As far as we know, L’amour sans joie (Love without Joy) is the only explicitly erotic portfolio of etchings that André Székely produced, which is a pity, as they combine a sureness of line, an intriguing exploration of the modernist style of the early 1930s, and the poignant yet witty observations of an energetic artist now approaching his later 50s – and maybe wondering where his youth had gone. To maintain distance from his professional persona, Székely published L’amour sans joie under the pseudonym André Szenes, ‘szenes’ being Hungarian for ‘coal’, a reference to the black quality of both etching ink and subject matter.

The fifteen prints of L’amour sans joie are titled The Sailor, The Virgin, The Convict, The Aristocrat, The Senator, The Student, The Artist, The Pensioner, The Poet, The Officer, The Invalid, The Priest, The Collegian, The Farmer, and The Commissioner. As the title of the portfolio suggests, none of them appears to be enjoying the experience very much.

The style of these etchings is worth careful study, as Székely combines fine detail and solid black areas to produce a minimalist style which cleverly manages to convey both subject and emotion (or lack thereof). As so often in art, less is more.

L’amour sans joie was privately published in Budapest, in a limited numbered edition of 75 copies.

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.