Self-portrait, 1935

The hugely talented and productive Belgian artist and illustrator Lucien Lafnet embraced an astonishing variety of styles and techniques, from large-scale oil paintings and murals to detailed engravings and comic strip characters. He grew up and trained in Liège, studying with the master engraver François Maréchal at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. A precocious and hard-working student, he won second prize at the Prix de Rome when he was just eighteen, and held his first exhibition the following year. In 1920 he moved to Paris, where he quickly established himself as an artist and engraver, specialising in allegorical paintings and church murals.

Nude, 1931

Luc Lafnet started producing book illustrations in the early 1920s, in a style clearly influenced by Heironymus Bosch and Martin van der Maele, often with grotesque and risqué comic elements. By 1927 he had been discovered by several well-known Parisian erotic publishers, including Georges Briffaut, Jean Fort and Maurice Duflou, but carefully distanced himself from immediate recognition by using a variety of pseudonyms, including ‘Jim Black’, ‘Viset’, ‘O. Lucas’, ‘Pol’, ‘Grim’, and ‘Luc’. His ability to produce quality work quickly was conducive to his success and popularity, and by the early 1930s he was producing engravings, paintings and comic strips in a flurry of creativity. As with his pioneering comic strip work, where he worked with Blanche Demoulin and Robert Velter to develop characters like the well-known Spirou, Lafnet’s erotic work was mostly known only to the select audience who recognised and valued his imaginative work. By the time he produced the illustrations to Lettres à la présidente, Zoloé et ses deux acolytes, and Les stations de l’amour, his unique erotic style was fully-formed. The fact that he was not averse to illustrating BDSM classics like Dresseuses d’hommes, Les geôles de dentelles and L’école des biches only added to his popularity in appreciative Parisian circles.

Jeanne Lafnet (Valmadren), 1931
Anne-Marie Lafnet in a red dress, 1938

In 1924 Lafnet married Jeanne Valmaldren and they had a daughter, Anne-Marie. Always a sickly child, Anne-Marie died when she was thirteen; Luc was deeply affected by her death; diagnosed himself with pancreatic cancer a few months later, he outlived her by less than a year.

A complete detailed listing of all 31 erotic titles illustrated by Luc Lafnet can be found at S.A. Perry’s Erotica Bibliophile website here  .

Example illustration