Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art, Part 5

(Last Updated On September 9, 2019)

Now we are in the home stretch of the Sublimated Sexuality series (only one more post and it will be completed). If you haven’t already perused them, or you wish to review the series, you can find the other parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

15) Anthropomorphism of animals and objects – With respect to anthropomorphic animals, much of what was said in the animals, masks and monsters categories applies here as well, but I think this separate category is warranted, especially as it includes non-living objects. Anthropomorphism is a common characteristic of children’s media, so it’s natural that it would also occur in pop surrealist art in which children are subjects, particularly in a darkly satirical context.

There’s something a bit leering and creepy about that moon, no?

Ana Bagayan – Moon Babies

Ana Bagayan (official site)

James Jean can always by counted on to produce excellent dreamlike imagery. Anthropomorphic flowers? Where have we seen those before? Ah, yes: Alice in Wonderland. I suspect it’s no accident that that particular story is frequently referenced,  overtly or otherwise, in this work!

James Jean – Aurelians (2016)

James Jean (official site)

Food is another thing which is often anthropomorphized in this type of art, usually with some rather morbid implications. The title in this next piece is a disturbing pun. The adorable little girl might be regarded as “eye candy” in the symbolic sense, but the cupcake’s eyes are literal eye candy, and one of them is about to be eaten!

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Eye Candy

Nicoletta Ceccoli (official site)

Kokomoo – (Title Unknown)

Deidre L. Morton (Peemonster) – Eden Dream

Rabbits are a commonly anthropomorphized animal in this art. Again, could this be an allusion to Alice? This first image certainly feels quite reminiscent of Carroll’s creation. Note too the resemblance of the rabbit’s pair of pendulums to dangling cherries.

Masaru Shichinohe – (Title Unknown)

Artnet: Masaru Shichinohe

Stephen Mackey – Magic Uncle

Stephen Mackey (official site)

16) The presence of death and decay – It makes perfect sense that references to death would also appear in this work, serving as a memento mori to remind viewers that life is short and fleeting, and that there may be an eternal afterlife in which we are judged and dealt with according to how we lived our lives, so we had better not harm anyone, especially the vulnerable . . . such as children. Furthermore, death is disgusting and frightening, so its juxtaposition with children works as another example of dissuasion by association.

Hiroyuki Mano – Stone Mirror

DeviantArt: DensenManiya

Nils Karsten – Heaven in Orange

Nils Karsten (official site)

Ana Bagayan – Heaven

Timothy Cummings – Sudden Scenario

Timothy Cummings (official site)

Audrey Kawasaki – Isabelle (2006)

Audrey Kawasaki (official site)

Jackie Skrzynski – Cold Comfort (2007)

Jackie Skrzynski (official site)

Juniper trees have a fascinating association with death and misfortune. Some may recall the Brothers Grimm fairy tale The Juniper Tree, which involves the murder of a mother and her young son. In Welsh legend cutting down a juniper tree meant the feller was bound to die, and many dream interpreters believe that dreaming of juniper trees is extremely unlucky, especially for those who are ill. Modern horror author Peter Straub also penned a story called The Juniper Tree, about a young boy who is sexually abused by a stranger at a movie theater.

Cornelia Renz – The Juniper Tree (2006)

Cornelia Renz (official site)

17) Subversion of religion and the sacred – Complimenting themes of death in this work (or in some cases contrasting against or satirizing them) is the subverting of religious themes, particularly Christianity.

Generally I try to feature only one work per artist in each category, since there are so many worthy artists, but these two paintings by Amy Crehore absolutely have to be featured together as they tell an amusing/disturbing little story. While you’d think it’s the demon who is the true threat here, the second piece in the series reveals who really wields the power!

Amy Crehore – Story of Lolita, Part 1

Amy Crehore – Story of Lolita, Part 2

The Art of Amy Crehore (official site)

Scott G. Brooks – The Heavenly Virtues: Bravery (Girl with Pet Goat) (2004)

Scott G Brooks Studios (official site)

Teiji Hayama – Ekho

Asia Contemporary Art: Teiji Hayama

Stu Mead – First Communion (2004)

Stu Mead (official site)

Heidi Taillefer – Sovereign Side (2008)

Heidi Taillefer (official site)

Mike Cockrill – Nativity (2004)

Mike Cockrill (official site)

Mark Ryden does religious satire so frequently that I had a tough time narrowing it down to just one piece. Nevertheless . . .

Mark Ryden – The Angel of Meat

Mark Ryden (official site)

This next piece is both a subversion of a well-known biblical event (Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son Isaac) and a commentary by the artist on the nature of his own work, since dolls feature prominently in his paintings and sculptures. We will definitely see him again in the final installment of this series.

Mikel Glass – Sacrifice of Subject Matter

Mikel Glass (official site)

Jana Brike – Two Wounded Angels on the Beach

Squarespace: Jana Brike

Jules Pascin

(Last Updated On September 3, 2019)
Jules Pascin - Seated little girl

Jules Pascin – Seated little girl (1911)

This Bulgarian-born French artist is known today for his paintings, mostly portraits of women, and his erotic drawings; but he also practised caricature and illustrated books. His style varied, from fauvism to expressionism, with a very short attempt at cubism, and ended in soft pearly compositions suiting the tastes of art dealers.

Pascin (to be pronounced phonetically, Paskinn) loved women, all women, from young nymphets to worn-out prostitutes, and they feature prominently in his works. His art mixed with his sex life, indeed he got the nickname “the Caliph” and was reputed to have 367 models: his wife Hermine, his mistress Lucy, as well as one concubine for each day of the year. He was also called “prince des trois monts” (prince of the three mounts) in reference to the two locations Montparnasse and Montmartre in Paris, then to Mont de Vénus (mons Veneris).

Jules Pascin - Little Italian girl (1909)

Jules Pascin – Little Italian girl (1909)

Although he earned a lot of money from his paintings and caricatures, he was always in a hurry to spend it, holding feasts, paying for drinks all round in bars, and also helping friends in need. He loved the nightlife in slums, befriending the underworld, but also getting involved in brawls.

He was born on March 31, 1885, in Vidin, Bulgaria, and named Julius Mordecai Pincas. His parents, Sofie and Marcus Pincas, were Sephardic Jews. His father, a rich grain trader, behaved as a household tyrant, terrorising his family and abusing his servants, whipping and even raping maids. The young Julius found solace in drawing, and soon got his lasting interest for the female body in Turkish baths, but also by trading to a maid one of his drawings for a view under her skirts. He finally fled from home.

At age 16, he got his first mistress, Fanoriatal, twice his age. She headed a luxury brothel in Bucharest, and her sex workers became his models. From this time comes his frequent practice of drawing brothel scenes and sex orgies. Below is a drawing with a young girl being presented to a procuress for a job in a brothel.

Jules Pascin - Presentation

Jules Pascin – Presentation (1912)

Julius started to draw caricatures, many of them with an explicit sexual content, for Simplicissimus, a satirical magazine published in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, a province that wanted to distinguish itself from stern Prussia. They immediately got a big success, and this activity would bring him a lot of money for the rest of his life. In March 1905, he went to Munich. Disapproving of his work, his father forbade him to use the name Pincas. So he chose the anagram Pascin (pronounced Paskinn). After all, his grandfather had changed the family name from Pinas to Pincas. Although one generally refers to him as Jules Pascin, he signed his works “pascin” with a lowercase “p” and without a first name.

On Christmas Eve 1905, he arrived in Paris. His fame had preceded him, so he was welcomed by a delegation of artists and personalities. In September 1907 he met Hermine David, a young painter, it was love at first sight, and they would remain together for the rest of his life; and she would tolerate his endless sexual adventures.

Jules Pascin - Young girl in red

Jules Pascin – Young girl in red (1911-1912)

Encouraged by Hermine, he started painting himself, with bright colours in the manner of Fauvism. He also continued his erotic drawings, much appreciated by the Bavarians, taking inspiration from his own nightlife. The sharp lines of caricature gave way to smoother ones, free and elegant.

In 1909 he met the 18-year-old Cécile Vidil, who had left home. She changed her first name to Lucy. A beautiful woman, she became a model for artists at the Matisse Academy. The Norwegian painter Per Krohg was there; he fell in love and they would eventually marry and have a son, the artist Guy Krohg. She also sat for Pascin, and probably had an affair with him at that time. She would later become his mistress, while being still married to Krohg.

Jules Pascin - Young model

Jules Pascin – Young model (1912-1913)

In June 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I, fearing that he would have to serve in the Bulgarian army on the side of Germany, he left for London (via Brussels). In October, he crossed the Atlantic and arrived in New York City, without Hermine, who feared long journeys across the ocean. Although living in the Jewish neighbourhood of Brooklyn, he preferred Harlem, the Black neighbourhood, its free lifestyle suiting him better. Hermine joined him six months later. They travelled a lot, visiting the South. From Florida, Pascin headed to Cuba, but without Hermine. Throughout this period, he made many drawings of street scenes, families, or even landscapes.

Jules Pascin - Little girl with cat

Jules Pascin – Little girl with cat (portrait of Ruth Wood-Gaylor) (1917)

Through their mutual influence, their painting and drawing styles were getting ever closer. So Pascin and Hermine made a moral contract, to which they would abide scrupulously: Hermine would make landscapes, and Pascin the human figure. They married on September 25, 1918, in New York City, probably to please Hermine. He obtained US citizenship on September 20, 1918.

They returned then to France. Pascin fell in love with Lucy, who was still with Krohg and had a son from him. She became his mistress, and soon quite openly. They loved each other until his death. He was practically bigamous, and his two partners, Hermine and Lucy, became friends.

Jules Pascin - Little girl with a hat

Jules Pascin – Little girl with a hat (1924)

Throughout the 1920s, Pascin travelled in various countries, sometimes with Lucy. Otherwise he lived in Paris in his paint workshop, which was never furnished properly as a home. A Martinican woman, Julie Luce, settled with her daughter Simone at his place. She would serve as model, nurse and household keeper for the painter, and she would even be the one able to calm him during his violent fits after binge drinking: “Tu nous fait chier, Pascin! Maintenant va dormir.” (You make us shit, Pascin! Now go to sleep.)

He disliked luxury women, he often chose street girls or young dancers as models, and paid them well. And there was always food and drink available for them. Sometimes models would stay in the evening for a feast. Although he sold his paintings at a high price, they always found buyers in a short time, and often collectors would come at his place to find that nothing was available.

Jules Pascin - Young girl with a doll

Jules Pascin – Young girl with a doll (1924-1926)

His nights were often spent in feasts, at his place, in restaurants or cabarets, sometimes involving 200 guests. Every Friday, he would lock himself in his workshop to make a painting to the taste of art dealers, which would sell at a high price. So on Saturday he would spend the money earned in this way.

Jules Pascin - Little girl with a bouquet

Jules Pascin – Little girl with a bouquet (1925)

Throughout his career, his style had evolved from the harsh lines of the caricatures of the Bavarian period to soft compositions with fancy colours. They became ever more nacreous and misty, in a style that suited his rich patrons. Under contract with the Bernheim-Jeune brothers, paid to paint what they liked, he increasingly felt that he was always doing the same type of picture. He felt disgusted with himself, like a procurer of painting, paid to sell women who sat for him. This was far from the ambitions of his youth.

Jules Pascin - The little actress

Jules Pascin – The little actress (1927)

His body worn out by his continuous excesses, his spirit weakened by the trials of life and love, and having the feeling of being sold out as an artist, on the second night of June 1930 he slit both his wrists, wrote with his blood a farewell to Lucy on the wall, and as death was not coming fast enough, he hung himself to the latch of his door. Lucy found his body three days later. She always blamed herself for not having been there on the eve of his suicide, as she might have prevented it.

In his will, Pascin had bequeathed all his property to Hermine and Lucy, equally. On the morning of June 7, a procession of one thousand marchers accompanied his coffin through the streets of Montmartre, towards the cemetery of Saint-Ouen. At the head were Lucy, accompanied by Per Krohg, followed by Julie Luce and Simone comforting Hermine. Then all his friends, artists, writers and publishers, art traders, dozens of models, bar and restaurant managers, and the little people of slums. At the end was a neat old tramp, sent as delegate by the beggars of Boulevard de Clichy.

Jules Pascin - Little girl in a white shirt

Jules Pascin – Little girl in a white shirt (1929)

Lucy’s marriage with Krohg was dissolved in 1934. Hermine and Lucy never married again, keeping the memory of Pascin. The writer Pierre Mac Orlan summarised Pascin’s personality by the words:

The freest man in the world who belonged to this world only through imaginary links.

(In French: “L’homme le plus libre du monde qui n’appartenait à ce monde que par des liens imaginaires.”)

Jules Pascin - Female

attributed to Jules Pascin – Female

Sources: My article is mainly based on the following book:

Alexandre Dupouy, Pascin, Parkstone International Press, New York (2014).

I completed it with details from the French and English Wikipedia pages.

All above images, except the last one, come from The Athenaeum. Of all art sites, this one gives the greatest number of works by Pascin, and in the highest quality.

The last image above comes from a site trading imitations of known paintings by contemporary Chinese artists. I have not found in any reputable art site a confirmation of the authorship of this painting by Pascin.

I end by including an image from Wikimedia Commons, which gives an unusual example of the portrayal of nude women by Pascin:

Jules Pascin

Jules Pascin – Dolls (1910)

Maiden Voyages: September 2019

(Last Updated On September 3, 2019)

Slipping through the Cracks: In the past month, it has become necessary to move the site over to a new server. It was hoped that this would be a seamless transition, but there are always some glitches when attempting something like this. As a result, some comments placed during a critical time may have slipped through the cracks. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Beauty is a Two-Edged Sword: Every so often media pundits step forward with a new “most beautiful girl in the world” claim. Inevitably this leads to some superficial debate about the nature of beauty and the science, if any, behind it. In this case, the hype is about a pair of stunning twins, Ava Marie and Leah Rose Clements. There is good coverage of the story on the UniversityFox website written by Leila Odinaiv which also attempts to offer some sound science as well. These girls are a hot ticket right now so readers will have no problem finding out the latest information on these girls, their parents and the ethical debate now taking place on the internet.

Breathing Life Into Art: Auguste Rodin’s Man and His Thought

(Last Updated On August 11, 2019)

There are a handful of post-Renaissance painters that nearly everyone knows by name—van Gogh, Picasso, Whistler perhaps—but for modern sculpture there is really only one name that non-art geeks consistently recognize: Auguste RodinThe Thinker is easily Rodin’s most recognizable piece, and one of the most famous artworks of all time.

One of Rodin’s lesser known works is Man and His Thought, which depicts a powerful adult male figure “kissing” the chest of what appears to be a young adolescent girl.  Radical feminists and professional outrage-mongers who fail to grasp the symbolism implied in the work’s title might propose this to be little more than a three-dimensional image of an adult male sexually abusing a young female.  That would be wrong (in both senses of the word).

Auguste Rodin – Man and His Thought (1896-1900) (1)

Auguste Rodin – Man and His Thought (1896-1900) (2)

Auguste Rodin – Man and His Thought (1896-1900) (3)

Several of Rodin’s works deal with man’s—and especially artists’—relationship with his own creative impulses.  This piece is one of them, as the sylphic being half-emerged from the stone represents both the source of creation (inspiration) and the creation itself (art).  Like the myth of Pygmalion, to which this work alludes, the artist breathes life directly into coarse dead stone, and out of it emerges a figure of lithe feminine beauty, shown as a young girl because she is not yet fully formed, an artwork still in the process of being born.

Auguste Rodin – Man and His Thought (1896-1900) (4)

Auguste Rodin – Man and His Thought (1896-1900) (5)

Auguste Rodin – Man and His Thought (1896-1900) (6)

This is not to say that there is no sexual element here at all.  Does the artist have an erotic relationship with his own work?  Certainly Pymalion did.  Other women failed to satisfy him, and so he created his own in Galatea, who is both his metaphorical child and his lover.  (Indeed, there is even a blatantly incestuous interpretation of the myth by poet and classical studies scholar Robert Graves.)  That might be enough for some critics to advance the idea that Man and His Thought justifies parent-child incest.  Of course, it doesn’t.  Rather, it implies that an artist’s relationship with his creative output is inherently incestuous in a psychological sense.

Auguste Rodin – Man and His Thought (1896-1900) (7)

Auguste Rodin – Man and His Thought (1896-1900) (8)

Though the two figures are mismatched in size, they seem to fit together quite snugly, suggesting that they were made for each other the way Pygmalion and Galatea are.  Well, certainly one of them was made to fit the other!

Bonus: Here is a lovely illustrated tribute to Rodin’s sculpture by Sharon C. McGovern:

Sharon C. McGovern – Tribute to Rodin’s ‘Man and His Thought’

Maiden Voyages: August 2019

(Last Updated On August 3, 2019)

Editorial Control: There has been some talk among the staff about having an official policy on comments. This may at first seem sensible so that our readers can be clear on what is allowed and what is not. But it is impossible to always anticipate the tone of a discussion without creating an undesirable bias. I usually like to allow readers to express themselves so long as they make cogent statements. Sometimes the comments or arguments are ones we’ve seen a hundred times and that is all right so long as they do not become too tedious. Therefore I feel it is important to make two points right now regarding comments: 1) We, the staff, have editorial control over all discussion and it is in our purview to edit, delete, censure and/or rebut any comments that are made based on our own judgment. 2) This is an educational site and readers should make remarks with that intention in mind. It is all too easy to come to hasty superficial conclusions based on emotional impulses. Belaboring these conclusions when there is scanty evidential support, at best, demonstrates arrogance and a lack of respect for the educational purpose of this site. Human beings are not well-adapted to our current post-industrial, co-ed civilization and we have a long way to go (and a willingness to handle hot-button issues head on) before it makes any sense to make policy proposals. So please remember to approach Pigtails in Paint with an attitude of a student, not a pedagogue!

The Rectification of Names: Understandably the subject of pedophilia comes up on this site. In common parlance, it is a poorly-defined term and so gets thrown around rather recklessly. However a new term came to my attention recently: ephebophile. At first, I felt this term made a pedantic distinction but, after some thought, we do need to be more precise in our use of language so that we may make some real progress in our discussions. There is an interesting article called ‘The Rectification of Names’ which helps make this distinction and, after reading it, I realized that it is not really a subject we deal with on Pigtails in Paint because it falls outside of the age range of girls we cover. But I would like to mention that ephebophilia  is not merely an extension of pedophilia. Upon puberty, girls/women experience a kind of quantum leap in their sexual development, both physically and psychologically. Therefore, issues involving pubescent girls require an almost completely different set of guidelines than those governing little girls and we should take care not to confound the two ideas.

Dedicated to Child Photography: An associate brought to my attention a blog dedicated to the photographers of children. The site’s mandate is to share installments of submitted photos, offer awards and conduct monthly and annual contests. The winners are published in an ebook which visitors can download.

Random Images: Mike Berceanu

(Last Updated On July 28, 2019)

Leafing through some of Pip’s backlog of random images, this one kind of popped out at me. Mike Berceanu is a commercial artist operating in Sydney, Australia. But no matter how skilled a technician one is, there is always an artistic impulse to be satisfied; this is one of Berceanu’s.

Mike Berceanu – Dangerous Vision (2003)

Although the photographer gives an excellent account of his technical methods in producing this image, he does not make any mention of his psychological motivations. All he says is, “In working up an image, [the] first thing I always do is to sketch the idea, in part to crystallise my thoughts but also to create a usable layout.” But what were those thoughts and what is so compelling about a little girl in peril? Like for many artists before, she may be an autobiographical representation of the most vulnerable aspects of the man himself. The ironic part is that Grey Nurse Sharks were used for the composition but they have never been known to attack humans.

Berceanu is quite generous in sharing the technical details of constructing the piece. I suspect the reason some artists are less forthcoming about their “secrets” is the fear that someone may copy them. But the fact is that, whatever expertise one may have, the final result is still a matter of a lot of hard work and why would anyone willing to follow through be discouraged?

Random Images: The Goebbels Children

(Last Updated On July 22, 2019)

The death of children is always heartbreaking. And there seems no end to the atrocious ways they reach their demise. The most poignant cases do not have so much to do with the manner of death, but the reason for its necessity. In the case of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propaganda minister, and Magda, their offspring—five daughters and a son—were the victims of fanatical ideology.

The children’s upbringing seemed pleasant enough with their own ponies and a little carriage in which to ride around. Joseph was photographed in public with some of his children on several occasions and set up a concealed camera to film them as a “healthy” contrast to the handicapped children in a propaganda film. In 1942, the children appeared 34 times in weekly newsreels, participating in pleasant everyday family activities. Goebbels was presented that October with a copy of those films. The children were moved around to put them out of harm’s way of advancing troops toward the end of the war. By April 22, 1945, the Goebbels moved their children into the Vorbunker, connected to the lower Führerbunker where Hitler and a few personnel were staying. Goebbels in an act of personal loyalty refused to flee Berlin and in a note stated that the children would have supported the decision to commit suicide if they had been old enough to speak for themselves! The plan was to have the children injected with morphine so they would be unconscious when the cyanide was administered. Magda was apparently contemplating the killing of her children a month beforehand. Her rationale was that she did not want them to grow up hearing that their father had been one of the century’s foremost criminals. The bodies were discovered by Soviet troops dressed in their nightclothes, with ribbons tied in the girls’ hair.

Graham Ovenden was inspired to write a poem commemorating this tragedy.

Graham Ovenden – Now six are dead … (poetry broadsheet) (date unknown)

Random Images: Contenido Magazine

(Last Updated On July 25, 2019)

Here is an interesting picture which appeared on the cover of the Mexican magazine Contenido (Contents) in January 1979. The photo was shot by Mexican photographer Miguel Angel Romero, of whom there is almost no information.

Miguel Angel Romero – Contenido Magazine (January 1979)

The purpose of the image was to introduce specifically the subject of sex education in contemporary Mexican schools. The photograph was taken in a domestic setting as evidenced by the closet behind the children. It seems the image was composed strategically as to not display the genitalia but, most remarkable, is the confident, care-free attitude of the children despite being naked. I am told that even at that time, this frank display of nudity in Mexico was quite unusual, even among widely-distributed sex-education texts. Today, just like in the US, cartoon portrayals of naked children are the norm in Mexico.

Signs of Normality: Photographs of a Rural French Priest

(Last Updated On August 3, 2019)

The Catholic Church has much to answer for which is not surprising for an institution that has wielded so much power and wealth for such a long time. However, The Church should be given some credit for its attempts to survive in an ever-changing political climate. In the case of the Nazi Occupation of France, The Church’s error was placing their bets on the losing side. When the Nazis were finally defeated, there was a strong desire to reinvigorate French customs, rituals and institutions. One such effort was the photographic work of a rural priest, probably operating in the Auvergne.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (1)

So many amateurs have embraced new technologies and used it to try their hand at one artform or another. Photography—and later, videography—has been a panacea. After the war, an unidentified rural priest documented the pagentry of the children of his parish in the manner of local traditions.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (2)

When the roughly 50 photographs were discovered in 2002, this priest was counted among the many skilled amateurs of Found Photography, discovered work later to be coveted by collectors. Because of the Catholic Church’s history with children, the seller considered the work disreputable and was reluctant to identify the priest or say exactly where the photos were produced. They were found among the priest’s personal effects a few years after his death. The entire collection was purchased by the Charles Nes Gallery in New York and about half the images were exhibited in Manhattan from November 7–December 17, 2003.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (3)

And any photographic gesture, repeated often enough, begins to look like obsession. Yet the pictures don’t tell a story of prurient manipulation. Above all, they reveal how complex a role photography can play, even as a mere hobby practiced in an out-of-the-way village. Lyle Rexer, ‘Mysterious Photo Album Of a Country Priest’, The New York Times, Arts & Leisure, Sunday, December 7, 2003.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (4)

The collection is comprised mostly of girls aged 4 to 16, but there is also one album with boys. Given the range of ages, all the children were probably classmates in a one-room school, then common in rural France. Many would have been in the priest’s catechism class. He knew them all very well and they knew him.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (5)

Whatever he may have been as a curate, as a photographer the priest was a careful and affectionate amateur, experimenting with props, poses, backdrops and even print formats. Lyle Rexer, ‘Mysterious Photo Album Of a Country Priest’, The New York Times, Arts & Leisure, Sunday, December 7, 2003.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (6)

He experimented with different picture sizes and formats, posing them in complete shade for even lighting. It seems likely that the images were meant to be displayed and perhaps distributed to the respective families. Engaging in this photography may have been a private indulgence, but they provided an important public and ceremonial presence.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (7)

Nearly all the girls are posed either in dance postures, in half-curtseys or in religious tableaus, dressed in angels’ wings and in costumes of the Virgin Mary. Given the widespread disruption in France after World War II this may have been an effort, conscious or otherwise, to reassert French culture, not only in the aftermath of Nazi occupation but in the presence of American and British influence afterward. According to John Merriman, professor of French history at Yale University, the photos can be seen as an attempt to strengthen the local credibility of a church tarnished by its support for the Nazi-backed Vichy government. “The priest could be trying to place himself at or near the center of rebuilding French institutions in the widest sense,’’ said Merriman.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (8)

Unless the subjects—who would now be in their 70s or 80s—come forward after seeing themselves in these pictures, we will never know the exact circumstances of their creation. Nonetheless, the priest was a serious amateur evidenced by the results that went beyond mere documentation. He used props as photographers did nearly a century before: posing the girls with prie-dieus, high-backed chairs and oriental rugs.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (9)

Some have compared his efforts with those of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) but, quite opposite to Dodgson, he preferred that his subjects have a taller stature by balancing them on a rock or book. Rexer felt that he served as, “part anthropologist, part yearbook photographer, part aesthete.”

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (10)

And the girls were not only subjects; they make the pictures come alive. Perhaps because the priest knew them all and—if the pictures can be taken as evidence—had a deep affection for them, they engage the camera with a directness and joy that is common in snapshots but so rare in art. Lyle Rexer, ‘Mysterious Photo Album Of a Country Priest’, The New York Times, Arts & Leisure, Sunday, December 7, 2003.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (11)

The purpose of the album may be personal, and ultimately indecipherable, but throughout its pages the images are a wondrous curiosity centred on faith. Charles Nes Gallery Press Release, “Oui, Mon Père”: A rural priest’s photographs of children c.1950, 2003.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (12)

When the article was published, Lyle Rexer was in the process of publishing How to Look at Outsider Art (2005). Unfortunately, because the book does not cover photography, it does not discuss this work. However, there was some interesting information on Morton Bartlett and Henry Darger to be covered in a future post.

(Photographer Unknown) – (Untitled) (c1950) (13)

Daddy’s Girls and Beautiful Boys: Children’s Sexual Encounters in Graphic Media

(Last Updated On July 19, 2019)

WARNING: The following article contains images of child sexual abuse which may offend sensitive viewers. Not recommended for children under 18. 

You’ll have to excuse me, because this article will be long. But I think it’s warranted and long overdue.

I must confess, my recent discussions with a respondent to our blog who goes by the deceptively mundane, everyman moniker “a parent” has gotten under my skin in a big way. The underlying accusation, though not put into these words exactly, is that Pigtails in Paint is guilty of “sexualizing” children. This we do, according to “a parent”, by repeatedly claiming—whether doing this directly or indirectly he does not say—that children are worthy objects of the sexual attention of adults, or in terms of art, by attempting to “normalize” what some critics refer to as the “pedophilic gaze.”

Let me be absolutely clear here: I object nearly outright to the concept of the “sexualized” child, as well as to “normalization.” These words are loaded language, armchair psychobabble/political spin designed to instill by default the opposite notion that the “normal” child is by nature asexual, a being entirely without carnal thoughts, feelings or motivations, their minds and bodies veritable blank slates upon which only pubescence justly and impartially writes the erotic code that makes them into what we designate in our culture as a full-on adult.

The problem with this viewpoint is three-fold: first and most obviously, there is a ton of evidence that contradicts this supposition, as almost any reputable expert on children can tell you; second, it neglects to incorporate the fact that authorities—parents especially—control the dialogue and shape children sexually whether they believe they are doing so or not; second, it ignores the reality that the moral panic surrounding child sexuality, child sexual abuse and pedophilia (which are related but not inseparable issues) have grown in strength over the last few decades, to the point that we now have an aegrescit medendo situation where children and adults alike are being harmed as much or more by the overreaction of society as by the folk devils to which it is responding.

In one of my replies to “a parent” I held up as evidence for this two major examples: the side effects of conservative regions where girls are more likely to get pregnant because of lack of decent sex education, lack of access to birth control, and so on (not to mention getting stuck with a baby before she’s ready thanks to harsh anti-abortion measures in those places), and kids themselves getting arrested as sex offenders after being caught up in sexting cases. I will add to those the following:

  • The sex offender registry, which has resulted in more problems than it’s solved, foremost among them that it creates a perfect hit list for legal, physical and social persecution.
  • The courtesy stigma, name-calling, threats, and educational shutting-out and funding issues that many scholars and researchers face when exploring these issues, especially when their conclusions do not match social and cultural expectations or feed into the biases of politicians.
  • The growth of a powerful and unduly influential victim culture surrounding sexual abuse which often exploits the moral panic for its own gain at the expense of many innocent people and organizations.
  • The blatant exploitation of the sexual abuse moral panic by political entities and demagogues, particularly on the right but also on the left, utilizing it as propaganda against their political rivals. (See: Pizzagate and Qanon)
  • The largely unhelpful “stranger danger” myth, which invests in children a lifelong dread of mostly benign strangers and takes the focus off the real source of most sexual abuse, the child’s own family.
  • The unhealthy guilt complexes, body image issues and fear of intimacy that many children learn as a result of being taught that good/normal children are sexually (read: morally) pure, a personification many of them are simply unable to live up to, and which our society goes to great lengths to enforce, one way or another.
  • And, of course, the irreparable harm that has been done to artists such as Graham Ovenden and Jock Sturges and their subjects, forever tainted by their names being dragged through the thoroughly raked muck—not to mention art as a whole, the entire history of children in art being reinterpreted through the child pornography/child exploitation lens, and many artists unwilling to tackle what has traditionally been a favorite subject for them, the nude child or youth, due to fears of social stigma and/or legal reprisals.

There are others, but these are quite sufficient, I think, to get the point across. We at Pigtails are primarily concerned with the last one.

The thing about “a parent” is that he comes across as quite reasonable in general, and that concerns me more than a thousand trolls posting death threats or idiotic insults ever could. Those types of people tend to be so broadly ignorant and clownishly obnoxious that their take on these matters cannot be taken seriously. On the other hand, “a parent” has positioned himself as an admirer of simple child nudes, which is understandable. As I have said on a number of occasions, child nudity cannot be equated with sexuality across the board. The conflation of those two things is mainly a Western conceit, predominantly in the Anglophone West: Great Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States. So far, so good.

Another thing is that “a parent” does not believe in the asexual child (or so he claims), and so none of what I wrote above is directly applicable to him. But he plays into this prejudice regardless, because one cannot extricate the idea that children are asexual from the position that they should be seen as such when we look at art featuring them. How is “a parent” able to compartmentalize these two conflicting ideas? His argument basically boils down to this: the artist and the art observer can think such things in an abstract way, but an artist who acknowledges this directly in their work is in violation of the all-important taboo and that must remain forbidden lest it endanger children. In essence, then, intellectual recognition of this scientific fact is fine, but woe to the artist who explores this concept directly in his or her work, who has the unmitigated gall to present the sexual child in imagery. That can only be, according to “a parent”, a sign of a pedophilic wet dream expressed on paper or canvas. Artists who present children erotically must be pedophiles, or why else would they create such work? Moebius? Pedophile. Tamburini and Liberatore? Pedophiles. Neil Gaiman? Obviously a pedophile. I mean, not only did he create the Lantiman of Sauk, he also wrote a rather stirring defense of lolicon with his essay Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech? on his web journal.

Examples of the traditional arts (drawing, painting, sculpture—I’m purposely avoiding dipping into photography here) that either play with eroticism or where children and sexuality meet in some sense are Paul Peel’s A Venetian Bather, Jules Marie Auguste Leroux’s The Mirror, Egon Schiele’s Mädchen mit Federboa, Donatello’s David, Louis Ricardo Falero’s The Planet Venus, works by the Die Brücke collective featuring Fränzi Fehrmann, and Ramon Casas i Carbó’s Flores Deshojadas (Depetaled Flowers), to name a few. But what I want to focus on here is what all of the links in the paragraph above this one have in common: they all feature work from comics artists and writers.

More than any other medium, these have been the target of would-be censors. It’s probably no accident that the one time in American history where an artist was actually convicted on obscenity charges it was for his comics, a medium that has long been viewed as little more than children’s funny books or superhero fantasies by ignorant snobs who don’t understand it. In any case, Mike Diana‘s story is fascinating and should be studied by anyone with an interest in free speech issues and legal precedent. In the late eighties and early nineties the teenage Diana wrote and drew a series of comics with extremely gruesome content—graphic violence and mutilation, rape and child sexual abuse, incest, and likely the most damning offense in the small Florida community where he lived and worked, religious blasphemy—published them in very limited runs at his own expense, and sold them via mail to about three hundred customers around the US for two dollars a pop. Diana had the bad luck of producing his ostentatiously subversive and distasteful work at the same time as the Gainesville Ripper was operating. Diana even became a suspect in those murders, though he was eventually exonerated there. Still, the obscenity charges stuck.

While I cannot defend Diana’s work on its merits (I’m not going to share any of it here; just google it if you’re curious—honestly, it’s so badly drawn and noxious in content that it makes my head hurt to even look at it), the idea that an artist who created something which involved no actual children and that’s about as far from erotic as one can get seems patently absurd to me. I mention this case because it is the extreme, and because, far from accomplishing the goal of “protecting” children from Diana’s work, which almost certainly would’ve been ignored otherwise and slipped into obscurity, all his Kafkaesque trial and conviction really accomplished in the end was putting the spotlight on him and his atrocious art, and now any child who has access to the internet can google it for free. Diana has even had his work shown in international museums. Ho-hum.

Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough. Let’s get to the examples (besides the ones I’ve already linked to). Here is a single panel from a comic I will wait to identify. Out of context, all we can really discern about this image is that it is sexual. The female in bed is performing fellatio on a man, who hovers over her. I will clarify further, because it may not be immediately obvious: the female is a child. Take a good look at it, and withhold judgment if you can. Is this the sort of thing “a parent” would have the government censor?

Now I will identify this image. It is a single panel from the Ignatz Award-nominated semi-autobiographical comic Daddy’s Girl by Debbie Dreschler. This image comes from my own copy of the comic, the square-bound softcover first edition published in 1996 by Fantagraphics. It’s a comic that deals frankly with a young girl’s sexual abuse at the hands of . . . well, a father (not “a father”) during the late fifties and early sixties. In between episodes of sexual abuse, the girl’s life is filled with moments of irony and pathos, such as when her parents take their four children to present gifts to a poor black family during Christmas. The fact that the comic is not subtle about the abuse and does not shy away from depicting it gives Daddy’s Girl a disturbing power that simple fiction could probably never achieve. By design, you cannot look away or consider the abuse as an abstraction. Dreschler forces you to confront it head on. Here are a few pages of this sequence—called Visitors in the Night—for context.

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (1)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (2)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (3)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (4)

I ask again: is this the sort of image that “a parent” would have the state censor? Perhaps. He says:

So my view is that this particular highly specific kind of expression (a drawing graphically depicting sexual abuse of a prepubescent child) should be illegal, even where there’s no proof of direct harm.

He offers a specific set of criteria by which he judges what should or should not be illegal. Many of Dreschler’s images would fall into that category by default. That would be a huge shame, because the work would lose much of its shock value without these scenes. In fact, I’d say it would be nearly impossible for this comic to exist as what it is without such scenes. Maybe “a parent” would differ on that point, but there can be little doubt that these scenes make the work more disturbing than it would otherwise be. And that is the point of them.

Says “a parent”:

Suppose, for example, there is a pen-and-ink drawing in comic-book style of graphic sexual abuse involving an older adult and a prepubescent child. And suppose the artist did not work from photographs or live models in making this drawing, so it can be claimed that there was no “real, direct” harm done. (I’m pretty sure such a thing would be illegal under our current laws, but I’m not absolutely certain, and I’m definitely no expert.) Besides serving as child pornography, what’s the purpose of such a drawing?

I offered an example which fits this description exactly. (And no, such images are not illegal per se, at least not in the US—this has been tested multiple times, and with the exception of Mike Diana, all those artists won their cases.) So, what is the purpose of such drawings? According to “a parent” they can only serve as pornography to stimulate pedophiles. I wonder what Dreschler would think of such an accusation? Maybe I should ask her.

Here is another example from a different comic, Phoebe Gloeckner‘s A Child’s Life. This too is semi-autobiographical . . . and disturbing. Gloeckner’s character Minnie Goetze is a thinly disguised stand-in for her, though Gloeckner herself has never confirmed this, referring to her work simply as fiction. That’s understandable, as she doesn’t just tell her own story—she recounts events from other girls’ lives as well, including a girl called “Tabatha”:

Phoebe Gloeckner – A Child’s Life (1998)

Is this image erotic? Would it turn some folks on? Possibly. But that is not the intent of the artist. Calling this or Dreschler’s blatant depictions of sexual abuse “child pornography” is ignorant and insulting to both of them. Alright, “a parent” might say, so biographical work which clearly isn’t designed to titillate the viewer might get a pass, but what about examples which are less obviously negative?

Okay, let’s take one from Neil Gaiman’s (that perv again!) multiple award-winning series The Sandman, from the one-off issue Ramadan, drawn by the fabulous P. Craig Russell. (Side note: I have the first three of Russell’s Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde books, and they are absolutely gorgeous.) Ramadan is not really about child sexuality or abuse (you can read a summary of the story here if you’re interested, though I recommend reading the actual comic), but it does feature a relevant scene which I remember being somewhat controversial at the time the comic came out in the early nineties:

P. Craig Russell – The Sandman – Ramadan (detail)

Here is the full page for context:

P. Craig Russell – The Sandman – Ramadan

So now we have an example of straight fiction, nothing autobiographical here. There is a single panel (with an inset) in the whole of the story that fits our topic, and unlike Dreschler’s or Gloeckner’s comics, it does not portray it negatively. In fact, the description written by Gaiman makes the “beautiful boys” sound quite appealing. We see no actual sex there, but arguably the boys are drawn sensuously. Is this, then, child pornography? Of course it isn’t. The drawings reinforce the text, but the intent here is certainly not to arouse the viewer. They are presented as part of a larger tapestry, a lovely scene to reinforce that the narrator is a man who enjoys the pleasures of the flesh, be it women or boys. Since the story’s point-of-view character is Haroun al Raschid, the caliph of a medieval-era Middle Eastern city, it makes absolute sense that his perceptions are not modern, and that Gaiman and Russell, presenting us this scene through Haroun’s eyes, would give us boys that are sexually provocative, not presented as victims but as willing and knowing partners, even if they are technically sex slaves. Now, I’m quite sure Russell does not approve of child abuse, and I know Gaiman doesn’t. Nevertheless, it would’ve been ridiculous to offer this scene judgmentally, through modern eyes. It would’ve been obvious and clumsy, taking the reader out of the story.

“Okay, but why include the images at all? Surely they weren’t necessary,” I can hear “a parent” grumbling now. That is beside the point. It is not an artist’s job to go out of their way to avoid triggering sensitive readers. No one doubts that the abuse of young boys occurred in harems like the one described. That’s a historical fact. To gloss over that detail is to feed into political correctness, and the more artists do that, the more they will be expected to do that, until they face arrest for not doing it. Censorship will not stop where “a parent” thinks it should. It doesn’t work that way. It never has. As Gaiman himself said in Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech?:

The Law is a huge blunt weapon that does not and will not make distinctions between what you find acceptable and what you don’t. This is how the Law is made.

Whether I find any images of children sexually provocative or not (some might find that image by Dreschler to be arousing; I certainly don’t), my tastes should not be the deciding factor on whether something is illegal or not. Nor should the tastes of “a parent”, nor should the tastes of any particular person or group of persons.

Says “a parent”:

Well, I feel that freedom of expression is very, very important. But it’s not really freedom of expression that’s at issue. It is freedom of a highly specific and narrow range of expression, namely depiction of children as objects of sexual desire. Out of all art and ideas, I think this is an exceedingly tiny slice of a huge pie. Any legislation in this area would leave the vast, overwhelming majority of artistic expression completely unimpeded.

I doubt very much that “a parent” actually believes this, or that he would stand against it if, say, adult porn was on the censor’s chopping block. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I doubt it. He adds, in defense of his view:

It’s critical to realize that child pornography is not on even ground with other “ideas.” We not talking about appealing to the thoughts or the emotions. Appealing to sexual urges–particularly to urges that must harm children if they are fully gratified–is a different basic kind of thing from other types of expression.

Okay. Disregarding for a moment the fact that this is special pleading, I have to ask why is “child pornography”—remember, we’re talking about drawings here—different? Because it is the image of a crime? No, I’ve seen actual photos of murdered children (I wish I hadn’t, but they’re out there)—those are also images of actual crimes, yet they aren’t outlawed. But images of violence do not encourage some unspecified fraction of humanity to commit more crimes, right? Do we know this for a fact? I mean, there have certainly been murderers who have claimed that violent imagery pushed them towards their own murder sprees. Who’s to say it isn’t true? Ah, but it’s a very small percentage of humanity who would be influenced to those ends, eh? Well, “a parent” himself says that pedophiles are such a meager minority that censoring images that might influence them shouldn’t be considered on the same level as other sorts of images, and he says “normal” people, which he defines as the vast majority of humanity, is appalled by such images, and certainly aren’t turned on by them. In other words, not only is he guilty of special pleading, he’s also spouting the bandwagon fallacy as a defense.

Are there folks who get off on violent imagery? Unquestionably. But “a parent” suggests that sex is somehow very different from other provocative concepts like violence, because it doesn’t appeal to thoughts or emotions. Well, what the ever-loving fuck does it appeal to then? A base drive? Is violence not a base drive in us too? Are some people not compelled by their lizard brains to violently destroy that which they hate and fear? Of course they are. But that’s different, because . . .

Because why? Because it doesn’t appeal to pedophiles. That’s it. That’s all it comes down to in the end. They are a tiny minority says “a parent”, and children are too precious and vulnerable to risk them being abused by those few weak souls who might be (not have been, not definitely will be, but might be) encouraged to offend. Look, the only reason to outlaw actual child porn is because it’s consumption encourages the production of more, and we are talking about actual abuse in that case. Children are offended against for the explicit purpose of the production of child porn. In other words, it can only exist because sexual abuse has been committed, and the producer(s) did so with that express purpose in mind. But to extend that argument to drawings, paintings and the like where no real children were actually harmed in its production, on the grounds that it might cause a few people to act out on their sexual urges, is a clear example of thought-crime. You can argue that pedophilia is more than thoughts or feelings all you want to. Hell, I’ll even agree with you on that. But the fact is, when you get right down to it, you are outlawing a thought, an idea, a concept. Make no mistake: if we can outlaw erotic drawings of kids on the grounds that it might cause some people to commit sexual abuse, then it’s not a stretch to suggest that adult porn could likewise be outlawed because it might push some people into rape (sex drive, right?), but we don’t outlaw it on those grounds. Not in America anyway.

Ah, but that’s not why adult porn exists, “a parent” will say. And around and around the circle we go. Most artists, even those who deliberately draw pedophilic erotica, aren’t sitting there thinking, “Ha! I’ll make drawings in order to push people into molesting kids! Mwa ha ha ha!” To make that argument is to assume that anyone with the least bit of interest in such content is inherently immoral, prone to abusing kids and seeking to make others like them. “A parent” says if such content is allowed to exist, kids will be abused because of it. He states it as fact, yet offers no evidence to back it up. Well, I know of a country where a great deal of such content exists, is legal for purchase, indeed is found in comics and magazine shops all around the country. I don’t think I even need to name it. And yet there isn’t scads of child rape and abuse happening there. In fact, that country has low crime rates all the way around. Moreover, many studies show that where porn exists legally, sex offenses tend to plummet. Why would it be any different for child erotica? After all, sex with kids is forbidden across the board, unlike sex with consenting adults. Clearly, having such outlets is more beneficial than harmful. But, by all means “a parent”, offer me evidence which demonstrates that I’m wrong and I’ll reconsider.

Finally (whew!), I will offer this. Here is a comic which actually condones child abuse, brought to you by way of the Kids Tract Club. You reckon it’s been influential?

Artist Unknown (Kids’ Tract Club) – Lil’ Bess (1)

Artist Unknown (Kids’ Tract Club) – Lil’ Bess (2)