Monday, March 28, 2011

The Secret Art of an English Gentleman

Browsing my bookshelves last night, I found myself rediscovering my love for... and re-entering the world of... Tom Poulton, possibly my favorite erotic artist of the last century.

The standard biog, accompanying his Amazon pages, states: "Thomas Leycester Poulton was an English magazine and medical book illustrator, born in 1897. Upon his death in 1963 it was discovered he was also a prolific and imaginative erotic artist who produced hundreds of sketches and finished drawings of women proudly and exuberantly displaying themselves in ways shocking to conservative post-war Britain. The archive remained hidden until the 1990s, when a collector of erotic artifacts passed it on to a fellow collector willing to share it with the world. Though Tom Poulton's work tells us much about English society between 1948 and 1963, there is a universal quality to these images of joyous, uninhibited sexuality that transcends time and place."

What it doesn't say... what you need the books themselves to discover, is just how vivid and vivacious his work was. No exaggerated cartoons or caricatures; no over-arching artistic conceit; Poulton drew life as he saw (or, perhaps, wished he saw) it. His characters are unremarkable - occasionally a stereotype might step into view, but for the most part he drew "ordinary" people doing what... well, to be honest, they are ordinary things, no matter how extraordinary it might makes us feel to watch or even do them. The girl on the pot in the top picture; the couple in the car in the bottom one; we may not know who they are, but we know their stories anyway, the kind of people they are.

To me, Poulton appeals on the same level as period stag movies; indeed, the best of his drawings are stags in graphite, with all the seedy, saucy, salacious and, above all, salacious detail which that description entails. Check out Amazon for the handful of collections of his work that are available... but first, let's just enjoy him.

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