the first international erotic art show

evidently, and i must admit i find this hard to believe, the first international show of erotic art was held in 1968 at the lund museum of art in sweden. i find it hard to believe because 68 seems such a very late date but my recently purchased 2 volume set called, simply enough, erotic art (which are companion volumes to the show) say it is just so. they have over 800 plates collectively which is fantastic, but they are also fascinating books because so much of their text is taken up with the task of selling, explaining, and rationalizing the show to what was evidently an very doubtful public. a bit different from today when every book store has an erotica section eh?

the show was put together by drs. phyllis and eberhard kronhausen (two psychologists who began collecting erotica years before when they were preparing another book, a theoretical investigation of “obscenity” from a legal standpoint called pornography of the law.) the drs. pitch to the public, as contained in the books (which were published after the show) is both quaint and somewhat comical reading it now. it goes to great lengths to make the reader feel at ease with the subject matter.

it begins with a chapter heading: how nice people like us got involved in erotic art. further on there is a section called the public speaks in which visitors to the show are interviewed for a reaction, including “an american professor” (read: see? it’s intellectual) “a businessman” (read: respectable people have seen it) and an entire section about children who saw the show (read: it’s innocent and natural.) in between nuns, police officers, a widow dressed in a smartly tailored mourning outfit, an elderly man with two canes, academic dignitaries, and members of her royal majesties navy are made mention of. all in all pretty funny. i guess in 68 the general public still needed some hand holding when it came to the inky nether regions.

(side bar: there is one especially comical bit in the foreword of the second volume, put out in 1970, which begins like this: “the era of pornography is coming to an end for pornography is possible only where censorship exists.” haha. i guess in 1970 it looked as if things were really a’changin. it then mentions that “victorian england produced more ‘hard-core’ smut than any other period in western history.” i wonder whether more recent editions of the book amend this statement? in any case after looking for more info on the drs. this foreword on the mutation of pornography into something “less smutty” struck me in a totally different light. perhaps as a soft sell for future ventures? yup, turns out the good drs. have directed a few porn films themselves. most notably the hottest show in town, from 1973, the synopsis of which goes like this- The circus is going to close its doors, the public’s no longer interested in it with so many porno films in town… Unless!... Desperate acrobats, clowns, lion tamers, and tricksters go naked on stage in their circus acts. hahaha. anyway…)

the book continues on with artist interviews (including one with warhol in which his being shot earlier that same year is mentioned.) the show was a true survey across many cultural traditions and with many heavy weights of western art represented, including: chagall, dali, dix, ernst, johns, klimt, oldenburg, picasso, rauchenberg, rembrandt, rodin, warhol, etc. the work runs the gamut from classical, to raunchy, to beautiful, to bizarre, to grotesque. interesting stuff. want to see?

i’m going to leave aside the big names above and instead share the work of just a few less well known artists which i liked. keep in mind, these are most definitely nsfw, and if any young’ns or whippersnappers snuck in here under the curtain then scat! ‘cmon now, i’m talkin’ to you. git! skidaddle! i don’t want to have to whoop you now! damn kids. o.k. now that it’s just us grown-ups… click the numbered links for full size works


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viset was a pseudonym of belgian painter and illustrator luc lafnet. more of his work (under the pseudonym jim black) can be seen here.

jules pascin

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quote: the french painter Jules Pascin today is best known for his paintings of prostitutes in various states of undress and melancholy. his engravings are of a mostly black and white world of sordid languor, frenetic partying and heavy dues-paying. you can see many of his paintings here.

hans bellmer

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hans bellmer is best known for his life-sized surrealist female dolls. you can see more of his etchings (in poor quality) here.

ramon alejandro

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alejandro is a cuban exile painter still working today. you can see more current works here.

mario tauzin

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i could find almost nothing about tauzin. he’s french and he did a book in the 1930’s with henri breton called the devil’s whisper. i think rita ackermann’s early work is remarkably similar to tauzin’s (and just as with him i can’t find a decent site representing her body of work.)

tomi ungerer

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tomi ungerer is an extremely accomplished illustrator doing everything from ad campaigns, to children’s books, to erotica. you can see lot’s of his work at his official site and you can see the rest of the series i’ve shown here in in the online version of his book fornicon.

if you’re interested in the books they were reprinted in a single volume which can be found (where else?) here.

well folks, hope you enjoyed this little dab of art trivia. until next time…

posted by jmorrison on 12/28 | sights & sounds - art | (6) comments | send entry