so glad to see others with far more skill taking on such tasks. And for the visual learners among our readers, we suggest checking out their website, because not only is the project filling a space that desperately needs to be filled, but they are also doing it well.

They not only cover a wide range of subjects, but they also have a lovely way of capturing the personality of the people they portray. One that comes to mind when thinking of the best of their work is their portrait of Tamara De Lempick, a bisexual woman who we too have covered. Their portrayal of her could not be a more perfect display of her life and vitality.

In their portrait of the artist they clearly integrate her work into their own style, both paying homage and maintaining their own signature aesthetic. She looks forward with a steely untouchability that was found often in her work, and the steady structure of the lines and colour mirrors the art deco style that the artist was so famous for. And having ourselves studied this woman we are so proud and grateful to see someone in our community honouring her in the way they have.

And with each piece they manage to pull in parts of their subjects as they illustrate them, including short paragraphs describing their lives alongside each portrait. And they are without a doubt a reliable and beautiful resource for anyone looking to learn more about the queer community. While this is not the illustrators main job we are happy to see the success they have earned, and hope to increase it even the tiniest amount by promoting them on our project. As they begin working on patreon we are hoping to see the queer community come out in full force to support them, and help them continue to archive and display our history freely to all members of our community.

The queer community has no lack of artists in its midst, but finding one that has put such work and passion into preserving our history is no small thing, and it is our duty to foster such projects. As earlier stated we at Making Queer History, do not yet have an artist, we are writers. So it becomes all the more important for us to support the people creating things that we cannot. We do not have the skill to do what Queer Portraits in History is doing, which is why we promote them. While we cannot financially support them as of now, we can share our audience with them, and hope that our audience does their best to support this project in their own ways whichever those may be. While we discuss history it is important for us to realize that while the past is unchangeable, our future is entirely under our own power. And while it is our main job to tell the stories of those long since dead, it is our responsibility to make sure the people creating right now have the support they need to make queer history for the generations after us.