‘Religieuse italienne fumant la cigarette’ (Italian nun smoking a cigarette) by Clovis Trouille, 1944.
According to legend a work called “Remembrance” (1930) by fanatical anarchist and painter Clovis Trouille was on display during an art show for the French Communist Party in the early 1930s the piece caught the eye of none other than Salvador Dali himself. Which makes perfect sense as the painting (pictured below) features a church cardinal wearing an open coat that reveals his womanly legs, red garter belts and black thigh-high stockings—to say nothing of the levitating nude contortionist just to his left. Fantastic stuff.
“Remembrance” was one Trouille’s first paintings—done when the painter was already 41 years old. Prior to discovering his true calling, Trouille was employed as what could be best described as a sort of mannequin “makeup” artist for department stores. A job that allowed him to stay true to his anti-establishment ideology and disdain for anything systematic—a sentiment that Trouille instantly developed after he was drafted into service during WW1 and returned traumatized by what he had seen. During his long career Trouille would continue to admonish authority figures by way of his brush by painting religious leaders, police and government officials into sordid scenes full of lowbrow debauchery with distinct BDSM undertones.
Quite fond of his own work, according to noted French surrealist art collector Daniel Filipacchi, Trouille once asked him to return a painting he had purchased from him “Rêve Claustral” that featured two nuns kissing. To which Filipacchi though confused, obliged. The painter would return the painting to him noting that he had added some detail to it (in this case Trouille added two prayer books that had been cast on the ground below the nuns exposed legs). This was a request, Filipacchi said, that would be asked of the collector on several other occasions resulting in a few other additions to “Rêve Claustral” including a peeping-Tom version of a nun watching the lurid scene go down.
Trouille was tragically overlooked during his own lifetime and if you’re going to be in Paris this coming week, you can see some of his work at the Grand Palais at the Champs-Élysées through July 4th. If you like what you see, Trouille’s art has been compiled into a few books including “Parcours à Travers l’oeuvre de Clovis Trouille, 1889-1975” and “Clovis Trouille; Un Peintre Libre et Iconoclaste.”
One of the most famous paintings by Clovis Trouille provided the title and poster art for Kenneth Tynan’s notorious erotic Off-Broadway revue ‘Oh! Calcutta!’ (The title is a pun on “O quel cul t’as!” French for “What an ass you have!”). It was also used on the cover of the original cast soundtrack album.
More spellbinding examples of Trouille’s work follow after the jump—most are NSFW…