Seminal art and design


Fountain (2011) by John Coulthart.

seminal, a. and n.

A. adj. Of or pertaining to seed; of the nature of seed.

1. a. Of or pertaining to the seed or semen of men and animals (applied Phys. and Anat. to structures adapted to contain or convey semen); of the nature of semen.

Oxford English Dictionary

The Dirty Comics exhibition curated by Jon Macy opens today in San Francisco so here at last is my non-comics contribution to Jon’s erotic art show. This is something I’d had in mind for a while so it was good to have the opportunity to actually tackle the thing, and also have an outlet for it outside this website. Below I explore some of the intent and inspiration which led to the piece.

Creating some sort of gay erotica was an idea I’d had in mind for a while but it suffered from the usual syndrome whereby work with no immediate outlet gets shunted aside by the pressure of paid commissions and ongoing personal projects. It’s also the case that pieces of work I create for myself I tend to want to sell or see reproduced via a service such as CafePress. The trouble is that most of those services are based in the US which means they’re subject to that tiresome puritan attitude towards sexual content: anything other than “artistic” nudity is forbidden at CafePress, and the same applies to many other self-publishing services. There are outlets for gay erotica but I’ve not had chance to explore the best options. If anyone has any tips then please leave a comment.


This angel figure was something I’d drawn back to 2008 when I’d made a start on a similar work which fell by the wayside. One of the great things about computer graphics is being able to work on part of something which can then be picked up later and dropped into a new composition.


So the intention was to produce a follow-up to the Dodgem Logic cover I created last year which presented a same-sex take on various Art Nouveau stylisations. The figures above are from one of the early drafts which takes a border design from Alphonse Mucha’s Documents Decoratifs (below), a series of sample borders and frames Mucha produced for the use of artists and designers.


Documents Decoratifs (1902) by Alphonse Mucha.

The obvious change, of course, is the substitution of the ubiquitous decorative females of the Art Nouveau style for some decorative males. Much Art Nouveau design verges on soft porn, as the examples here from Mucha and Privat-Livemont demonstrate. Mucha and Privat-Livemont were both popular poster artists so my idea evolved into the production of a pornographic advertising poster with an ejaculating penis as the object being “promoted”.


Absinthe Robette (1896) by Henri Privat-Livemont.


Art et Décoration (1897).

The florid frame is something I swiped from this prospective cover design for a French Art Nouveau journal. I’ve no idea who H. Sauvage is but they’d no doubt be appalled to see how their design has been used by one of those terrible people from the future. It took a lot of work to turn a low-grade scan into a smooth vector shape.


Fountain (2004) by Cary Kwok; The Fountain of Youth by Benoit Prévot.

As to the title of the piece, I had in mind Benoit Prévot’s Fountain of Youth but I discovered only a couple of days ago that there’s an earlier example of the same idea by artist Cary Kwok who has a wonderful series of drawings of ejaculating males. There’s even some similarity between our compositions although he goes for more of a Busby Berkeley effect with his figures.


A poster needs a title which means choosing a typeface. I’m generally wary of using Arnold Böcklin, an Art Nouveau typeface designed by Otto Weisert in 1904 which was utilised far too often in the 1970s. But my layout has something of the 1970s about it—the colouring and the rounded corners, for instance—so it seemed like the ideal choice. The decision was reinforced after I’d finished everything and found this 70s book cover in an online gallery. I’ve no idea who the artist is but they’re better than the average for this period.

Dirty Comics runs throughout October at the Center for Sex & Culture, 1349 Mission Street, San Francisco. In addition to the show itself, the Center will be staging two related events: A Discussion of Yaoi with Agnes Czaja on October 13th, and Kinky Wonder Woman with Boston Blake on October 18th. See the Center website for further details.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Phallic casts
Return of the Triumphant Phallus
The Choise of Valentines, Or the Merie Ballad of Nash His Dildo
Dodgem Logic #4
The fascinating phallus
The Triumph of the Phallus
Le Phallus phénoménal
The art of Benoit Prévot
Phallic bibelots
The New Love Poetry
Phallic worship
The art of ejaculation

7 thoughts on “Seminal art and design”

  1. Yes, Muchaesque. That reminds me, I keep intending to buy the collected editions of those.

  2. Thom: Thanks!

    Nick: Entendres single, double or otherwise seem unavoidable in this kind of discussion. The ghost of Frankie Howerd is always close at hand.

  3. Superb work Mr. Coulthart!
    Homoerotica today is too often devoid of any arty content, let alone Art-Noveau of this caliber.
    I love the colour scheme, the placement of the figures…wonderful.

  4. Hi Rossco, and thanks. I’d like to do more in this line, just need to tear myself away from other things for long enough.

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