Erotic Art Photography

Erotic photo art has lost much of its exquisite soul since Playboy and other girlie monthlies repackaged the human body for mass-market consumption. Like much painting, sculpture and engraving, since its beginning photography has also been at the service of eroticism. This collection presents erotic photographs from the beginning of photography until the years just before World War II. It explores the evolution of the genre and its origins in France, and its journey from public distrust to the large audience it enjoys today.
New York, Parkstone International

Erotic Art Photography

   © Confidential Concepts, worldwide, USA

   © Confidential Concepts, worldwide, USA

   © Parkstone Press International, New York, USA

   © Alexandre Dupouy Collection.

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   Monsieur X, gelatin silver print, 24 × 18 cm (9.6 × 7.2 in), c. 1935

   1 – Henri Oltramare, № 192, gelatin silver print, 11,7 × 15,7 cm (4.7 × 6.3 in), c. 1900

   2 – Albert Wyndham, negatives proposed on the interieur pages of catalogue of photographs of Études Académiques de Nu, Floris Editions, 1925

   3 – The Artistic Nude, № 12, November 1, 1904


   4 – Anonymous, gelatin silver print, 18 × 23,6 cm (7.2 × 9.4 in), c. 1900

   5 – Anonymous, blank-backed postcard, 14 × 9 cm (5.6 × 3.6 in), c. 1925

   Could a passion for collecting things be hereditary? This serious existential question was soon resolved as far as I was concerned when, having been obliged to give up playing games outside because of the summer storms of 1966, I sought refuge in the enormous attic of the family home. Thousands of old postcards were strewn all over the floor. As I began picking them up, I suddenly entered an unknown world, where gentlemen in top hats rubbed shoulders with ladies collapsing under the weight of enormous many coloured hats. I discovered professions no longer practised, old fashioned advertisements extolling the virtues of quack medicines and airship disasters.

   Fascinated by this immersion in another time, with my grandmother’s blessing I took this antique correspondance away. I then began to study these pictures and strove to classify them by subject matter in order to make this world more coherent. Thus began a real passion, replacing my first vocation for archaeology. However, was I really so far from my former interest? In fact, I was going to become an iconographical archaeologist.

   The attics of all the people I knew became my excavation sites, and on these ‘forays’ I acquired a very different knowledge from that taught to me by my teachers. I began to accumulate a treasure trove of old papers: stamps, books, photos and of course those famous postcards.They were a testiment to the facets of history, those of princes, wars, and events, but especially of everyday life. Reading the correspondance and the captions on my little bits of card gave me an insight into the intimate lives of the authors and their everyday worries, pleasures, sadnesses and loves. Especially loves, as love letters have always been the richest form of correspondance, and the beginning of the 20th century proliferated with those rather sickly sentimental postcards known as ‘fantasies’ which proclaimed melancholy expressions of emotion. Then, to my surprise I discovered among them pictures of smiling naked women!

   Most of these voluptuous missives were addressed to soldiers during the Great War by female pen-friends who identified with these suggestive effigies.

   I was still only an adolescent, and of course I experienced a great deal of turmoil which both revealed and refined the path I would take in life. I decided to specialise in the history of eroticism and particularly in photography.

   The casual jobs I had then allowed me sufficient time to discover the secrets of the auction house l’Hôtel Drouot, the Mecca of collections. In 1973 it was not yet the modern building that we know today but an old 19th century building with smells and wooden floors that reminded me of the attics. It was swarming with a bustling crowd oblivious to any form of courtesy, a closed world with a moral code which was difficult for the novice to understand, where each looked after his own interests. I was astounded by the amounts of money spent in a second by the lifting of a finger by gentlemen who appeared at first glance to be insignificant. The heros of my childhood were at once replaced by these curious characters, and for a long time I showed a lack of interest in any form of elegance. I discovered in this building crammed full of history that education and fortune have nothing to do with obvious signs of wealth. At this time, postcards and photographs were not listed in the catalogues and no-one dreamed of selling them individually. They were sold by the handful, in large square wicker baskets which could contain up to three or four thousand examples. If I remember rightly, you could pick one of them up for no more than forty francs. I began to build up a collection, and together with anything to do with books and ‘old papers’, I thus became a well known dealer. A dealer yes, but first and foremost a collector.

   Having been bitten by the bug of eroticism, I have since acquired a large number of erotic pictures. The little naked woman from the Great War is now surrounded by thousands of sisters, each one more fantastic than the others. The volume of this visual documentation is such that there remain many enigmas that I am striving to resolve.