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124 pages

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From Michelangelo to Rubens, Degas and Picasso, erotic art has attracted many great masters, who created works that captivate the beholder like few others. In spite of, or maybe even because of, this attraction, erotic art has never failed to evoke controversy, and regularly had to defend itself from charges of pornography. This book guides readers from early portrayals of erotic scenes produced in the 16th and 17th centuries, to contemporary highlights such as Picasso’s sketchbook drawings, encompassing a large variety of styles and techniques.



Publié par
Date de parution 04 juillet 2023
Nombre de lectures 3
EAN13 9781781608197
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 7 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0700€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Victoria Charles

120 illustrations
© 2022, Confidential Concepts, Worldwide, USA
© 2022, Parkstone Press USA, New York
© Image-Bar www.image-bar.com
All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or adapted without the permission of the copyright holder, throughout the world.
Unless otherwise specified, copyright on the works reproduced lies with the respective photographers. Despite intensive research, it has not always been possible to establish copyright ownership. Where this is the case, we would appreciate notification.
ISBN: 978-1-78160-819-7
Michelangelo (1475 - 1564)
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
François Boucher (1703-1770)
Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825)
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867)
Théodore Géricault (1791-1824)
Felicien Rops (1833-1898)
Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938)
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Jules Pascin (1885-1930)
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
André Masson (1896-1987)
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
Hans Bellmer (1902-1975)
Lucian Freud (1922-)
David Hockney (1937-)
The Rest of Volupté
François Boucher, 1748

“Eroticism has its own moral justification because it says that pleasure is enough for me; it is a statement of the individual’s sovereignty.”
– Mario Vargas Llosa
Michelangelo, c. 1512. Doria-Pamphili Collection, Rome
The term “Erotic Art” is surrounded by a halo of hypocritical, misleading and dissimulating concepts. Art or pornography, sexuality or eroticism, obscenity or originality: all of these attempts of distinction and determination are so meddled that it seems almost impossible to reach an objective definition. From what point can one speak of “erotic art”?
Every collector of erotic art has been at some point presented with works esteemed as insufficient from every point of view, while he expected something better. Still, the seller would affirm that he had found an important object of the erotic genre. But sometimes it seems that the eye becomes stupefied when in contact with this free subject.
In order to be convinced of this, one simply needs to think of a man, often very cultivated, who considers as important a work of poor artistic value. On the other hand, it often so happens that a masterpiece will be considered as futile because of its subject.
This much is certain: the depiction of a sexual activity alone does not qualify as erotic art, just as a shocking and pornographic object does not loose its character as art because of a context considered as indecent and immoral. To identify erotic art only with its content would reduce it to one dimension, just as it is not possible to distinguish artistic and pornographic depictions only by describing their immoral contents.
The view that erotic works are created solely for sexual arousal and so cannot be art is erroneous as well. Pornography is also a product of imagination, while its structure is different than that of sexual reality. Gunter Schmidt states that pornography is “constructed like sexual fantasy and daydreams, just as unreal, megalomaniacal, magical, illogical, and just as stereotypical”.
Anyhow, those proposing the alternative ‘art or pornography’ may have already decided against pornography, driven by their moralising attitude.
Consequently, what is art to one person is the devil’s handiwork to another. The mixing of aesthetic with ethical-moralistic questions dooms every clarification process right from the start.
In its originally Greek meaning, pornography stands for prostitute writings – that is, text with sexual content. Such a definition could therefore permit us to equate the content of erotic art with that of pornography. This re-evaluation would amount to a rehabilitation of the term.
The extent to which the distinction between art and pornography depends on contemporary attitudes is illustrated, for example, by the painting over of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. Nudity was not considered obscene during the Renaissance. The patron of this work of art, Pope Clement VII, saw nothing immoral in its execution. His successor, Paul IV, however, ordered an artist to cover the obscene parts of the Last Judgment !
Not every age is equally propitious for the creation of eroticism. However, erotic art is not only a reflection of achieved sexual freedom. It can also be a by-product of the suppression and repression with which eroticism is burdened. It is even conceivable that the most passionate erotic works were created not in spite of, but rather because of the cultural pressures on sexuality.
Eroticism thus would have to be understood as a socially and culturally formed phenomenon. In which case, it is the creature of moral, legal, and magical prohibitions, which arise to prevent sexuality harming the social structure. The bridled urge expresses itself; but it also encourages fantasy without exposing society to the destructive dangers of direct sexuality.
Eroticism is a successful balancing act between the rationally organised society and the demand for a licentious, destructive sexuality.
Yet, even in its tamed versions, eroticism remains a demonic power in human consciousness because it echoes the dangerous song of the sirens – trying to approach them is fatal.
Devotion and surrender, regression and aggression: these are the powers that still tempt us. This convergence of desire and longing for death has always played an important role in literature. Insofar as eroticism consists of distance and detours, the fetishist constitutes the picture-perfect eroticist.

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife
Rembrandt van Rijn, 1634. Etching, 9 x 11.5 cm

The Monk in the Wheat Field
Rembrandt van Rijn, 1645. The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

The Bed at the French Way
Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1646. Etching, 12.9 x 22.6 cm. The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
The imagined body is more meaningful than any real body. The fetishized object, in its fixed, tense relationship with what is immediate, is more significant to the fetishist than the promise of fulfilled desires represented by such an object. Collectors are eroticists as well. While the lecher or debauchee is active in real life, the fetishist lives in a realm of fantasy, where he relishes in the delights of vice even more deeply and thoroughly than the unbridled debauchee.
Distance permits freedom. Art, too – which can also represent a fetishist production for the artist – affords freedom. It affords the freedom to play with fire without being burned. It appeals to the eye; it allows toying with sin without having sinned. Art would have the power to reduce the immediate force of sensuality.
Eduard Fuchs, the past master of erotic art, whose books were accused of being pornographic during his lifetime, considered eroticism to be art’s fundamental subject: sensuality is said to be present in any art. Accordingly, it would almost be a tautology to speak of erotic art.
Long before Fuchs, Lou Andreas-Salomé had already pointed out the true relationship between eroticism and aesthetics: “It seems to be a sibling growth from the same root that artistic drive and sexual drive yield such extensive analogies, aesthetic delight changes into erotic delight so imperceptibly, sexual desire so instinctively reaches for the aesthetic, the ornamental”.
Once, when Picasso, at the eve of his life, was asked about the difference between art and eroticism, his pensive answer was: “But-there is no difference.”
Instead, as others warned against eroticism, Picasso warned against the experience of art:
“Art is never chaste, one should keep it away from all innocent ignoramuses. People insufficiently prepared for art, should never be allowed close to it. Yes, art is dangerous. If it is chaste, it is not art.” Seen with the eyes of a moral watchdog, every type of art and literature would have to be abolished.
If spirituality is the essence of humanity, then all those opposing mind and spirit to sensuality are hypocrites. Sexuality experiences its true spiritual form, its true humanity, only after developing into eroticism and art – some translate eroticism as the art of love.
Matters excluded from the civilising process assert themselves by demanding a medium that is spiritually determined, and that is art.
“Pornography” is a judgmental term used by those who remain closed to eroticism. It is assumed that their sensuality never had the opportunity to be cultivated.
Even the observation that a work has offended or violated the viewpoints of many still does not make it pornographic. Works of art can offend and injure the feelings of others; they do not always make viewers happy. After all, is it not the duty of art to annoy and to stir things up?
The term pornography is thus no longer in keeping with the times. Artistic depictions of sexual activities, whether they annoy or please, are part of erotic art. If not, they are insipid, dumb works, even if harmless.
All artists – painters, sculptors of all periods – were able to reproduce erotic designs.
Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Rubens, Boucher, Fragonard, Ingres, Géricault, Degas, Rodin, Rops, Klimt, Schiele, Picasso, Pascin are artists celebrated for their erotic works. Their erotic designs are captivating, without being repetitive. Each one is unique, as the diverse design techniques permit a different rendering.
These techniques (pencil, charcoal, white chalk on coloured paper, graphite, watercolour and mixed techniques) permit a vivid design which invites us to contemplate on these erotic scenes. The scenes presented by the artists are sometimes treated in a saucy, humourous tone, whereas sometimes they can be quite crude and prosaic.
Some of these designs were

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