Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Wishes

May you all get the festive kisses you deserve!

Lesbian retro drawing

This is another artwork based on photographs by Colombian illustrator Sergio Escobar.  Rendering naked girls in line and making them look attractive is not that easy but he's done a good job here.  He's given them a retro-looking appeal that makes them look like late-sixties or early seventies thriller book covers or lifetyle magazine illustrations.   Indeed the whole thing looks like an X-rated romanrtic short story illustration from a seventies womens' magazine.

The extreme perspective of the figure at the bottom left is what betrays its wide-angle photographic origin.  If we have one criticism it would be to have found a more appropriately seventies font.

He has one more similar picture which is rather more conventional in conception.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Women from Histoire d'O by Leonor Fini

Here is an effective lithograph of two women from Argentinian artist Leonor Fini's illustrations for the novel the Story of O (1954) by Anne Declos, writing under the nom de plume of Pauline Réage.

Le Long du Chemin (1967)

Fini was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1907 but was brought up in Trieste.  She moved to Milan, where she first studied art, in the early twenties then on to Paris in the early thirties. She was friends with  Max Ernst, Picasso and Dali amongst many other artists.  In 1933 she travelled through Europe with the writer Mandiargues and Henri Cartier-Bresson who memorably photographed her in the water in Italy in a picture that sold for $305,000 in 2007, a then record for the photographer's works.

Nude (1933) (Leonor Fini) by Henri Cartier-Bresson

As well as painting she designed costumes and sets for the theatre, film, ballet and opera.  In the seventies she wrote three novels.  She was famous for her outrageous dress sense and theatricality and lived in a ménage à trois with two men not once but twice. 

The women in Fini's paintings are strong creatures; it is the men who seem weak and delicate, and she modelled many of her female faces on her own distinctive features. 

The picture of the girls in the water reminds Triple P of the scene from the film Sirens (1994) where Tara Fitzgerald's character floats in a pond as the other girls caress her.

Entre Deux

In the 1960s she produced these delicate lesbian-themed paintings which, again, feature her somewhat elfin features.

Leonor Fini, New York (1936) by Georges Platt-Lynes

Fini died in 1996, largely forgotten, and the French authorities wouldn't even accept any of her work in lieu of death duties.  She perhaps made the mistake of being a talented and distinctive artist who had the misfortune to be an independent woman.  An excellent book (the first) about her, Sphinx: the Life and Art of Leonor Fini by Peter Webb was published last year and, hopefully, should go a long way in rehabilitating her.  We will feature more of her Histoire d'O illustrations another time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Women of Franklin Street: John Currin

The Women of Franklin Street (2010)

The existence of photographic erotica would, you might have thought, have spelt the end of erotic illustrations.  Nothing could be further from the truth,of course, as the abstraction available to an artist can be used to create an image that the all-seeing lens of the camera is too blunt an instrument to convey.  Ever since Delacroix, artists used the new medium of photography as reference for their work and, indeed, the first French postcards of academic nudes were supposed to provide photographic reference for those without access to artist's models.

Dogwood 1997

Certain artists have taken erotic photographs and reverse engineered them into graphic works.  Most notably, amongst fine artists, is probably John Currin (1962-) who produced a series of paintings based on Danish seventies pornographic pictures a few years ago.  Currin infuses his distorted female bodies with a mixture of early Renaissance paintings, fifties women's magazines, Playboy and Fragonard.

Currin was born in Boulder, Colorado, and received his batchelor of fine arts degres from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and his masters from Yale.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Two Girls by Christian Schad

Two girls (1928)

We move away from inter-war Paris over to Berlin which was the only other continental rival to the French capital as a major source of erotica at this time.

This painting is by the Bavarian born painter Christian Schad (1894-1982) and was painted in 1928.  Schad was born in Miesbad, Bavaria and studied at the Munich Art Academy.  He fled Germany to avoid service in the Great War and lived in Geneva and Zurich where he became a Dadaist; these two cities being centres for the movement.  In the first half of the twenties he travelled in Italy studying the great Italian painters.  After a time in Vienna he moved with his wife to Berlin in the late twenties.

Schad moved from his initial cubist and futurist styles to embrace what Fox Talbot had originally called photogenic drawings; pictures created by placing objects onto photo sensitive paper and then exposing them to sunlight.  His works using found objects in this medium, which were christened Schadographs, later influenced Man Ray.  Following his journeys in Italy, however, and his exposure to the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement in Berlin, he devloped a cool, realistic approach to painting influenced by the clarity of Raphael's paintings. A couple of years after this picture was pinted Schad developed an interest in eastern philosophy and his output dwindled to virtually nothing.  When the Nazis came to power he was considered too unimportant to worry about (unlike Dix and Grosz whose art was declared "degenerate" and burned).

This picture of two girls comes from right in that Neue Sachlichkeit period.  There is none of the anatomical exaggeration or deliberate ugliness of  Otto Dix or George Grosz.  The two girls are apart, masturbating seperately but one gazes longlingly at the other whilst she fingers herself.  What is the relationship between the two?  Are they lovers?  If so why are they apart?  Are they just non lesbian friends or even sisters just discovering their sexuality together? 

A cool, intriguing and erotic painting.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rites of Spring by Earl Miller

Penthouse's fifth girl/girl set appeared in March 1975, only six months, this time, after their previous such pictorial.  A fifth different photographer was employed, in this case Earl Miller, who would, eventually, become Penthouse's most published photographer. 

Inside that particular issue the Pet of the Month was Susan Ryder (who also appeared on the cover) whose pussy-revealing pictures were the most explicit in the magazine to date.  This girl/girl shoot was much more decourous, however.

Like most of his predecessors, for some reason Miller also felt that the only place to portray two ladies together was in the woods.  Curious, really, given all the other possible environments you could place them in but maybe it has something to do with harking back to  thoughts of classical wood nymphs.

The story behind this one is that Sarah and Julia are childhood friends who have returned to the woods they played in as children. The text is typical of mid-seventies Penthouse pretension; especially when accompanying girl/girl sets.  Maybe they thought that arty writing would ameliorate the fact that they were still pushing the envelope of what was permissable.

In fact, the writing is rather more direct than the photography which is still not really  lesbian as such but, rather, just two girls photographed together. "Caresses. The whispering and giggles are still part of their intimacy but suddenly there is a natural need to touch and explore each other with lips, tongues and delicate fingers.  Gently, very gently."

The flute is a prototypically hippy touch and the whole thing starts to look like a slightly naughty Laura Ashley or Dubonnet advertisement.  You can almost hear Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne in the background.

Miller has followed the fashion for very soft focus as well, adding to the deliberately dreamy nature of the pictorial.   "Sarah's flute is accompanied by the rustle of the wind in the trees. The forest makes its own music and Sarah and Julia orchestrate the mood.  There is a hush, the wind dies and the two freinds slip into each other's arms."  Sigh!

The final four pictures focus on the two girls lying next to each other.  For people who spend a lot of time walking naked in the woods they have pretty strong tan lines!  "The soft feel of breasts and thighs and the warmth that falls over those who understand the erotic tenderness that enfolds two women in this primal way.  Loving, adoring, passionate sisters."  Whether they are really supposed to be sisters or whether its "sisters" in the feminist sense we are not quite sure.

These pictures aren't quite as racy as Ken Marcus' Two's Company pictorial from August 1973 and much of the implication of what has been going on comes from the text rather than the pictures.

Here the girls are arranged head to toe.  Is this to suggest some naughty soixante-neuf?  Unusually, too, one of the photographs dispenses with the need to include the girls faces

Earl Miller actually started out as an actor and director in New York theatre in the early sixties.  He only took up photography in 1967, initially doing portraits of fellow actors. From 1969 until 1972 he was the official photographer of the Sonny and Cher TV show.  He also did advertising work but when he saw his first copy of Penthouse  he submitted a shoot which was bought by Bob Guccione. 

Sarah Crutchfield by Earl Miller from March1974

This first pictorial appeared a year before Rites of Spring in March 1974 and featured a lady called, appropriately, Sarah Crutchfield. During 1974 he became one of Penthouse's favourite photgraphers and never looked back.

Earl Miller in the mid-seventies

French Drawing of two girls

Here is a nice Art Deco period pen and ink on pencil drawing of two friendly, be-stockinged ladies.  We don't know who the artist is but the picture was produced in France about 1930.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Blonde on top...

Here is a lively lesbian watercolour about which, sadly, we know nothing at all.  Somewhat expressionist in nature it could be a modern piece or from the forties onwards.  The shape of the furniture in the background looks continental.

Some of the anatomy is a bit off but the overall effect, with the blonde girl's rear end at the centre of the painting, works well.  Initially, all about their genitals, secondary features include the blonde's arm and thigh framing the vignette of the other girl sucking at the blonde's enormous breast.  Also the girl underneath's left-hand stocking has come away from its suspender belt and it looks as though the blonde's foot is pushing it down.  Finally of course there is the monster dildo under the bed.  Has it already been discarded or is it a treat to come...?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A few more French girl/girl pictures...

Agent Triple P is off to Africa for ten days or so and so won't be posting for a while.  We shall leave you with a couple of French photographs from the twenties or thirties of some young ladies appreciating themselves in each other's company.

Lesbian scenes by Achille Devéria

Illustration for the opening scene of Gamiani, ou deux nuits d'excès

In an earlier post we presented a couple of illustrations for the nineteenth century erotic novel Gamiani, ou deux nuits d'excès (1833) by twentieth century artist Suzanne Ballivet: link.   Here are a couple more illustrations for the same novel but this time they are from much earlier (around 1848) and are by Achille Devéria (1800-1857)

 Achille Jacques-Jean-Marie Devéria was a French painter and lithographer.  Devéria's paintings were mainly in watercolour but it was his lithographic illustrations and portraits that he was really famous for.   At about the time he produced these illustrations he was appointed director of the Bibliothèque Nationale's department of engravings.

He produced quite a few erotic lithographs; most of which feature men and women. However, the novel for which these illustrations were done features quite a few lesbian interludes including the opening scene where the hero spies upon two women having sex.  Erotic illustrations of lesbian activity were comparatively rare in this period; most erotica focussing on men and women.

Although the pictures are quite lively we don't think that they show any sign of having been done from life as anatomically they are rather curious!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mirage by Roy Volkmann

Penthouse's fourth girl/girl pictorial appeared in the September 1974 edition which featured the most explicit Pet of the Month pictures so far from Janice Kane, who was also featured on the cover exposing the first completely uncovered nipple in a full size picture on the cover of the magazine.

A rather different approach was taken with this pictorial in that it featured photographs from a forthcoming book from the Penthouse publishing arm rather than being a stand alone pictorial.

These were the work of New York based photographer Roy Volkmann.   Volkman built a recreation of an attic in his Manhattan studio and spent eight weeks shooting the pictures for the book, Mirage

The inspiration for the shoot came from an episode where he was doing tests of two models in his New York studio.  “I was impressed by the way both women interplayed.  They projected a feeling of natural beauty, of subtle sensuousness so powerful that I felt I had to freeze the image,” he said.

“Women do have these fantasies of exploring their own bodies through those of other women.”  he continued, pretentiously.  “I wanted to express this fantasy as beautifully as I could.  A woman exploring herself.”
This is obviously the rationale behind having two such similar looking women and the use of a mirror in some of the shots.  It is really one woman discovering herself; the other woman is an illusion; a Mirage as the title of the book implies.

Volkmann began his photographic career in Europe, shooting in London, Paris and Milan, working in the beauty and fashion areas for magazines such as Stern, Grazia, Max and Harpers Bazaar Italia.

His pictorial for Penthouse mixes conventional  boudoir photography with more avant-garde dance-inspired work.

He continued as a mainstream photographer shooting portraits of stars such as Melanie Griffith, Michael Douglas and Sean Young and is still very active today.  He produced a well known series of photographs of Canadian actress Natasha Henstridge to publicise her film Species, in which she posed with an HR Giger designed chair.

 Natasha Henstridge

Originally Volkmann was a dancer, however, and now he largely specialises in dance photography using his understanding of anatomy and movement to award winning effect.  He continues to produce artistic nude work and teaches nude photography at the International Center of Photography in New York.  Some of his most effective pictures combine the two as in this magnificent example below.

Seraph 2007

So this was something of an artistic diversion for Penthouse in their portrayal of girls togetherThe next girl/girl pictorial would be shot by yet another different photographer and would appear six months in the future; in March 1975.

Girl/girl French postcards from the 1920s and 1930s

Anonymous 1936

Nudity was much more acceptable in France than elsewhere in Europe in the twenties and thirties and the stages of Parisian nightclubs such as the Moulin Rouge and the Folies-Bergère and dance halls were awash with half naked and even naked dancing girls; something that wasn't seen in Britain for another thirty years or more. 

From 1936

These dancing girls often supplemented their incomes by posing for photographers producing erotic postcards. 

From 1934

This is not to say that these postcards were freely available but in the right (or wrong) area of Paris, such as Pigalle, Rue Saint-Dennis and the Madeleine, they could be bought easily although most were bought by mail order.  Street vendors sold them in the red light districts carefully hidden underneath their overcoats in the prototypical "dirty postcards" way.

In the nineteen twenties and thirties the cards got spicier, in many ways reflecting the more assertive attitudes of women themselves following the Great War. 

There was a great sapphic movement in Paris at this time as independent women experimented with relationships with each other as well as men (these bisexual flappers were known as garçonne). 

This was increasingly reflected in the cards themselves which, began to not just show a number of naked women posing together but interacting with each other to erotic effect.

From the point of view of today's viewer, the girls from nineteen thirties cards look more modern; the old style, dramatic make-up needed for the old plate cameras was replaced by a more natural look which the modern lightweight cameras could capture. 

Circa 1935

No-one has ever tried to draw up a list of the photographers, publishers or models involved in this industry.  Part of the fun for collectors is trying to identify models in different pictures and the year that the photographs were taken.  There were many different postcards and only a few of each survive today.  Collecting these postcards has become a popular hobby and, as a result, prices have rocketed.

From a series printed in 1935

Most of these cards were done as silver prints on baryte paper using gelatin-bromide plates.  They were printed by the kilometer on rotary presses on pare fed from rolls which allowed true mass production.

Circa 1935

We will return to these vintage images another time; firstly, when we look at the sub-genre of girl/girl spanking pictures in the twenties and thirties.