Portrait of Desmond Chute, a fellow Slade student, by Tom Poulton, 1914

Thomas Leycester Poulton was a British magazine and medical illustrator who provided artwork for a range of publications including the British Journal of Surgery and The Radio Times. It was not until after his death that it was discovered that he had also secretly produced hundreds of sketches and finished drawings of people engaged in a wide range of uninhibited sexual activity.

A talented artist, in 1914 Tom Poulton won a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where he was taught by renowned artist and teacher Henry Tonks. At the Slade he met acclaimed lutenist Diana Kibblewhite, and they married in 1923, but the marriage was short-lived. His gift for illustration was recognised by the fine art publisher The Nonesuch Press, for whom he produced illustrations for Fontanelle’s A Plurality of Worlds and Isaac Walton’s The Compleat Angler.

While stationed in India during the First World War Poulton had come across the Kama Sutra, which prompted a fascination with erotic art. In 1949 he was listed as a member of the exclusive Double Crown Club for private press publishers and illustrators. He married again, but had been separated from his second wife for some years before he died. His last years found him living alone in a flat in Camden, his main social outlet being The Lamb, a bohemian Bloomsbury pub, where he was known for his wit and conversation.

During his lifetime he produced many erotic drawings, usually on commission from various patrons, notably playboy yachtsman Beecher Moore, who sold a large collection of Poulton’s work in the early 1990s. Throughout his life Poulton kept his erotic work secret, for fear that it would be seized and he would be arrested by the police.

His erotica is very much of its time, the clothing is very clearly from the 1940s and 50s; the keenly-observed drawings, many clearly drawn from life, are characterised by an exuberance and joie de vivre on the part of the participants.


Example illustration