To most people who know anything at all of Mario Tauzin, he is the illustrator who in the mid-1940s produced a portfolio of erotic line drawings which, largely thanks to their inclusion in the first international exhibition of erotic art in Sweden in 1968, were soon reproduced in every anthology of erotic art thereafter.

Self-portraits, 1933

He was born in Saint-Pardoux-Isaac, a village east of Bordeaux in western France, though his family lived most of the time in Paris. When his father was called up in 1914 his mother took Mario and his twin brother Roger to spend the war years in the countryside. Back in Paris, Mario first trained as an industrial designer at L’École des Arts Décoratifs, but then took life drawing classes and set out as a self-taught painter.

The two sisters, 1936

Taking a flat in bohemian Montparnasse in 1930, he started entering paintings into the Salon des Indépendants, his subjects often designed to shock; nudes on buses and naked self-portraits were typical. While little is known of his love-life, he was well-known as a drinking companion, and like many of his contemporaries often chose to paint models from the world of the bar, the brothel and the dance hall. His paintings of women show him to be a remarkably honest artist, unafraid of real human beings in real bodies.

Steps, Montmartre, 1937

Mario Tauzin often acknowledged Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh as his chief inspirations, and in both his figurative work and his landscapes the emphasis on experimental bright colours, strong compositions and emotional honesty acquired from his mentors show what a good and original artist he was. His work deserves to be better known, and not just the one erotic portfolio.

The only detailed source of information about Mario Tauzin and his work is an illustrated monograph by his Paris agent Raymond Creuze, who self-published it in 1984 in a very small edition. As well as including a good cross-section of Tauzin’s work, the minimal text includes an idiosyncratic abridged English translation.

Example illustration