André Collot (right) with Jacques Perret on board the Matam, 1954

The prolific, original and innovative illustrator André Collot grew up in Montigny-le-Roi in eastern France, moving to Paris in the early 1920s where he studied painting and drawing, and made the acquaintance of the writer and fellow illustrator Pascal Pia (1903–79). Pia, whose real name was the more prosaic Pierre Durand, was already well known for erotic works including Les Princesses de Cythère (1922) and the poetry collection La muse en rut (The Muse on Heat), and he introduced Collot to his publishing circle.

It did not take long for the commissions to start coming in, and from the late 1920s until the 1950s Collot was constantly busy creating illustrations for a wide range of titles, including classics such as Molière and Daudet, contemporary fiction, and more risqué clandestine editions, including his favourite Pierre Louÿs; by 1955 he had illustrated nearly a hundred books. In the 1940s he tried his hand at more conventional painting, exhibiting at the Salon d’Automne in 1942 and the Salon of Independent Artists in 1943, but it is for his graphic yet stylish erotic work that he is best remembered.

Alongside illustration, alcohol and sailing were Collot’s other main pleasures. He was a close friend of the popular writer Jacques Perret (1901–92), and when Perret won the prestigious Prix Interallié in 1951 he bought a small sailing boat, the Matam, and invited Collot to join him for a daring voyage from Honfleur to Santander. They only got as far as Cherbourg, but the shared experience found expression in Perret’s Rôle de plaisance (Doing it for Fun, 1957), wittily illustrated by Collot.

A complete annotated list of all the books illustrated by André Collot can be found on the Erotica Bibliophile website, here.

Example illustration