Bernard Perlin was an extraordinary figure in 20th Century American art and gay cultural history, an acclaimed artist and sexual renegade who reveled in pushing social, political, and artistic boundaries. His work regularly appeared in popular magazines of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s; was collected by Rockefellers, Whitneys, and Astors; and was acquired by major museums, including the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate Modern.
As a propaganda artist and war artist-correspondent, he produced many now-iconic images of World War II. His portrait clients included many well-known figures in the arts and politics; his most intimate companions such luminaries as Vincent Price, George Platt Lynes, Glenway Wescott, Paul Cadmus, Leonard Bernstein, and Truman Capote.
From the 1930s on, he also daringly committed to canvas and paper scenes of underground gay bars and nude studies of street hustlers, among other aspects of his active and dedicated gay life.
In One-Man Show, Michael Schreiber chronicles the storied life, illustrious friends and lovers, and astounding adventures of Bernard Perlin through no-holds-barred interviews with the artist, candid excerpts from Perlin’s unpublished memoirs, never-before-seen photos, and an extensive selection of Bernard Perlin’s incredible public and private art.
Praise for Bernard Perlin and One-Man Show:
“Bernard Perlin [was] an American painter who displayed a mastery of light and line across seven decades and a wide range of work, including wartime propaganda posters, street scenes of New York and effervescent views of Italy.” ― The New York Times
“Perlin was an emancipated man who lived a life against the grain, both in his love and sex life and his figurative art, which defied the juggernaut of abstract expressionism. Perlin’s life serves as an inspiration of sexual bravery and as an art and social history lesson of the times.” ― The Advocate
“One-Man Show is an exhaustive chronicle of Perlin’s life and work, a kind of hybrid monograph-biography, sumptuously illustrated with reproductions of the artist’s drawings and paintings, as well as many photographs of Perlin and his circle, including the work of his friend George Platt Lynes. It’s fair to say that Schreiber was the Boswell to Perlin’s Johnson (a pun the sexually vigorous artist would no doubt have enjoyed). [Perlin] was an unapologetic champion of gay sensuality. Schreiber’s book should help advance the reputation of this prolific and important gay artist.” ― The Gay & Lesbian Review/Worldwide
“One-Man Show is filled with delicious name-dropping gay gossip, but none of the juicy tales Bernard [Perlin] tells about any of his famous friends can truly rival his own astounding story.” ― The Windy City Times
“Perlin is a kind of artist hero for the present moment… It’s difficult, almost impossible, to understand now how brave and even creative it was to be the openly erotic gay man as described by Bernard Perlin… Even during those closeted days, queer limits were pushed, and this handsome, randy artist pushed them as far as he could. The book throws Perlin’s persuasive, crystal-clear memories of what he painted and who he seduced in front of the Pollock/de Kooning/Cedar Bar narrative we’re used to. It’s an important and corrective gay scrim to postwar U.S. art history.” ― The Archive: The Journal of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
“Michael Schreiber has done something rarely seen: He took the time to accurately record the tales of a historic figure at the later part of his life … [proving] himself able to go one-on-one with this artistic titan. Clearly Schreiber’s keen knowledge and thoughtful approach earned Perlin’s trust to record his story for all time. Schreiber terrifically husbanded Perlin’s uniquely twentieth-century story for a twenty-first-century audience, standing aside and allowing his subject to say his piece. Having had the opportunity personally to spend time with Perlin, I can attest that Schreiber has accurately captured the tenor and depth of this amazing individual. As he would have wanted, Schreiber allows this gay artist to show his true, fearless self with warmth, humor, and humanity.” ― Hunter O’Hanian, Museum Director, Leslie + Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
“The Symbolic or Magic Realists remain the biggest influence on my work, Bernard Perlin high among my favorite artists, and Orthodox Boys still one of the paintings I truly love.”― Sir Peter Blake, from his foreword to One-Man Show
“Looking back on Perlin’s oeuvre, we find a marvelous exploration of man and nature and the invisible forces emanating from them that he has made visible by art. Although he was never bestowed the status that certain of his stylistic and chronological contemporaries achieved, Perlin’s work speaks for itself as an extraordinary achievement and as a sublime experience for the viewer.” ― Fine Art Connoisseur
“It’s wonderfully daring to write a whole biography in interview format. It’s also refreshing for the reader, because he or she can enter the touching tale of Bernard Perlin’s multi-layered life and career as if listening to a private conversation. You can join this poignant conversation at any point, which makes getting lost in the book easy. No matter where you start, the narrative will suck you in and keep you spell-bound, helped by an eclectic mix of private images and art works, both ranging from sensuous and sexy to formally stylized, both mirroring the changing attitudes towards homosexuality throughout the 20th century.” ― Dr. Kevin Clarke, author of The Art of Looking
“Widely acclaimed in museums and galleries, Bernard Perlin was a fiercely independent creative artist whose colorful long life included such cultural luminaries as Paul Cadmus, Jared French, Pavel Tchelitchew, Charles Henri Ford, Lincoln Kirstein, George Platt Lynes, E.M. Forster, Glenway Wescott, Martha Gellhorn [Hemingway], Truman Capote, and many more.” ― Jerry Rosco, author of Glenway Wescott Personally and editor of Wescott journals Continual Lessons and A Heaven of Words
“Engagingly written and beautifully produced, One-Man Show restores Bernard Perlin to his rightful place in art history.” – Dr. Jonathan Coleman, Faulkner-Morgan Pagan Babies Archive of LGBTQ History
“This book – the perfect coupling of visual and written approaches – is not only fine art history writing, but it also is a strong statement about the past century’s traversal of gay rights. The images are extraordinary and the interviews and commentary and historical overview by Michael Schreiber put the finishing touches on this fine, handsome book.” – Grady Harp, Amazon Top 100 Reviewer
“Michael Schreiber’s wonderful coffee table book is much more than just a book to put on your coffee table— it is to be read and savored and pored over. Each of the 270 pages in One-Man Show is a work of art. We are so lucky to have Michael Schreiber share Bernard Perlin’s life with us. This is truly a wonderful read and a book to relish.” ― Reviews by Amos Lassen
“There is art and there are the people who create it. We can have differing opinions on art and its worth. About the people who created the art, however, we can have clearer, stronger opinions. Bernard Perlin was one of the greats.” ― David Leddick, from his foreword to One-Man Show
“I recently read One-Man Show by Michael Schreiber which is composed of interviews with the 20th century New York artist Bernard Perlin. He was a fascinating personality and visionary… Perlin is underrepresented. His survival alone is heroic and worthy of investigation.” ― Raziel Reid, author of When Everything Feels Like the Movies
“Bernard Perlin was an amazing but relatively unknown gay artist [who] primarily painted war art during WWII and magical realism of American urban life. Thankfully, writer and teacher Michael Schreiber befriended Mr. Perlin toward the end of his life and recorded their fascinating conversations. One-Man Show is an utterly unique and wonderful glimpse into Mr. Perlin’s inspiring art and life story, complete with these conversations and plenty of his gorgeous art.” ― Unabridged Bookstore, Chicago
“American painter Bernard Perlin…lived in a more critical time where being true to yourself and loving who you want wasn’t always an option and came at a great price.” ― BosGuy
“Author Michael Schreiber has compiled a wonderful coffee-table book collection of stories, images, and other personal anecdotes about this daring individual who rubbed shoulders with the upper echelon of society around the world. A refreshing look into gay history, well before the days of the internet.” ― OUTVisions
“The twentieth century American painter, Bernard Perlin, is not a household name in the UK – indeed, I had not come across him before I picked up this handsome, heavyweight volume – but I imagine it will soon be, at least with art lovers. [T]he exchange [between Perlin and Schreiber] is richly informed, brilliantly remembered and commented upon, making an absorbing and seamless text. The other main attraction of this book is the contribution it makes to gay history in America in the twentieth century, at a time when all the big names mentioned…and a huge roster of other guys, famous as well as ordinary, some hiding their sexuality in marriage, had to stay in the closet; it was a time of corrupt police who allowed gay bars to stay open, the McCarthy witch hunts, police entrapment, gay bathhouses, the AIDs era, general homophobic panic and censorship. Perlin breezed through it all, being as out as he was able to legally, using it to inform many of his paintings to reflect his own life. There is a rich gay history here, reflected in one man’s history, an important element of this book. [Schreiber] has done a remarkable job here by engaging the subject of his book at such a deep level of reminiscence, providing an invaluable historical record. It’s a great tribute, one which should do much to advance Perlin’s posthumous fame.” ― Richard Brown, Amazon UK Top 1000 Reviewer
“That he was a gay artist was never in doubt…it never occurred to him not to fully embrace and express who he was despite the anti-gay mainstream culture in which he started his career. In his art as in his life, [Perlin] sought to promote a recognition and acceptance of homosexuality as being just another variety of normal human experience and expression. He marketed illusionary memories to excite in viewers a recognition of our shared experience as human beings.” ― The Gay & Lesbian Review/Worldwide