The nature of erotic art is to portray human desire and the sexual acts it leads to. While some artists have chosen to do this through detailed images of people having sex like in the work of Edouard-Henri Avril, whose precise technique allowed him to construct realistic scenes of couples having intercourse, others have chosen a more minimalistic approach, where a few lines and a couple of colours are more than enough to transmit intense passion and lust. Petite Bohème is a French illustrator whose name remains a mystery, yet their sexually charged, simple, black and white drawings succeed at turning us on.
This visual artist refrains from using color, except for the red that fills the luscious lips and sensual fingernails that adorn the female characters. These young women have voluptuous bodies and seductive gazes, sometimes contorted while their faces experience sexual pleasure or an orgasm. The male characters are young as well, muscular, and slightly hairy; they tenderly hold the women in their arms, or passionately kiss, suck, and penetrate their female partners. However, the illustrations are not solely of heterosexual partners, they encompass the whole spectrum.
Some illustrations include cosmic imagery, which creates a feeling of the lovers floating within a universe of pleasure, surrounded by stars while they hold on to each other and experience carnal delight. The lines are precise, and when we look at them closely, the level of detail becomes apparent, something that can go unnoticed the first time. Their perfectly formed bodies contort in a variety of sexual positions and stances that make their pleasure evident.
The skin, although apparently invisible due to the black and white nature of the portraits, is meticulously drawn to perfectly capture its texture and the way it reacts when one of the characters touches or lustfully grabs the other, particularly the women’s breasts, which retain a realistic softness when their couples cup them in their hands. The same occurs with the hair, carefully composed by apparently careless strokes that, when put together, generate the feeling of a flowing mane that lays spread over the bed sheets or the lover’s face or body.
The paintings as a whole are effective and arousing, despite their seemingly simplistic approach to sexuality and desire. By draining its characters of color, they might theoretically seem like a caricature of the acts of sex, but it’s in the minutiae of the design and the obsessiveness to precisely portray every detail that Petite Boheme succeeds in generating scenes dominated by a sense of lust and pleasure, where the characters invite us to experience what they feel and ingrain themselves into our fantasies.