Mario Tauzin in his studio, c.1940

This large-format portfolio of thirty line drawings by Mario Tauzin is something of a bibliographic mystery. When several of the prints were reproduced in Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen’s 1968 anthology Erotic Art, the captions stated ‘from an extremely rare portfolio published c.1943’. In Raymond Creuze’s (Creuze was Tauzin’s Paris agent) book on Tauzin, he writes that the portfolio was created by Mario ‘for the recreation and pleasure of his friends, in which he expresses his passion and enthusiastic love of the human body’. A copy was bought by the French Bibliothèque Nationale in March 1946, but this must have been a very limited edition; a limited but larger edition was produced in Holland around 1950, and another by the Paris publisher Soprodé in 1971. Though they have been much reproduced, large early versions of the thirty prints remain rare.

Le bidet, 1931

We know very little about Mario Tauzin’s personal life, though his love of painting naked women in everyday settings must say something of his preoccupations, as must the drawings for this portfolio. He never married, but surely had numerous lovers, and experienced lovers at that. He was in his late 30s when he drew this portfolio, but it depicts younger bodies, memories of his prewar freedom. Some time in late 1940, when so many Parisians were escaping the German advance, Mario decamped to a house in Cordes-sur-Ciel, an ancient village north-east of Toulouse, where he spent time painting the sunny landscape and visiting Toulouse for its galleries and cafés; maybe it was this rural freedom that allowed his imagination to produce such explicit images, drawings quite unlike anything else he ever created.

When some of the prints were exhibited in Lund, Sweden, in 1968, many people assumed they had been created very recently – the bearded man, the clean lines, and the ‘show-everything’ style could almost be from from The Joy of Sex, not published until 1972. It is precisely this spirit of timeless playfulness and experimentation which makes them just as fresh now as when they were drawn seventy years ago.