Friday, October 25, 2013

Kissing Venuses 9: by John Swannell

Back in 1982 Agent Triple P was given a book of nudes by photographer John Swannell.  We had seen some of his cool, stark images in Amateur Photographer and when we started work had a copy of his very tasteful calendar in our office at a City firm.  There was no objection by anyone to this and many people, including the women who worked there, came to admire what was a very beautiful production.  How times have changed!  One young lady even commissioned Triple P to do a nude drawing of her as a result!

She was the one who bought me the copy of the book which I still own.  Swannell got his distinctive look by using black reflectors which isolated his figures against the background.  Born in 1944, Swannell left school at sixteen and worked as an assistant at the Vogue studios before becoming David Bailey's assistant for four years.  

He then set up his own studio, doing primarily fashion shots and worked for all the major women's magazines.  Fine Lines was his first book and he has since published another twelve.  Both these kissing Venuses are from Fine Lines and now look quintessentially eighties.  The cover shot has become an iconic picture from that decade.  Swannell is now an important portraitist with over fifty of his photographs in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Sculptor by Earl Miller

July 1976's "Sexcentennial" issue of Penthouse had contained no less than three couples pictorials or "love sets" as the magazine usually, rather coyly, referred to them.  So it was something of a surprise to find another such pictorial in the very next issue.  This one was also a period piece or, at the very least had a significant period vibe to it as the opening shot demonstrates.

The August 1976 issue of the magazine was remarkable for its explicit photographic content.  Cover girl and Pet of the month Vicki Lynne Johnson, and models Rhiana Post and Colleen Carney (more on her shortly) were displaying an unprecedented number of shots of their labia in what was, for men's magazine in the US, very much the year of the pussy.

Earl Miller had shot four out of five of the previous boy/girl love sets: from the passionate and explicit The Duel in December 1975 through the less successful Auto Erotic in April 1976, the much better Easy Riders in May 1976 to the science fiction themed  and flashily lit 2076 in July 1976.

The text for this one was all about the young lady model breathlessly waiting for the aristocratic sculptor to stop modelling her bust and start playing with it instead.  The whole thing read like a Barbara Cartland bodice ripper. 

As ever, with Miller's period pieces, the set is wonderful and really adds significantly to the atmosphere of the piece.  The artist and model is an obvious subject for a pictorial such as this and, in a way, you might have expected, given Bob Guccione's background, that a painter would have made just as effective (and possibly easier to set up) a subject.

Agent Triple P has some experience of the strong bond between artist and model himself, although as someone who draws rather than sculpts.  He has enormous respect for people who can sculpt which seems to be a much more difficult skill than the relatively straightforward process of getting things down on paper or canvas.  It's a whole different dimension, in fact!

An unusual high angle shot shows us our big haired sculptor delicately exploring his model's body.  If there is a problem with this pictorial it is that there are just not enough pictures in it.  Miller gives us the usual establishing shots but there are only ten photographs in the set.  He would have shot dozens, maybe hundreds more and it would have been nice if they had published the same number of shots as they did in The Duel, which had no less than 24 images.

Here our lady prepares to unveil his sculpting tool although, unlike a few previous love sets, said tool remains invisible.

We have this implied groin kissing shot but really there is a lack of the sensual foreplay shots Miller was so good at.  More like this would have been very welcome.

Interestingly, when they do, briefly, get down to it, Miller gives us only the second man between the legs of the woman missionary position shot in all of Penthouse's boy girl pictorials to date.  Maybe the  models just didn't have the chemistry that's needed to make a pictorial like this work.

The final shot, unusually for a love set, is one of the woman alone, displaying herself rather nicely but it brings to a close a pictorial that is, we have to say, something of a curate's egg and which had the potential to be so much more. Miller will make amends with the next Penthouse pictorial from the seventies we will look at: the girl/girl epic that is The Spider and the Fly.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lesbian Lovers by Paul Avril

Here is a rather sweet illustration from French artist Paul Avril of two young ladies enjoying each other's company.  Perhaps they are scared of the stormy weather, given there is a rather violent flash of lightning and an ominous looking sky outside, and are comforting each other.  Beautiful work on the drapery.

Avril was born Édouard-Henri Avril in Algiers in 1849. He studied at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris in the eighteen seventies.  He illustrated both conventional novels and what the French called galante literature which were privately published erotic novels.  He died in 1928.

This example comes from a 1909 edition of just 310 copies of the 1741 novel Histoire du Saturnin Portier du Chartreux by Gervaise de Latouche which is a story about illicit love between monks and nuns.  According to the original caption the lady on the right  is feeling "her pleasure mount by degrees".

We'll post another illustration from the same book on our Venus Observations blog shortly.