Working Class Heroes: The Homoerotic Art Of Neel Bate aka Blade
30 september 2022 
18 min. read

Working Class Heroes: The Homoerotic Art Of Neel Bate aka Blade

Carlyle Kneeland Bate (1916-1989), who signed his works as Neel Bate, is a far less known figure of homoerotic art than Tom of Finland, though, not less iconic. During his lifetime, Bate's drawings were destroyed thrice, but he never stopped producing risky depictions of truckers, sailors, and farmboys engaged in passionate intercourse.

Nude torso of Neel Bate by Douglass Juleff

Fig. 1. Nude torso of Neel Bate by Douglass Juleff, 1960s (leslielohman.org)

Barn Revisitied, 1970s, pen on paper

Fig. 2. Barn Revisitied, 1970s, pen on paper (leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com)

 Yakima by Neel Bate

Fig. 3. Yakima, 1983 (leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com)

 Neel Bate sketch

Fig. 4. Sketch (leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com)

 neel bate aka Blade homoerotica

Fig. 5. Untitled, ca 1970s (leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com)

 neel bate homoerotic art

Fig. 6. tumblr.com

Neel Bate gay art

Fig. 7. Untitled, 1981 (leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com)

 gay quartet neel bate

Fig. 8. Untitled, 1984, pen on paper (leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com)

 Born to Rise Hell by Neel Bate

Fig. 9. Born to Rise Hell, 1980 (leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com)

prison gya scene neel bate

Fig. 10.

fellatio scene Neel Bate

Fig. 11. Untitled, 1979 (leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com)

Carlyle Kneeland Bate was born in Canada. Shortly after, the family relocated to the rural outskirts of Seattle. The childhood impressions shaped Bate's artistic personality as local farmboys would remain one of his favorite subjects. In high school, Bate received a scholarship enabling him to study at what's now known as Seattle's Cornish College of Arts, yet the Depression made him search for a job instead of attending art classes. For some time, the artist worked as an illustrator in California. Then, in 1936, he settled in Hollywood as a designer and an active participant in the local homosexual underground. In times of the Second World War, Bate enlisted in the Merchant Marines after destroying all his drawings as they may put an end to his service. When the war was over, the artist moved to New York, where he stayed for more than forty years until his death.

Bro by Neel Bate

Fig. 12. Bro, 1985 (leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com)

 Meadow by Neel Bate

Fig. 13. Meadow, 1985 (leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com)

 Mean Cock by Neel Bate

Fig. 14. Mean Cock, 1984 (leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com)

 Mean Cock by Neel Bate

Fig. 15. leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com

 Neel Bate by Russ Warner

Fig. 16. Neel Bate by Russ Warner (Wikipedia.org)

 neel bate The Barn

Fig. 17. The Barn (darkentriesrecords.com)

 The Barn Neel bate blade

Fig. 18. The Barn (darkentriesrecords.com)

 neel bate Six pieces from The Barn

Fig. 19. Six pieces from The Barn (clampart.com)

Living in NY, Bate became a remarkable representative of a local gay community. He earned his living as a designer and also modeled for George Platt Lynes. His muscled body allowed him to pose for physique photos (Fig. 16). In the 1950s, Bate started an affair with Lynes' younger model Ernest Henry. Though they stayed together throughout Bate's life, their relationship soon turned platonic, and the artist had many other lovers on the side. As a civilian, Bate resumed his artistic activity in the late 1940s. One of his works of that period was The Barn, a gay encounter in twelve panels (Fig. 17-19). The visual story about the passionate sex of a young hitchhiker and an older motorcyclist was confiscated by the police. Fortunately, there also were photos of the images made by Lynes, so the work eventually survived. By the way, some policemen didn't miss their chance to make pirate reproductions of the drawings, so Bate's work began circulating the world as its' crude copy. Nevertheless, the artist continued producing banned gay erotic because, in his own words, "To do it well is like a compulsion."

 gay rimming neel bate

Fig. 20. leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com

 gay art Neel Bate

Fig. 21. leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com

 Neel Bate aka Blade

Fig. 22. leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com

 gay sex Neel Bate

Fig. 23. leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com

 gay arrt rimming Neel Bate

Fig. 24. leslielohman.pastperfectonline.com

In the 1960s, there was a third time for Bate's drawings to be destroyed. A visitor who came as a customer pointed a gun at the artist and robbed him, taking away a few hundred drawings. He said he was going to masturbate to the images and burn them. Bate couldn't even report the crime as he was the first to be imprisoned. Instead, he did what he used to: started drawing over again and didn't stop until his last days.

Premium

In the second part of the article in Premium, you can explore what distinguishes Bate's work from that of Tom of Finland, more on his style, and his first payment and later success. Also including 76 additional images depicting some of his rape scenes and heterosexual drawings,

Click HERE for an article on the iconic gay art of Tom of Finland

Sources: Wikipedia.org; leslielohman.org; Jim Eigo. The Art and Life of Blade (Neel Bate)

About the author
Darya is a philologist who lives and works in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is specialized in Russian literature.
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