Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Illustrations for Le Rideau levé ou l'Éducation de Laure by Jean-Adrien Mercier (1899-1995).

Here we have some illustrations by Jean-Adrien Mercier to Mirabeau's Le Rideau levé ou l'Éducation de Laure.  Mercier was an established and well known illustrator rather than a specialist in purely erotic fare.  This is one of four erotic books he provided the illustrations for.

Mirabeau's 1786 novel tells the story of Laure, who is educated sexually by her father.  Female protagonists were popular in French erotic novels of the time.  The process of her education is accelerated by her spying on her father and his mistress having sex on the other side of the curtain mentioned in the title; although it is a symbolic curtain as well.  Laure's libertine but structured sexual education is contrasted with her more outrageous cousins whose headlong plunge into depravity is offered as a salutary, and ultimately tragic, lesson.

Mercier was born in 1899 in the city of Angers in the Loire Valley.  He attended the l' École régionale des beaux-arts d'Angers and then l' École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs in Paris.  After he left art school in 1923 he started his career by producing some book illustrations, working on woodblock prints which gave him a useful technical grounding for what would become his speciality, posters.

L'Homme a l'Hispano (1933)

The following year he won a competition to produce a poster for the Angers Trade fair and after that his new direction was set as he produced hundreds of posters including 150 for films; producing posters for top French directors like Jean Renoir and Abel Gance.

Cointreau advertisement 1937

Mercier's mother was the granddaughter of the founder of the Cointreau drinks company and the daughter of one of the Cointreau brothers who invented the orange flavoured liqueur itself in 1875.  Mercier produced many posters for the company until 1965.

In the late thirties and early forties he started producing illustrations for children's books.  He left Paris in 1940 and moved to Dinard on the coast. He stopped producing posters almost entirely. In 1961 he was asked to produce the decorations for the children's play area of the ocean liner SS France.  In the forties and fifties he worked on illustrations for a number of religious books.  He did his final book illustrations in 1993, two years before his death at the age of 97.

These illustrations were done for a limited edition of Mirabeau's novel produced in 1933.  Three hundred and fifty of the four hundred copies of the edition were seized by police and destroyed.

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