Exploring Early Modern Erotica and Social History in L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France

L'Enfer Imagery - Part 1 post montage

│By Philip Virta, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources│

 Please be aware that this blog post contains content that may be offensive to some readers; the decision to read the post is at your own discretion. 

Back when Playboy, “an American men’s lifestyle and entertainment magazine”, was still publishing, the usual comment from anyone observed purchasing an issue from the newsstand was, “I just get it for the articles.” In the case of my latest research foray into L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque national de France, I really was just looking for the pictures.

As so often happens in research, we travel down one path, only to encounter interesting intersections. I started out studying the evolution of beauty and body standards in erotic art through the centuries. Along the way, I became equally as interested in the books themselves. The histories of the lives of some of the authors and artists was intriguing. The motivations and movements behind the books they wrote were fascinating. The themes and agendas written into the texts were engrossing. There are a wealth of topics to explore once you slip beneath the covers of the books and plumb the depths of Enfer.

Read moreExploring Early Modern Erotica and Social History in L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France

‘An artist who can get away with this’: The Press Response to Yves Klein’s 1957 London Exhibition

Yves Klein calls his pictures “Propositions.” He very carefully roughens the surfaces so as to express his sensibility. Then he invites the spectator to share the artist’s sensibility by “allowing the mind to plunge into the heart of the colour.”[1]

The debate around modern art versus representational art had begun by the 1950s. The pages of The Listener had followed the debates, as a subject that had “often led to controversy”[2]. Modern art was perceived as an area where “execution determines design instead of design determining execution”, and the modern artist “has done away with the rational meaning of the subject-matter required in traditional art and allows unconscious phantasy to express itself more clearly”[3]. Klein, as the emerging face of modern art, represented this, arguing “that our primary ocular sensation is that of colour, and that he, as an artist, wishes to free this sensation of colour from all extraneous or limiting circumstances.”[4]

Read more‘An artist who can get away with this’: The Press Response to Yves Klein’s 1957 London Exhibition