Erotic Art Review Pt. 03byCal Y. Pygia©
In art, immorality cannot exist. Art is always sacred. -- August Rodin.
Some art, while it may not be better than other art, is more interesting--and more entertaining--that's for sure. It may also be instructive at times, but erotic art, if ever there was a form of art that deserves the term, is, first and foremost, exemplary of art for art's sake, providing, as it so often does, sex for sex's sake. It has no other defense than its own existence--and needs none. This essay reviews works of some of the masters--and mistresses--of the genre, considering both illustrations and paintings. The artists named herein are veritable treasure troves of erotica that is guaranteed to wet one's pussy or harden one's cock. Isn't that what erotic art's all about, when all is said and done?
Since I discuss Georges in a separate article, "Imagined Horrors," I will, in this article, consider briefly only a few of the drawings and paintings that I have not already reviewed in the previous essay.
Georges' women have an Indian look to their features and dress. They wear pearls in their hair, in their ears, in their noses, and even, occasionally, in their cheeks. They also wear pearl necklaces and bracelets. Some wear anklets and belts that are fashioned of pearls as well--although they wear little if anything else. One sits, holding a flower behind her back--an offering, perhaps, to the great stone phallus that stands before her, rising out of the darkness, like a god seen in an epiphany.
Another of Georges' illustrations shows a woman whose legs are extended above and behind her head, their ankles bound together and connected to a pulley. It appears that her arms are behind her, where they may be tied. She is displayed in this position, against a huge, dark Valentine-shaped heart. Below her, on a low platform, a man lies upon his back, offering the viewer the sight of his widespread, hirsute legs, cock, and balls. His penis, erect, impales the woman's anus, and he alternately pulls upon and relaxes the tension of the rope, causing the suspended woman to be raised and lowered upon his prick, employing technology in the aid of anal intercourse. The woman is more a helpless victim than she is a true participant in the action--a theme which becomes much more prominent in other of Georges' works, as indicated in my review if these other drawings and paintings in "Imagined Horrors."
In yet another drawing, a hirsute man--or what we see of him, anyway, his lower belly, his legs, and that portion of his cock which is not lost to sight inside the mouth of the woman who fellates him--thrusts his hips forward so that the female may service him orally. Upon her hands and knees, she is naked, and an iron phallus, complete with iron testicles, jutting from a device that resembles a fire hydrant, is penetrated at both ends, simultaneously, by fleshly human cock and metallic surrogate.
Another picture has a kneeling fellatrix overcoming the impediment of the spiked tube through which her partner's erect penis protrudes. As she sucks his cock, he stands, one hand on his hip and the other draped alongside the back of her head, her dark, waist-length hair spilling beneath it and down her back. As is often the case, only part of the male is shown--his lower half, in this case. Georges' refusal to paint the full figure is dismissive of men and suggests that they are important only as sexual objects.
Ironically, the women, who are often forced to participate in unusual, even degrading, sex, are the true victims in his art, yet they are shown completely. Nevertheless, their humiliation is obvious and, perhaps, even heightened by their being shown completely while their partners--or, as is more often the case, their tormentors--remain only partially depicted and, therefore, anonymous. All the focus is upon the woman as a degraded and humiliated victim.
For more discussion of Georges Pichard, refer to my essay on his work, "Imagined Horrors."
Felicien paints mural-size portraits of slender nude female subjects in luxurious settings. As is true of the work of most fine artists, his paintings are highly detailed, crowded, in fact, with objects. The eye, after drinking in the beauty of the central figure--the nude, of course--travels everywhere around the canvas, for, in every nook and cranny, there is something to see.
In one of Felicien's paintings, a woman, nude but for the strange yellow cap and the bright red cape she wears, emerges from a large, heavy, ornate picture frame, as if she is the subject of a painting come to life. Behind her is another painting--a mural showing a lady and a nobleman of the medieval period; there is a stained-glass window in the wall that intersects the wall upon which the mural hangs and the woman-come-to-life stands; below the mural, upon the same shelf upon which the woman stands, is a statue of a small, hunched-over figure with a skull instead of a face, partially draped in a red robe. A shelf, crowded with beakers, jars, flagons, and other containers, as well as a stuffed pelican, stands beneath the mural, in the corner of the two intersecting walls.
In the foreground, a ledge bears a curved-neck beaker, a bird (presumably stuffed), a mortar and a pestle, a flower in a wide glass vase, a blue bottle, a letter, and several bottles sealed with stoppers. A statue of a nun stands beside the mortar and pestle. Seated behind this ledge and before the mural and the nude woman, a man in a high-backed armchair reads a gigantic, illustrated book, a compendium of some sort, judging by what is legible of the text on the page. Has the reader somehow brought to life the Galatea, as it were, of his fancy, perhaps by casting a spell he's read in his oversize tome? Is he an alchemist? A sorcerer? One can only conjecture according to the clues that Felicien has so generously provided throughout his painting.
Another of his works shows three ages of women. The first, that of infancy, is represented by the cage full of babies upon which a young redheaded woman sits, wearing nothing more than a hat decorated with flowers and a long blue cloak, open to reveal her breasts, abdomen, pubes, and legs.
Beside her, an old crone stands, bare breasted, but otherwise garbed in a yellow robe, from which the hind end of a naked baby extends, legs kicking.
The babies are in the process of escaping. Two of the bars of the cage have been bent, and one of the infants, climbs, monkeylike, over the top of the cage, toward the seated woman, who observes his progress with amusement, but offers him no assistance, despite his grasp upon her right forearm.
In the foreground, at the left, a green plant with strange blue-green leaves sprouts small yellow flowers, and, at the right, a large tortoise, a huge yellow butterfly on its back, crawls toward the clustered figures.
What meaning do the painting's images suggest? Is the painting's theme the futility of women's hope to enjoy a moment's personal freedom between the demands of motherhood and the frailty of old age, represented by her failed attempt to incarcerate her children? And what is the meaning of the tortoise and the butterfly? The animal seems to represent the slow passage of beauty, but, if so, why is it approaching the figures, rather than taking its leave of them? Again, the viewer must decide, but Felicien has given him or her plenty to consider in doing so.
There is a hint of lesbianism in another of Felicien's works. A nude woman lies upon the back of a bare-breasted Sphinx who stares serenely into the distance as the woman drapes her arms over the mythical monster's shoulders and breasts, her left leg supporting her while its twin lies extended down the Sphinx's lower back and hips, above its powerful left hind leg. The Sphinx's wings are stylized, rather than realistic, resembling great, curved obsidian blades. The woman smiles, contentment upon her lovely face, as if she has found, at last, a companion, if not a lover, a soul mate, but one of stone rather than flesh. Is it enough to love a representation of an abstraction, a statue, rather than a person? Felicien seems to ask this question and to leave its answer to the viewer of whom he makes the enquiry.
Felicien's art sometimes contains elements of the surreal. Against a star-studded night sky and a leafless tree bearing a maze of branches, a nude female figure, slender white wings emerging from the bone of her skeletal back, and clad in a black corset which is open above her hips, full breasted, with firm, sleek, full buttocks and thighs (her calves are lost to view beneath the winding black cloth in which they are wrapped), holds a severed human head in her hand, admiring the decapitated man's long, dark hair and mustache with the eyeless sockets of her fleshless skull. In her other hand, she holds a slender white bow, and a quiver of arrows is slung low about the backs of her legs.
In the foreground, a huge pair of butterfly's wings, attached to a fleshless human pelvis, the left femur of which has become detached, stands, as if in attendance to the female archer who admires her kill--a man who has died, not as a result of having been shot with one of her arrows, it seems, but as a result of having had his head chopped off.
The butterfly seems to symbolize beauty, but it is beauty associated with death (the skeletal pelvis) and destruction or decay (the detached femur). Is the figure, then, a female Cupid, whose bolt, finding its mark, has occasioned the death of the lover? Has he lost his head--literally--after having lost it, figuratively, by having fallen in love with this femme fatale? The stars seem to suggest romance, but the tree (the tree of life?) is devoid of leaves, suggesting death. This half-dead Cupid is a huntress, it seems, whose love kills, an angel, as it were, not of love, but of death.
Are there other ways to interpret this work? Obviously, it is as open to interpretation, as are most of Felicien's paintings. For example, the severed man's head is reminiscent of the head of John the Baptist. What additional layers of meaning might such an allusion--if such an allusion is intended--suggest? Why is the head not served upon a platter, and why is this Salome--if Salome she is intended to be--a half-dead archer rather than an exotic dancer? Moreover, why is the setting outdoors rather than in the palace of a king? Perhaps there is no intended reference to the prophet, after all. Who can say? The viewer must decide.
Gerda's art is devoted to lesbian lovemaking by oddly shaped young women. Apple-breasted, their figures widen at their bellies and hips, and their thighs and buttocks are expansive in comparison, at least, to their upper bodies, giving them, overall, a figure not unlike that of an inverted, rather soft carrot.
Some of Gerda's ladies are acrobatic. One couple, sporting in bed, engages in cunnilingus, the blonde recipient kneeling, with her lover's redheaded locks between the backs of her thighs, her face likewise lost, between the front of the other's upper legs. The redhead, lying upon her back, has her legs raised and bent at the knees, allowing the other, who drapes one hand over the supine woman's thighs, holding her in place while, with the other hand, wielding a light, supple cane, she reddens her bottom, mixing pain with pleasure.
A beautiful, heavy curtain edged in gold trim and printed with large flowers and a bird resembling a partridge would normally cloak the bed, but it is gathered by a cord to keep it partially open. An ornate vase stands atop a red bedside table fitted with a gold handle.
In another painting, two women, one blonde, the other brunette, engage one another in mutual cunnilingus, having adopted the position commonly known as "sixty nine," with the brunette above, the blonde below. The brunette is completely nude, but the fair-haired lady wears a cream-colored top, which has ridden up on her abdomen, exposing her lower belly and upper thighs. She wears a pair of green stockings that come to mid-thigh and a pair of black dress shoes with high heels.
A large oval mirror in a narrow red frame hangs above the divan or bed--it is impossible to tell for sure what furniture they sport upon--and the room is papered in wavy vertical lines that alternate with vertical files of rosebuds interconnected by perpendicular lines that could be vines. Deep, huge pillows, inside ornamental cases, complete the picture, bespeaking, further, the beauty and elegance of the women's chamber.
One of Gerda's more amusing pictures shows a bare-breasted lady, her hair styled to resemble the white, powdered wigs that the men of her day wore, sporting green stockings and dressed in a green hoop skirt, reposing upon a couch while her female lover, naked but for a pair of light lavender stockings and brown high-heeled shoes, lies between the reclining woman's legs, a clapper, as it were, within the huge bell of her well-dressed lover's skirt, pleasuring her orally.
Plenty other erotic artists are worthy of mention, so keep an eye out for additional essays in this series.