At the suggestion of the collector Hans-Jürgen Döpp, we have titled this otherwise-untitled portfolio Pygmalion after the mythical Greek artist who loved the statue of Aphrodite that he had made so much that it came to life. In Barbe’s drawings, model, artistic representation of the model and artist merge into two dimensions, but always imply a tripartite relationship. So what is real, and what is representation? What is true, and what is fantasy?

As Döpp explains, ‘Barbe plays a double game – his pencil puts the young woman on paper, and lo and behold she starts to breathe! As the Bible suggests, for the artist his ‘word’, his line, has become flesh. Lively, flirtatious, she starts to emerge from the picture. She now moves on two levels, the level of imagination and the level of reality. The artist puts a shirt on his character, but his thumb slips under the shirt he has drawn as if it were a real shirt, to curiously lift it up a little. And when a pair of underpants obstructs his penetrating gaze, he lifts them on the paper version to reveal her nakedness. So the artist experiments with both imagination and reality.’

In the Greek story, Pygmalion and Aphrodite were allowed to love each other in the flesh, even to have children. We must trust that Barbe the artist knew that his fantasy had to remain fantasy, however tempting that fantasy might have been.

We are very grateful to Hans-Jürgen Döpp for these images; Hans-Jürgen, the compiler of many books on erotic art, curates the Venusberg online gallery and bookshop which you can find here.