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Leonard Rosoman, The Drag Ball, No 1, Act 2, Scene 1 (1967-68, completed 1990) is among the works acquired by the Pallant House Gallery.

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The pictures were completed by Leonard Rosoman (1937-2018) in 1967-68 and come to the institution from the estate of the artist’s widow Roxanne Wruble Rosoman (1937-2018) through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. The works settled £96,600 of tax.

The five works are part of a larger series of 40 paintings and gouaches, which Rosoman was inspired to start after seeing John Osborne’s 1965 play A Patriot for Me. The two largest paintings in the collection - and among those acquired - are depictions of the play’s famous drag ball scene. Although these were started in the 1960s like the others and dated 1967-68, they were both completed in 1990. 

A Patriot for Me was first performed at the Royal Court. Initially it was banned due to its homosexual content, but a legal loophole was exploited which turned the theatre into a private club for the play’s duration.

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Leonard Rosoman, The Drag Ball, No 2, Act 2, Scene 1 (1967-68, completed 1990) is among the works acquired by the Pallant House Gallery.

Within the decade, the Theatres Act 1968, which abolished such censorship, and the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which legalised homosexual acts, had both been passed. 

Pallant House director Simon Martin said of the paintings: “Not only are they among his finest works, but they have a particular significance to LGBTQ history, to the history of British theatre and visual art, representing a time when Britain’s social and cultural history was on the cusp of a pivotal shift.”