If you did not know of Schem’s reputation as an erotic illustrator, but knew him just (as many philatelists do) as the designer of a large number of French postage stamps between 1945 and 1967, then he might seem to be an upright and hard-working establishment designer. It is to his professional and personal credit that he was perfectly well able to balance both strands of his working life without compromising either.
His real name was Raoul Serres, and he grew up in Cazères in the Garonne region of south-west France. He studied art in Lyons as a student of Jules Jacquet, Henri-Joseph Dubouchet and Léon Bonnat, specialising in engraving, and won a Grand Prix de Rome medal in 1906. From 1932 to 1942 he was professor of engraving at the École Estienne in Paris, after which time he concentrated on illustration and postage stamps.
Among the mildly erotic titles illustrated by Schem are D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley (the French title for Lady Chatterley’s Lover), Le grant testament de Françoys Villon, Theophile Gautier’s Fortunio, and Paul Verlaine’s poetry. Apart from an edition of Pierre Louÿs’ Manuel de civilité, which may or may not be his work, we have only included here his illustrations for Louÿs’ Roi Pausole and for Brantôme’s Les dames galantes, as his illustrations, while accomplished, tend to be very similar in style and rather characterless.
If you do also happen to be interested in his stamp designs, you can read all about them in an article in the December 2014 issue of the French magazine Timbres: L’officiel de la philatélie.