EYE CANDY

Revisiting Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, the Iconic Beefcake Magazine That Inspired David Hockney’s Paintings of Nude Men

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The famed British painter David Hockney is best known for his vividly colored portraits of life in Los Angeles—as well as, in recent years, his iPad art—which is precisely why the beginnings of his career in London in the 50’s and 60’s, as seen in the massive retrospective at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, are so interesting. The artist’s famous playful, homoerotic themes are certainly already there, but consider the time and place. Homosexuality was, after all, still illegal in Great Britain then, not that it stopped Hockney from testing society’s limits while still enrolled at the Royal College of Art. (See: his 1962 painting of two men performing oral sex on each other—with Colgate tubes standing in for phalluses.) Increasingly, Hockney’s allusions became more explicit, especially as he began paying homage to Physique Pictorial, a “fitness” publication that the photographer Bob Mizer launched in in 1951. Physique was in fact America’s leading beefcake magazine, its pages populated by thousands of buff men in the nude—including Arnold Schwarzenegger—that Mizer photographed in his home in L.A. Indeed, Hockney’s obsession with the publication was in part why he moved there in the mid-’60s—and why he continued to recreate in paintings and prints scenes from its pages. Later, the images Physique Pictorial pioneered became more mainstream, and Hockney moved on to painting semi-nude portraits of the men in his life, like his partner Peter Schlesinger. Eventually, two years before Mizer’s death in 1992, the magazine halted publication. The Bob Mizer Foundation, though, has preserved the million-plus photos in his archives and kept their legacy alive—they even recently relaunched Physique Pictorial more than 25 years later, hopefully creating a new generation of budding Hockneys and Robert Mapplethorpes to find fodder in its pages. Here, revisit some of the magazine’s most famous images.

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An archival image from Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, 1952. Image courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation.

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An archival image from Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, 1958. Image courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation.

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An archival image from Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, 1958. Image courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation.

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An archival image from Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, 1958. Image courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation.

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An archival image from Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, 1958. Image courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation.

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An archival image from Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, 1954. Image courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation.

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An archival image from Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, 1971. Image courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation.

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An archival image from Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, 1966. Image courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation.

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An archival image from Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, 1959. Image courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation.

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An archival image from Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial, 1966. Image courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation.

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Cover image of Volume 43 from the newly relaunched Physique Pictorial, 2017. Image courtesy of the Bob Mizer Foundation. More information about the relaunched publication can be found here.