Ronald Wright, “Sir Gay”

Gemma Hollman, Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

Ronald Wright, sometimes known as Sir Gay, was an artist, writer and model born in Puckeridge, Hertfordshire, in 1929. As he grew up he became interested in art, and practiced sketching movie stars. He was conscripted into the army after the Second World War, where an army officer introduced him to theatre and its stars. Wright began drawing portraits of the people he met, building his skills.

In the 1950s, Wright began drawing pictures of men for health and fitness magazines. In 1960, he launched a magazine of his own called Sir Gay – which he was later to be known by. However, Sir Gay was a controversial venture as it was still illegal across the UK for men to engage in homosexual acts at the time. Wright suffered under this law, as he was arrested when he was 29 years old for having sex with a man. Wright had been posing nude for a gay magazine, and a postal worker looked at his post where he saw photos of Wright naked with his boyfriend which were being sent to a client. He was reported to the police who arrested Wright and his boyfriend.

Wright was given an excellent lawyer by his boss, but the judge who was trying Wright’s case was well known for being homophobic and Wright was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Being arrested also meant that Wright had to tell his parents of his identity. His mother wholly accepted who he was, but his father never spoke to him about his sexuality, Wright asking his mother to tell his father for him. Wright’s time in prison was horrific, and when he got out he was keen to continue his career. However, he was no longer allowed to work for his old magazine because of his criminal record, which led him to work as a nude model for artists.

Across the next few years he became a highly sought-after model, working for the Royal Academy and Madame Tussauds. He continued to draw, with his prints of movie stars proving popular, but he also used his art to express his identity and protest against the suppression of gay people. Ronald Wright continued his artistic career to the end of his life, and in 2014 Hertford Museum held a retrospective of his work which Wright attended.

In the 1970s, Ronald Wright became interested in Spiritualism, and he went on to write numerous books on the subject. He also found that he had healing powers, curing many people through the 70s and 80s. In the late 1990s he retired to Watton-at-Stone, though he continued to draw, write, and give talks. He realised during his life that he was bisexual, but he was widely known for his identity as Sir Gay. He was very influential for his work of gay art and raising awareness of what life as a gay man was like when society was a lot less accepting. He died in 2020.

This page was added on 12/02/2021.

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