Illustrating the Divine Marquis

The Voyeur-Clovis Trouille 1960
The Voyeur-Clovis Trouille 1960

The controversial life and work of the Marquis De Sade, the man so diabolical he was called divine, is still the subject of much debate between apologists who defend him as the apostle of total freedom, and his detractors who view him as a vile libertine possessed with an over-weening feudal sense of entitlement and a virulent misogynist. The question that Simone De Beauvoir nervously asked in 1951, ‘Must We Burn Sade?‘, is still no closer to being answered satisfactorily. But maybe it will never be, as the challenge De Sade lays down is an impossible one.

Regardless of De Sade’s ambiguous position in culture, what is not in doubt is the influence he possessed over the Surrealist movement. Andre Breton name checks the Marquis in the Surrealist Manifesto and he is included in the Pope of Surrealism‘s Anthology of Black Humour (with good reason, De Sade possessed a cruel, sharp wit on occasion), and it seems to have been de rigeur for Surrealists artists to reference and/or illustrate the Divine Marquis.

Below are examples from various artists, many of whom are favourites here. I have written about Toyen on many occasions and have highlighted her repeated rifts on Sadean subjects (see especially At the Chateau La Coste). Her artistic partner Jindrich Strysky provided a cover for Philosophy in the Boudoir, as well as producing the erotic story Emilie Comes to Me in a Dream. Valentine Hugo‘s images have graced several headers of my poems and stories, including several of her illustrations for Eugenie de Franval. The Argentinian artist Leonor Fini was another woman Surrealist who astounded with her frank depiction of erotic subjects and was instinctively drawn to illustrating Juliette. Finally in this post is the deliriously lurid and low-brow paintings of Clovis Trouille, whose entire oeuvre appears to be a psychedelic actualisation on canvas of a Sadean scenario of the mind.

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Illustrating the Divine Marquis

  1. Someone recently wrote that it was despicable and hollow that artists often merely seem to copy exciting already existing artworks. In a way I agree, the mind works a bit like a sponge. But also is about processing, progressing in small steps. It’s a bit like aging, sometimes one gets aware of it just by looking at the younger self in pictures and videos. It’s about expressing the very own and unique perception as well.

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    1. Well it is always a vexing question. The Surrealists themselves couldn’t agree. On one hand they said they didn’t need any predecessors in rebellion, on the other hand their collective viewpoint meant they took and developed from one another. The concept of originality though, is quite a new idea really. Only really came into fashion in the 18th century. Thank you as always for your thought provoking comment.

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  2. “Must we burn Sade?” – in what context was de Beauvoir asking? As in they shouldn’t be influenced by him or (as in rewriting history, like we seem to be doing today) his works should be purged from the shelves? The illustrations are so different in style. Hugo draws beautiful, dreamy eyes. Strysky’s images are madly disturbing. The chained face in the mirror… And I am glad you included Leonor Fini after your mention of her the other day. Her style is variable. Quite the collection of illustrations for one notorious man.

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    1. I believe the French government was trying to enforce censorship of De Sade at the time, popular editions were in the pipeline, including English translations by our friends at Obelisk and Olympia. Her beau Jean Paul Sartre thought that Sade’s books should be banned, but De Beauvoir was against. It would have wider connotations though as a feminist defence of De Sade and pornography generally. The issue has been contentious within feminism ever since. Glad you like the illustrations, I included the Styrsky because De Sade is disturbing. And the Trouille? This is the first of a projected series.

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      1. Trouble – naughty cartoonist. I don’t mean that as a slight, either. It’s brilliant stuff. The little connections in the opening image: the colors of the gloves, bag and shoes matching the ripped garment on the woman in the ‘poster’ – all I could think of was that someone took the scraps of the dress and made accessories for the voyeur. And the nuns (!) the one watching the others. Very risky business! Great stuff!

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      2. He loved his nuns did Trouille, preferably making out with each other, smoking and with lovely coloured stockings. In the Voyeur he includes his own painting Dolmance (the last image). He was guilty of all manner of offences against good taste but was never boring.

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