The art of Bertrand


The first question has to be “Bertrand who?” but you won’t receive an answer here since information is scarce (see below). Bertrand’s erotic surrealism first appeared in the late Sixties, going by the dates in collections of his work. Some of his paintings and drawings crept into the underground mags of the period then turned up in odd places throughout the Seventies. The first I saw of any Bertrand art was on the cover of the pre-Savoy publication, Wordworks #6, and a music paper ad for the Chrome 12″, Inworlds.


French porn publisher Eric Losfeld produced a couple of large, limited edition collections of Bertrand’s work in the early Seventies. All the drawings reproduced here are from the battered 1971 volume shown above. If it seems surprising that these haven’t been reprinted it may be that Bertrand’s concerns are too weird or simply too unpleasant for contemporary tastes. Many of his ink drawings, and some of his paintings, seem to have begun life as decalcomania splotches, a Surrealist technique invented by Oscar Dominguez as a means of injecting chance into the creative process. Decalcomania produces random patterns which the artist then elaborates upon. Max Ernst’s famous Europe After the Rain, and a number of his other paintings from the 1940s, began life as a field of vaguely organic marks created by pressing thickly applied paint to the canvas with a sheet of glass or paper. Bertrand used ink stains in a similar way, with the result that most of his doe-eyed female figures (and his figures are nearly always women) are fringed by leafy or fungal growths. Many of his scenes are a kind of lesbian equivalent of the human/alien entanglements one finds in William Burroughs’ more elaborate flights of fancy. If his women aren’t being absorbed into some organic mass, they’re often being subject to investigation (even impalement) by spikes or claws, and here we perhaps find the reason his work remains out of print. Feminists then and now would have taken a dim view of Bertrand’s more violent works; even if Taschen did produce a Bertrand collection, it’s unlikely that many of the more grotesque pictures would be included.

All the pictures in the Losfeld books were produced in a short period from 1967–69. What happened to Bertrand afterwards remains a mystery. Did he decide to do pursue a different, more commercial direction? Is he still alive? The books offer no clue but maybe someone out there has the answer.

Update: Nathalie discovers that the artist in question is Raymond Bertrand, and more of his work can be seen here.






Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The fantastic art archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Chrome: Perfumed Metal
Oz magazine, 1967–73

24 thoughts on “The art of Bertrand”

  1. To quote Spinal Tap: “What’s wrong with being sexy?” An extraordinary find, John. Somehow reminiscent of the late, great Jim Leon. These images could have easily found their way onto an old J.G. Ballard Panther paperback… or even a Burroughs Corgi/Penguin edition. Another one for the list…

  2. I used to see some of those as a kid, but I’ll admit to be equally clueless about the identity and whereabouts of the guy.

  3. of course it may be as much to do with the media, airbrush?

    There doesn’t seem to be any airbrush involved. All those shaded areas are the result of very fine ink dots or lines.

    Martin: I think Bertrand appeared in Oz with Jim Leon as they often ran weird art to fill in a page or two. I know Leon was in there as I have one of the issues; tried to find mention of Bertrand and Oz but without success. Leon is deserving of a mention here at some point.

    Nathalie: That’s interesting, it shows his work must have been a lot more visible at one time.

  4. Our Bertrand is one Raymond Bertrand.
    I have found some works he has done for SF magazines at this address:
    But no biography.
    He seems to share the name with a deceased American painter, whose style has little to do with this one.

    On the related subject of Losfeld Editions, while I was at my parents in Easter, I had the occasion to read again the “Saga de Xam” comic. Do you know it ?
    I was interested to know who had created it (I did not remember) and found it had been a collective effort.
    The drawings are very interesting (but the lettering a nightmare to read).

  5. Damn, that’s some great research Nathalie! I tried all manner of cross-referenced Googling but couldn’t find anything. A nice little gallery of images there and interesting to see there’s work that goes up to 1975.

    I only know the other Losfeld books from what I’ve seen online. French comics rarely appear over here unless they get translated. The Lambiek comics guide has some information:

    “Nicolas Devil was one of France’s earliest adult comic artists. After Jean-Claude Forest pioneered with his ‘Barbarella’ series, publisher Eric Losfeld started publishing adult comics. Losfeld’s catalogue contained among others work by Philippe Druillet, Guy Peellaert and Paul Cuvelier. Devil drew the erotic and psychedelic science-fiction ‘Saga de Xam’ series, a comic written by Jean Rollin.”

  6. These are decidedly weird. However, I don’t think we can simply call Eric Losfeld a porn publisher. He’s also the editor of the volumes of surrealist tracts and declarations 1922-1969 (2 vols). So… the surreal aspect of these fits.

  7. You’re right, that was a rather broad-brush description and no slight intended. My colleagues at Savoy Books have published porn at one time or another. Without Victorian pornographer, Leonard Smithers, we wouldn’t have had The Savoy magazine and Beardsley’s later works. And Maurice Gerodias gave a home to Naked Lunch and Lolita, among others.

    The Surrealists were passionate (as it were) about sex, of course. I imagine Georges Bataille would have liked Bertrand’s works.

  8. Some very accomplished work there, Nathalie, a shame it’s such a pain to look through! Some of the pictures wouldn’t show up after the page had loaded. Photographers’ sites are like that too often, everyone uses Flash galleries which are slow and rarely work as intended.

  9. Mind blown, once again. Just when I had begun to suspect there were no surprises left…along comes Bertrand!This vindicates my own fumbling efforts in this vein, all of which seem so stifled and restrained when compared to the glorious indulgences displayed here.
    Abebooks has a copy of the Bertrand book – £35 & P&P – should anyone be as intrigued as myself.

    I agree with your response to Martin – Jim Leon is long-overdue a feature here. Keep up the excellent work.

  10. Back in the 1960’s, I used to haunt a bookshop in Monmouth Street London W1 called “Proffer Books” owned by a nice old chap called George Proffer who used to be a distributor for all types of French weirdness including the Losfeld and Pauvert titles.Tuppy Owens used to pop in too.

    He distributed the Raymond Bertrand and Saga de Xam books – the latter was subsequently sold with a fresnel lens since no one could read the prose!

    I bought huge amounts from him in that line much of which is lost though the various Bertrands, Moliniers and Pauvert erotica are still retained.

    Would’nt Poumeyrol be a fab choice for an illustrated edition of “Bruges La Morte”?

  11. Poumeyrol would indeed be a great illustrator of Bruges La Morte. In fact I’m surprised some of the engravers I’ve looked at in previous posts haven’t considered doing something with Rodenbach’s novel.

  12. I read last week that Bertrand did the (original?) illustrations for the novel ‘Emmanuelle’. I too had trouble finding info on him…and it doesn’y help that there was an artist named Raymond Clarence Bertrand. I’d be very interested indeed to learn what became of a person with such an extraordinary imagination coupled to such grace of execution.

  13. I recently found this Raymond Bertrand book….entitled ‘The Drawings of Bertrand’ published by Grove Press in 1974….ISBN: 0-394-49264-1
    Grove press ISBN: 0-8021-0040-6, Library of Congress catalog number: 73-21034…was distributed by random house inc….

  14. There are quite a few copies of that book around. If anyone finds the artist’s current hangout please let me know.

  15. Another reference:

    BERTRAND. – Dessins érotiques. [Two volumes: I. – Texte d’Emmanuelle Arsan. Introduction par Raymond Bordes. – 1969 ; II. – Texte de Hubert Juin. – 1971.] Eric Losfeld, 1969, 71. 4to. [Bibliothèque Nationale: KC-360-4.]

  16. one of the greatest,the only one in this kind.
    inspired many young designers like dylan did it with his music !

  17. Hi William. This isn’t a bookselling site and I’m not a book dealer. I’ve grown so tired of people asking questions like this that I’ll now be deleting further queries. It’s depressing that one of the main reasons people bother to leave a comment is simply to find the value of something they own but can’t be bothered to search for themselves.

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