Nu allongé (Reclining Nude), 1905

The French artist and illustrator Charles-Auguste Edelmann grew up in Soultz-sous-Forêts in north-eastern France near the border with Germany, which explains his German family name. He moved to Paris in 1900 to study art with Jean-Léon Gérôme and Ferdinand Humbert, and first exhibited in 1905 alongside other artists including Henry Ottmann, Albert Marquet, Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo. After serving in the French army in the First World War he returned to Paris and became a regular exhibitor at the Salon d’Automne; his 1928 Salon paintings ‘Fleurs et livres’ and ‘Femme couchée’ receiving special mention.

Dans le jardin (In the Garden), 1921

Edelmann was first and foremost a painter rather than an illustrator, but in his fifties his style became more adventurous and he started producing line and wash drawings to illustrate more or less mildly erotic texts.

His first book commission came in 1920 with a privately-printed illustrated edition of Le roman de Violette, a colourful mid-nineteenth-century tale of a beautiful girl, the object of desire for both a young man and a rather determined lesbian countess, culminating in a memorable menage-a-trois. Violette was written by the Marquise Henriette de Mannoury d’Ectot (1815–99), the first woman novelist to work in a modern erotic genre.

An illustration from Violette

Several book commissions followed from the Paris publisher Éditions Mornay, including 1925 editions of Gustave Welter’s Éloge de la dance (In Praise of Dance) and Jacques Deval’s Marie Galante, and Eugène Montford’s Un coeur vierge (A Virgin Heart) in 1926.

In his late fifties Edelmann returned to book illustration with his two best portfolios, the ones we show here.

Example illustration