Again the Metropolitan Museum's curators have closed their eyes and turned their heads rather than face the presence of gay people in history. The final room of their lush, sporadic show American Stories: Paintings from Everyday Life 1765-1915 has more naked male muscle than New Moon. Yet the gayest men are a fully clothed couple in John Sloan's 1909 canvas Chinese Restaurant. Anyone who has studied the period or read George Chauncey's masterpiece Gay New York will recognize all the telltale signals gay men of that era used to announce their homosexuality and attract masculine partners: the bleached blond hair, the red tie, the cigarette gesture. The painting's description speculates on the possibility of the woman's "easy virtue" while ignoring the certainty of the men's orientation. Saying they were gay, and by extension that she felt comfortable around gay men, would reveal more about her character and Sloan's scene than to inform us that "two men look on with amusement."
If this is progress, enjoy: The last sentence of the text beside Swimming explains, "It may also encode aspects of Eakins' sexuality." The other two paintings are George de Forest Brush's Picture Writer's Story and Thomas Anshutz's Ironworkers' Noontime.