From Gamiani, ou deux nuits d'excès
Today we look at two sets of illustrations by the French artist Suzanne Ballivet. She illustrated many books but these come from her work for two erotic works Gamiani, ou deux nuits d'excès and Les Chanson de Bilitis. The Gamiani illustrations are in red chalk the earlier Bilitis ones are the subtly coloured ones.
So the work of Suzanne Ballivet is rare and unusual. Today we are just going to look at some of her lesbian themed work as that will be our focus on this site for the next week or so. In due course we will return to her other works featuring couples of the opposite sex.
She was born in the 7eme arrondissement of Paris, the daughter of a photographer from Montpellier in 1904. She attended the Beaux Arts de Montpellier in 1922 and then began to exhibit her work in drawing shows. She married in 1925 and had a son, Michel, in 1927.
In 1941 she got divorced and moved to Paris but them moved to Nice in 1943 where she illustrated her first book; an edition of Pierre Louÿs book Les Chanson de Bilitis (1894).
This is a collection of erotic poems which purport to be about the life of Bilitis, a courtesan who is a contemporary of Sappho.
Louÿs claimed that the poems had been found on the walls of a tomb in Cyprus but in fact they were virtually all (he re-uses some lines from Sappho herself) his creation.
At the time many people were convinced that the poems were, indeed, the long-lost work of a classical poetess. Debussy set some of them to music. It would become a very popular book with lesbian readers as the second part of the book Elegies focuses very much on lesbian love.
At the age of 64 she remarried and moved to the west of Paris. Later in her life she suffered from articular rheumatism which stopped her drawing and painting. She died at St. Aunès Herault, on June 15, 1985 at the age of eighty-one.