A risqué painting by George Barbier depicting the inside of an opulent opium den.
George Barbier was one of the most celebrated and in-demand artists of post-WWI France. He was part of a group of elite and rebellious artists who hailed from the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he had been a student for two years. Barbier would produce works of art ranging from elegant and often erotic Art Deco-style paintings, jewelry designs for Cartier, and even costumes that were used in Parisian theater, ballet, and films. He dressed Rudolph Valentino in the 1924 film Monsieur Beaucaire and Josephine Baker during her time performing at the Casino de Paris, which would sadly turn out to be one of Barbier’s last collaborations. The multi-talented Frenchman would pass away at the rather young age of 50 in 1932, and his huge body of work was quickly forgotten.
Born into affluence, Barbier’s parents were import/export merchants that resided in Nantes, France. As a youth, Barbier demonstrated his artistic proficiency and would often pass the time in the town’s museum replicating the artwork that hung on the walls. Before he became a student at École des Beaux-Arts, it is said that Barbier spent a few years hanging around London where he became intimately acquainted with the work of influential British artists such as William Blake, illustrator Gustave Doré, and Aubrey Beardsley. Beardsley’s early contributions to the world of Art Deco made a deep impact on Barbier who owned some of Beardsley’s hand-written letters as well as illustrations done by the Brighton-born artist for various works by Edgar Allan Poe.
After breaking out at the age of 29 following his first exhibition of his work in 1911 in Paris, he would not only contribute prolifically to the Art Deco movement but would also become one of the most highly respected costume designers in Paris thanks to his extensive work with the Ballets Russes. When I use the word prolific to describe Barbier’s work, it’s almost an understatement. In his relatively short life as an artist, Barbier illustrated over 1000 books. In a rather sad twist to Barbier’s remarkable existence, the artist’s personal effects such as correspondence or photographs virtually disappeared after he died. You see, after arriving in Paris Barbier spent much of his time socializing in gay-friendly circles and his well-to-do family didn’t approve of his lifestyle or his work which often reflected his open-minded approach to sexuality.
As you might imagine, there are many books about George Barbier containing examples of his exquisite artwork such as George Barbier: The Birth of Art Deco and George Barbier: Master of Art Deco, which he most certainly was. A large selection of Barbier’s NSFW erotically inclined Art Deco illustrations and paintings follow.
“Birth of Venus.”
“Lust,” a work from Barbier’s ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ series.
“Pride” another selection from Barbier’s ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ series.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Erotic French postcards from the early 1900s (NSFW)
Freaky French comic from the 70s that tells the far-out story of Frank Zappa’s ‘Stink-Foot’
The super-kinky illustrations of the mysterious French fetish artist known only as ‘Carlo’
Naughty nuns, Nosferatu and BDSM: Surreal works by the master of ‘anything goes’ Clovis Trouille
BDSM, forced feminization & a little light torture: The erotic art of Bernard Montorgueil VERY NSFW