Pierced, 1986

This series of illustrations by Lynn Paula Russell for Pauline Réage’s The Story of O appeared in The Illustrative Art of Lynn Paula Russell, published by The Erotic Print Society. She was clearly inspired by reading the 1954 novel with its themes of erotic sadism, telling of the sexual enslavement of a beautiful young photographer in a château outside Paris. The interplay between the men of the secret society controlling the action and the women at the receiving end of painful pleasure is described with an insight and depth sadly missing in most BDSM literature, and this moved Russell to produce a detailed, disturbing, and highly personal set of drawings in which she appears as the main character of O, undergoing the increasingly grotesque trials devised by O’s captors.

In an interview in the late 1980s Lynn Paula Russell describes an encounter with Catherine Robbe-Grillet, who under the pseudonym Jean de Berg wrote the 1956 sadomasochistic novel I’image; it was a meeting of like souls: ‘On the opening night of my show I was surrounded by an extraordinary assortment of people, some in fetish wear, some smart and glamorous. There were intellectuals, a psychologist, writers and other artists. I chatted to a petite lady in her sixties, her hair swept back severely off her face, who told me of her exploits as a dominatrix. This was obviously one of her great pleasures in life. To my delight, I also found out that she was quite a famous writer too. She had written a strange and darkly erotic book called L’image. I knew it well and had assumed that the pseudonym Jean de Berg meant that the author must be a man. For a moment I felt a wave of excitement, as if I had been an eleven-year-old boy meeting their favourite football star!’