Pornographic literature should have lost the war the day Hugh Hefner first published Playboy in 1953. Who wants to read porn when there are pictures to ogle? Yet, somehow dirty books hung on—through the fifties, through the sixties and beyond. Even today a trashy “sex romance” like Fifty Shades of Grey—which has no redeeming merit beyond its (alleged) masturbatory content—can still top the NY Times book charts.
When porn mags and stag movies spread throughout small town suburban America from the late 1950s on, pornographic literature had to find new ways to command an audience. Literary pornographers quickly realized their only choice was to publish taboo-breaking stories about incest, underage sex, bestiality, rape, torture, kidnap and slavery. These books had titles like: Family Affair, Brother and Sisters, Already Wet for Daddy, The School Bus Rapes, The Captive Mother and Teacher Wants to Suck. This was not the kinda stuff you’d find via the Book of the Month recommendations. These were nasty, filthy sex fantasies that normalized some deeply troubling sex acts—Raped by Daddy being an obvious example.
These books didn’t even have to bother with a half decent cover design—the title alone usually sold the product. Visual porn, the magazines and films, soon caught up with incest porn, bestiality flicks and alike were available to the mass market. Today you can easily find extremely specific sex fetish niches with a quick browse of blog sites like Tumblr.
This small selection of retro porn novels captures some of the racy literature with which Dad and Mom (mostly Dads) got their jollies. And for those with a taste in such, many of these titles can still be bought today via Triple X Books.
It’s amazing when you consider what we might now view as quaint, familiar photographic imagery was once a serious no-no. We’ve all seen photos of Betty Page bound and gagged to the point where it’s no more shocking than a LIFE magazine cover image. When John Alexander Scott Coutts aka “John Willie,” publisher of the original Bizarre magazine and the author/ artist of the iconic art comic The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline started, excuse me, basically invented fetish photography as we now know it, it was a punishable crime.
Possibilities!, a massive 472 page coffee table book of John Willie’s photos, published by J.B. Rund’s Belier Press is the be-all, end-all last word from the world’s greatest expert on the subject.
Belier Press has been in existence since 1974 and the publisher’s own story is as interesting as the subject of the books he puts out. J.B. Rund was a young teen running around in the original rock ‘n’ roll era (1955/56) looking for second hand rock ‘n’ roll 45s to buy cheap from juke box distributors in Times Square. One of these stores also had “adult books” and this is where the author first saw a John Willie photo. The afterward of this book goes into great detail about this discovery period and the history of Belier Press. Belier Press has published all kinds of books, not just fetish photography, though I can say that the first time I ever saw a photo of Betty Page was on the cover of Belier’s Betty Page Private Peeks volume two. He also put out R. Crumb’s Carload o’ Comics, The Complete Fritz The Cat, all of the reprints of the Irving Klaw catalogs (Bizarre Katalogs), Eric Stanton and Gene “Eneg” Bilbrew and other fetish artists in Bizarre Komix (24 volumes!), The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline and the recent deluxe reprint. An amazing run.
Possibilities! has more than 1,360 photographs basically giving a visual history of John Willie’s fetish coming of age and, in fact, the birth of what we take for granted now as an art form, a style, a distinctive look and feel all which can be traced back in these photos to something that sparked excitement in one man’s mind (and loins) and the fact that he wasn’t afraid to act on that idea, even though for all he knew he may have been one of the only people on earth to feel this way.
John Alexander Scott Coutts (or JASC as the author refers to him) was born in 1902 in Singapore, the youngest of four children of William Scott and Edith Ann Spreckley Coutts. His father, wanting to go into business for himself moved the family to St. Albans, Hertfordshire, a northwest suburb of London in June 1903. As a very young child Coutts was drawn to a particular type of children’s fantasy literature called “Fairy Books,” where he developed an attraction for “damsels in distress” and the want to rescue these damsels. At around this time he also showed a talent for drawing.
To quote the author:
At about the age of puberty he became aware of another attraction—for women in high heeled shoes—which had a strong sexual connotation for him. In his fantasies John wanted these women in high-heels to be tied-up (in order to rescue them?).
In September of 1921 Coutts entered Sandhurst (the Royal Military Academy), graduating in 1923 with a commission as Second Lieutenant and joined the Royal Scots regiment. In 1925 he married Eveline Stella Frances Fisher, a nightclub hostess who he decided needed “rescuing.” They were married without the required permission of his regiment and against his the wishes of his father (who cut him off), so he moved to Australia in late 1925 or early 1926. The marriage disintegrated soon after. One day in 1934 Coutts stumbled upon McNaught’s, a shoe store on King Street that had a sideline catering to shoe fetishists. He also discovered in that establishment the existence of a weekly British magazine called London Life.
London Life was, as Rund puts it:
...a weekly British magazine that openly dealt with a range of fetishes, but in a conservative manner that would seem quaint by today’s (lack of) standards. Suddenly John Coutts realized that he was NOT alone!
At this point he was introduced to a locally based organization for shoe fetishists, possibly called “The High-Heel Club,” run by a retired ship’s captain who went by the name “Achilles.” He then met Holly Anna Faram around 1934, a woman that shared his his interests in bondage & high heels. She became his first model, and his second wife.
“Coutts was frustrated by the refusal of London Life to print any of his letters on the subject of bondage and arrived at the conclusion–in 1936 or ‘37–that he could produce a superior and more liberal publication, which in 1946 would come to called Bizarre.
In the decade in between coming up with the idea of Bizarre magazine and getting the finances to put that project together, he came up with the idea of selling high-heeled shoes, though he actually wanted to market his photographs of women wearing those shoes and not the actual shoes themselves. But it didn’t work out that way.
In 1937 Coutts got access to “The High-Heel Club” mailing list and started his career as a photographer. He also acquired the right to use the name “Achilles.” At first, using the list, he offered rather pedestrian photos of women wearing high-heels. He then added Holly Anna Faram who turned out to be an amazing model and started offering bondage poses, but in a veiled manner. Like many artists, writers and musicians Coutts was not a good businessman and not very good with money, a problem that would follow him throughout his life.
Early in 1938 he placed a series of ads in London Life magazine for his sexy shoes, charging what he felt would be too much for any potential customer (wanting to push his more reasonably priced photos instead) and naturally people started to order them. Now he had to do something, or return the money. So Coutts added shoe maker/designer to his list of accomplishments. He also put the money together to make his dream magazine but World War II broke out and that ended that dream, at least for a while.
In 1940, John Coutts volunteered for service in the Australian Army (listing his religion as “Pagan”). In 1945 he decided to move to America to once again attempt to bring his Bizarre dream to life. At the end of that year he travelled to Canada on a merchant ship to subsidize the trip. In Montreal he found a printer that not only had an allotment of paper (remember this was wartime), but was willing to take on the job. At that moment both “John Willie” and Bizarre were born.
As far as Coutts’ new name was concerned and what it meant—“Willie,” of course, being British slang for the male sex organ—but “John Willie” was also a Cockney rhyming slang term for a little boy, so ummmm… take your pick! At last he was on his way. Willie moved to New York City in 1946 or ‘47, trying to work on Bizarre with not a lot of luck. He postponed publishing after four issues and started again in 1951. He sold the magazine to a friend in 1956 after publishing 20 issues. He also did business with infamous fetish photographer and mail order dealer Irving Klaw, famous for his Tempest Storm and Betty Page photos, bondage photos, fetish cartoon serials and of course, the photos by John Willie. Klaw made two color full length films (Teaserama and Varietease) which survived and can be seen on one DVD from Something Weird Video.
To quote Rund again:
In April of 1961, after moving to Los Angeles, Coutts/Willie was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, followed in May by a confrontation with a Postal Inspector concerning his photographs. He then decided to put an end to his activities as “John Willie” and destroyed all of his negatives as well as his mailing list sending this announcement to his customers:
“On this occasion I will forgo the usual editorial “WE” (which is more businesslike) and instead, as this is the last letter you will ever receive from me I am reverting to “I”. I got sick (it happened very suddenly) and had to undergo a major operation (of course I’d have no insurance). As a result, there will be no more “Gwendoline,” and the whole business will be closed as of June 25th. (I have a few weeks grace—I hope.) I would like to inform you that on that date everything, but everything, including the mailing list will be destroyed… It’s been nice to have known you and I wish you the very best in your games of fun and nonsense.”
This was followed by a quotation from John’s favorite book (his “Bible”), The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, from which he had also quoted at the beginning of each issue of Bizarre: “Ah, with the grape of my fading Life provide, And wash my Body whence the Life has died, And in a Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt, So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.”
John Alexander Scott Coutts passed away on August 5th 1962, at a doctor friend’s house in Scottsdale Arizona, on the same day that Marilyn Monroe died.
Little could Coutts have known the impact his art and life would have on the future of human sexuality. This impact is mostly due to Bizarre magazine and his The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, both of which have been documented. According to author and publisher J.B. Rund:
The former (Bizarre) in the disappointing reprint of the magazine. The Latter (Gwendoline), together with a substantial amount of previously unpublished and uncollected artwork, in The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, (Belier Press, 1974 and 1999). And to a lesser extent, as a photographer, which heretofore has been poorly and disrespectfully done. The present work will expand on this other talent, and provide an extensive—but not a complete—record of his prodigious output in that medium.
The photos in the book are culled almost completely from just two sources, the author/publisher’s personal collection and that of the Kinsey Institute. It’s separated into three huge sections, geographically (Australia, New York, Los Angeles) which match his life’s timeline and it’s just incredible to see it all in one massive artistic survey. The notes, introductions and afterward are riddled with the most minute details that seem to leave no stone unturned. If you have even the slightest interest in pop culture, photography, women in distress, art, bondage, or the history of alternative culture, then you owe it to yourself to own this book—the only one you’ll ever need on this subject. Trade edition available from Belier Press for $70. Deluxe limited edition of 150 numbered copies each in a custom made cloth slipcase containing an ORIGINAL print of a photograph taken by John Willie in Los Angeles circa 1958-61, a different photo in each book, plus reproductions of two previously privately circulated photographs taken by Willie in Sydney circa 1938 (not in the book). Plus John Willie Speaks–John Willie Sings!?!, an audio CD, just under forty-eight minutes, consisting of a monologue from Within A Story, his only known speaking part in a motion picture from 1954, and excerpts from the only known interview with Willie from 1961-62, excerpts from A Bawdy Recital–Poems, songs and stories performed by John Willie in 1962. Whew! A serious bargain if you ask me, as only Belier Press could whip up.
Illustrator R.A. Maguire was a prolific genre paperback cover artist noted for romance novels and westerns in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but he built his reputation as one of the most skillful and evocative renderers of femme fatale figures for pulp crime/erotica novels, beginning in 1950.
On returning to the US after his military service in WWII, Maguire worked a connection to become a student of Frank J. Reilly’s at the Art Student’s League in NYC. Reilly was a noteworthy illustrator in his own right, but is much better known for perfecting a method of teaching anatomy that impacted generations of professional commercial artists and eventually earned him his own eponymous school. Maguire was recommended to Reilly by the father of a friend, and he related the experience thusly:
It was a miracle because there were so many people waiting to get in. I hadn’t even heard of Reilly at all so it was quite a bit of luck that I got in. I knew quite a bit about the Pratt in Brooklyn but not much about the Art Student’s League. It was actually a democratic institute run by students. The League is a classic school. You read an artist’s resume and 9 out of 10 of them studied there on 57th Street.
I remember my first day in class and I was relegated to a seat in the back of a class of about 60 people. It was a dark and rainy day and they had an elderly black man sitting and I could hardly see him. From where I was and because of the day, all I could see were his eyes and his teeth when he smiled. I was all ready to go home. But I stuck with it. The next week we had a classic woman model. It was 9 months to a year before you could learn how to draw classically as Reilly wanted us to do. We always tried to laboriously copy the model and you just cannot do that. You have to learn from the way the model poses, the line of action, and that took almost the whole year. Very few failures. An astonishing performance rate. Reilly said he could teach you in about a year and it was true.
Maguire’s career in pulps followed almost immediately from his graduation from the ASL, beginning with the October, 1950 issue of Hollywood Detective.
By his death in 2005, Maguire had painted over 1,000 book covers, which were collected in the book Dames, Dolls, and Gun Molls. The web site R.A. Maguire Cover Art has undertaken the ambitious endeavor of not just collecting his covers, but also his original paintings and the reference photos from which he worked. Many of the images shared here were culled from that site, and are mildly NSFWish.
Netsuke is type of Japanese miniature sculpture or carving popular around the Edo period, 1615–1868. The word “netsuke” is formed out of the Japanese characters “ne’ and “tsuke” which apparently mean to “root” and “to attach.” Netsuke were originally worn on garments as a means to carry small personal effects—medicine, tobacco, what have you. Over time netsuke changed in use to a decorative and ornamental function.
Netsuke were primarily carved from ivory or bone though wood and whale tooth were also fashionable. The sculptures generally depicted famous people, animals (cute little bunny rabbits were very popular), plants, deities, mythical beasts and sex. These porny carvings were known as shunga netsuke and featured all forms of coitus.
The men in these carvings generally sported humungous dicks and the women always looked rather pleased. But these miniatures were not just novelties—they were considered good luck charms. In Japan a happy sex life had long been associated as a means to safeguard against bad luck. A house with a shunga netsuke over its lintel would be protected from fire. A soldier carrying one would be protected in battle. To own one meant fertility and success. These beautiful and comic little miniatures were considered life-affirming and radiated tolerance and patience. Nowadays this aspect of shunga netsuke is less important as these carvings can sell for several hundred dollars to a thousand plus at auction.
“Ignore the sex slave tumbling out of my monitor, it is a standard feature with this brand of personal computer…..”
The Serbian word računari means “computers”; thus Računari was the natural name for a long-running periodical in the Balkans catering to software and hardware enthusiasts in the burgeoning age of the “personal computer.”
It’s hard to remember now, but while Apple was getting all the critical plaudits, most workplaces considered their devices too esoteric and expensive for scaled use—back then it was Windows and IBM clones that got all the love and money, and most of the programmers designed their offerings for the MS-DOS market. Nearly forgotten today, names like WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, and Visual Basic once constituted core components of the consumer computing landscape, and they all were featured prominently in Računari. That’s why you won’t see much attention paid to Apple products in these images—they had to weather the tough decade of the 1990s before resurfacing with the iMac and beyond.
It’s often been observed that Sarajevo went from being a proud and prosperous Olympic host city to one of the most hellish places on earth in the short span of time between 1984 and 1994. The end of the Cold War around 1990 brought unimaginable horrors to Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia, and it’s worth noting that Računari, which started in 1984, never went out of print during all of that tumult, persisting through to the late 1990s. So it is that these otherwise mirthful images have a darker story to tell, of consumers seeking out computing products during a bloody civil war and the advertisers and retailers wishing to serve them.
The editors of Računari surely were well aware that their product sector was a little on the dry side, so they spiced up most every cover with a sexy lady draped over this or that piece of mechanized future landfill. As you’ll see, some of the images get a little bizarre, but hey, all the better to get those copies moving off of the newsstand and into your living room, right?
“I am the Windows 3.1 go-go girl…..”
“We hope this bizarre bondage scene incentivizes you to purchase WordPerfect for Windows.”
More fun with Balkan computer cheesecake after the jump…...
Reporter Jack Griffin went in search of the “Secrets of the Strip Tease Queens” sometime in the early 1950s. He visited Minsky’s Burlesque Theater on State and Van Buren, Chicago, to find the answer. There he met with stripper Bobbi Bruce who told him:
“Honey, I guess you can sum up this business in one sentence. You grab as much sex as the law is allowing at this time, and throw it across the footlights as hard as you can.”
Griffin described Bobbi’s answer as:
“...one of the simplest and clearest descriptions of the strip tease business ever made.”
Too true! As to what the law would permit at this time law, well according to Carnival magazine’s “Guide for Strip-teasers” the law in Illinois “means Chicago, and Chicago means let ‘er rip.” The limit on what a stripper could or could not take off was entirely “on the club owners’ discretion.” Added for emphasis: “Chicago club owners’ are hardly noted for discretion.”
But back to Griffin who notes that “Strippers are”:
...a clannish group of well-developed girls, are loath to talk with outsiders about their art or their personal lives.
That may come as a surprise to some of the gentlemen who have dropped into neon emporiums where beer is dispensed at 75 cents a bottle and entertainers mix with the customers while other girls wiggle out of their clothing on the runway behind the bar.
But if they will hark back to that expensive evening, they will discover the girl’s conversation consisted chiefly of, “Daddy, you’re cute,” and “It’s time for another drink.”
The girls from the bump and grind circuit have found from long experience that most men who ply them with personal questions, usually accompanied with a leer, are mental Peeping Toms. Besides, they have heard all the questions before and consider them very dull.
But our intrepid “perspiring” reporter asked enough questions to appreciate a stripper takes her art seriously. Sometimes performing five or six shows a night, seven days a week, which meant these women were in no mood for “much of anything except going home—alone—and going to sleep.”
Strippers, Griffin points out, are like well-trained athletes. Booze and late nights “play havoc with a person’s body, and a stripper’s body is her business.”
Bobbi Bruce (aka Bobbi Blue) worked as “a hash slinger” before making enough from her tips to quit her work, rent a studio with full-length mirror and spend seven months perfecting the sexiest way to shake off her clothes.
Burlesque performer Michelle Marshall told Griffin another secret of the stripper’s art:
“They call it strip tease and that’s what you’ve got to do. If you don’t tease, then the strip don’t mean a thing.”
When this article first appeared most strippers were members of the American Guild Variety Artists. Some were also signed-up with the Burlesque Artists Association. The minimum union salary for stripping back then varied by state but was somewhere between $90-$100 a week. The more upmarket the club, the better the money.
Those new to the business could make around $150 a week. The top dollar for burlesque stars like Lili St. Cyr went as high as $3,500 a week.
Read more about the ‘Secrets of the Strip Tease Queens,’ after the jump…
Tanuki are Japanese racoon dogs. Mischievous looking critters with a dog-like face and the body of a racoon. In ancient Japanese folklore these mammals were viewed as either gods of nature or troublesome yōkai. From the twelfth century on, tanuki were seen as humorous characters on account of their rather large testicles which artists grossly exaggerated for comic effect.
Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861) was one of the last great masters of the ukiyo-e woodblock prints and paintings. He was famous for his pictures of samurai, animals and mythical creatures. He also created a sideline series of comic pictures depicting tanuki and their giant space hopper-sized gonads.
An ever-expanding nut sack will help you catch fish.
Stay dry in the heaviest of downpours with your scrot-umbrella.
Catch birds in flight with one toss of your ‘tanuki’ scrotum.
More racoon dogs and their monstrous testicles, after the jump…
Mel Brooks was once on Michael Parkinson’s chat show sometime in the early 1980s where he described the opening scenes to his proposed next movie. Brooks explained he wanted his film to begin like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey—but instead of apes he wanted to show a neanderthal standing upright for the first time. His spiel went something like this—I’m gonna paraphrase so deal with it:
It’s early morning—just before dawn. The sun is slowly igniting the horizon. A band of gold appears as the theme from Thus Sprach Zarathustra begins to play under the picture. As the sun rises a group of neanderthals huddle together fearfully watching this magical giant disc rising up like a god. As the music swells a beam of pure golden light radiates across the landscape.
The neanderthals are scared and cower away form this approaching light—all except one who climbs on all fours towards the top of the mountain. As this inquisitive figure moves forward the sun rises. The sky is now fire bright.
The golden orb continues to rise—the neanderthal reaches out to grasp it. He begins to rise up on two legs. First one then the other arm reach out towards the sky. As the music reaches its dramatic climax—the neanderthal is standing teetering on tiptoe arms raised. The neanderthal looks up at the sun. Then slowly at his arms—at his hands—then down at his feet. He has risen up like the sun and now stands upright for the very first time. This creature has liberated his arms to create, to produce and to help him shape a new world. His fellow neanderthals scurry away in fear. As a new day begins the first homo erectus looks at his hands—mesmerized by his fingers, by their potential to grip and move, to adapt and change. He lowers his arms and looks down at them contemplating his new power and the potential now opened to him. The music finishes as this first proto-human looks down considering the significance of his actions. It’s a powerful moment in human evolution. He looks again at his hands—he’s free to use them to help others—to change the world.
And that’s when he starts masturbating.
Human evolution—the progression towards self-gratification.
Which brings us—in roundabout fashion—to these historic and seemingly erotic images depicting the use of the enema in medicine and sex. What begins as a series of etchings often satirically showing women and men seeking much-needed relief for their “night soil” evolves into more recent imagery where the enema is used primarily for sexual gratification. It is apparent that humanity has an unbridled ingenuity for finding gratification from almost anything—vegetables, furniture, house hold appliances and even medicinal treatments.
The drawings and paintings from the twentieth century were produced by various artists who made small change producing illustrations for various editions of erotica. Some names are aliases—most notably Julie Delcourt who may or may not be the pseudonym for Richard Hegemann—a German artist who also worked under the names A. Hegemann, A. Hegener and P. Rollmann. Hegemann excelled in depicting matronly women thrashing supplicant men and badly behaved boys and girls in sailor suits who seemingly relished the whack of their teacher’s belt. Many of Julie Delcourt’s other paintings (not included here) are decidedly NSFW and rather questionable.
An individual who derives pleasure from receiving enemas is called a klismaphiliac. The term klismaphilia was only coined fairly recently by Dr. Joanne Denko in 1973—which tends to make it seem as if klismaphiliac is only a modern practice. But as can be seen by these illustrations from the the 18th century and more recently the 1920s and 1930s—klismaphilia has a much longer history.
‘A fashionable lady being given an enema by a charming young man’—Dicuelt 18th century.
‘A peeping-tom spying on a fashionable lady receiving an enema’—Pierre-Antoine Baudouin.
To his public the Belgian artist Luc Lafnet (1899-1939) appeared the epitome of a garret-dwelling bohemian—dressed in a cloak, floppy hat, brightly colored cravat, with an unruly beard, Trotsky glasses and a portfolio of sketches under his arm. But looks are often deceiving—for Lafnet was best known as a painter of fine watercolors and most especially for his beautiful paintings and interior designs created for the walls of the monastery at Pont l’Abbé d’Arnoult and several churches around Paris.
But even this disguised a further truth about Lafnet as he had a secret and more lucrative life as an illustrator of erotic literature. Like most artists who earned a living from porn, Lafnet used several aliases to produce his work—most famously “Jim Black.”
As Jim Black, Lafnet created many powerful works of BDSM art—in particular his etchings for Florence Fulbert’s Dresseuse d’hommes (1931) and Sophia Furrya’s Les geôles de dentelles (1933). In these as in much of his other erotic artwork, Black depicted Amazonian women thrashing men with whips and belts—humiliating them, degrading, even making them endure some forced feminization. The women are always in control—the men errant young that must be chastised and put in their place.
Lafnet also had a highly respectable and influential career as cartoon/graphic book artist. Unfortunately his career was tragically cut short after the death of his daughter in 1938—an event from which he never fully recovered—dying himself the following year.
More whip-cracking erotica from ‘Jim Black,’ after the jump….
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, long before Playboy and Pornhub and even the camera democratized pornography, the world of erotica was primarily the preserve of the wealthy. Those rich gentleman who could afford it were able to purchase illustrated volumes of limited edition books—-notorious novels like Fanny Hill, or salacious volumes of erotic poetry or even historical guides to sex. These books were limited to one or two hundred copies—this exclusivity meant they were very, very expensive. The stories and the poetry were often times just incidental—an added bonus if you like—to the main attraction: highly explicit and beautifully produced illustrations of all kinds of sexual shenanigans.
The master illustrator of such porn was Édouard-Henri Avril—who produced some of the most beautiful yet full-on erotic illustrations. Little is known about Édouard-Henri Avril other than the usual facts of birth and death. He was born in France on May 21st, 1849. He was the son of a policeman. He fought in the Franco-Prussian war, was wounded in 1870—for which he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur—after which he returned to his art studies. He attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. On completing his studies he began his career as a commercial artist. But Édouard-Henri also had a secret career as a pornographer.
It was the offer of illustrating Théophile Gautier‘s novel Fortunio that led Édouard-Henri to his secondary career as an artist of erotic illustration. To avoid any family scandal, he adopted the pseudonym “Paul Avril” for this work—which was a tad confusing as he already had a brother called Paul. However, the little known “Paul Avril” was soon the leading artist of the rich man’s dirty books.
His most famous works are those for John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (1887)—the notorious banned tale of a woman of pleasure, Les sonnets luxurieux de l’Aretin (1904), Gautier’s Une nuit de Cléopâtre (1894), Daphnis et Chloé (1898), Flaubert’s Salammbô (1906), and De figuris Veneris (1906)—an anthology of ancient Greek and Roman erotica compiled by Friedrich Karl Forberg.
Unlike most porn—or at least modern porn—the couples in Avril’s erotica are enjoying each other’s pleasure—as writer TM Bernard notes:
Notice the rapture on the faces of the women, something not usually something seen today, where everything is hot and furious, and a woman’s pleasure is often depicted as secondary to the man’s (and the viewers’). What’s more, the images reveal a total lack of pretense or shame. Whatever is being shared and experienced together is mutual and pleasurable.
This is classic porn. Probably why it cost so much.
Frontispiece to the ‘De Figuris Veneris: A Manual of Classical Erotica’ (1906).