When we think of sexual openness through history, one can’t help but think of specific moments when that actually happened. For instance, in ancient times sexuality was more explored than in the Middle Ages. The same happens when we think of the libertines of the eighteenth century in comparison to the conservative Victorians. I’ve always found it interesting how, in general terms, we think of the turn of the century as a very progressive time when, actually, the early twentieth century was quite conservative. But while it was a straight-laced moment, all the amazingly advanced and modern ideas emerged from a very special city. This place became a shelter for artists and intellectuals from all over the world seeking for a free environment to develop their visions. And that, my friends, is none other than Paris, the City of Lights and Love.
For centuries, Paris has been considered the capital of arts and a magnet that attracts hundreds of enthusiastic young writers and artists who seek to be inspired by the beauty of the architecture and the magical essence of its streets. However, it can’t be denied that during the turn of the century, the city became the center of of the most important artistic and historical movements. Dozens of the most important figures lived, breathed, and created their iconic art in Paris: Degas, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Manet, Monet, Picasso, Dalí, Buñuel, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, just to name a few.
This environment was also the ideal place for other type of artists to develop their craft. Such is the case of Chéri Hérouard, a somewhat unknown illustrator who worked for forty-five years at the famous magazine La Vie Parisienne, a weekly magazine with a huge variety of subjects, ranging from erotic illustrations, literature, art, film, and fashion, to stock information and relevant news. For over a hundred years, this was one of the most popular publications.
But let’s see a bit more of the few things we know about Hérouard’s life. Just a few days before he was born, his biological father passed away in a terrible hunting accident in 1881. Soon, his mother remarried a wealthy man, a direct descendant of King Louis XIII’s main physician, who gladly adopted him and gave him his name. As he continued with his regular studies, his parents tried to encourage him to pursue a military career, but he his artistic ambition pushed him to move to Paris and continue with his aspirations. By the first years of the twentieth century, he started promoting his illustrations. It’s even said that Nobel Prize winner Anatole France saw his early works and encouraged him to continue drawing.
In 1902, his first illustration was published in Le Journal de la Jeunesse, which led him to submit more of his works to other magazines such as Mon Journal. Here, he illustrated for a younger audience and became quite interested in fantastical creatures and stories, which he adopted as his main signature as illustrator. Soon, he was offered a job at La Vie Parisienne and, well, you know the rest. However, while he was collaborating for this particular publication, he started creating different illustrations under the name of Herric. This pseudonym became the perfect alter ego to explore the darkest and steamiest fantasies of the time through highly erotic representations.
As Herric, he did illustrations for an edition of the Kama Sutra, Dangerous Liaisons, and several spanking novels. These particular reads were experiencing a peak during this time, and many illustrators worked anonymously (or used pen names) to hide their true identities. However, since they were extremely popular, it was a risk worth taking. These novels or novellas were a type of pornographic fiction that explored the darkest side of sexuality, or in other words, what was considered dark and perverted, like sadomasochism and bondage.
Chéri Hérouard might not be as well-known as he deserves. However, millions have enjoyed of his work without knowing who did it. Whether it was through his collaboration for La Vie Parisienne, or through his kinky and sultry works, there’s no doubt that Hérouard was definitely a man of his time. In other words, he lived and demonstrated to be an avant-garde man who devoted his life to the exploration of his craft.