Molinier was born in 1900. From 1920 he studied as a painter, progressing in style through Realism and Impressionism to abstraction. By 1936 he was producing surreal Symbolist works in which he interwove Moreau-esque imagery with a fascination for the more savage aspects of ancient Egyptian and Indian religions, Satanism and the teachings of the Brotherhood, a secret masonic order which he had joined in the 1920s. It was in these paintings of cruel, multi-limbed women, reminiscent of the work of Hans Belmer, that the artist began his investigation of the sexual ambiguity which was to become his obsession.

In 1955 Molinier made contact with the leading Surrealist Andre Breton and by 1959 was showing at the International Surrealist Exhibition. At this time he defined the purpose of his art as ‘for my own stimulation’, indicating his future direction in one of his exhibits in the 1965 Surrealist show – a dildo. It was also in this year that Molinier, with the aid of a remote control switch, began to create photographs in which he assumed the roles of dominatrix and succuba previously taken by the women of his paintings.


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In these beautifully-made, intimate black and white photographs, Molinier, either alone with doll-like mannekins or with female models, appears as a transvestite, transformed by his ‘fetish’ wardrobe of fishnet stockings, suspender belt, stilettos, mask and corset.

The Surrealists, like the Symbolists and Romantics before them, were concerned to liberate man’s latent eroticism through their art. In 1959, Breton defined eroticism as ‘a privileged place, a theatre in which incitement and prohibition play their roles, and where the most profound moments of life make sport’, and for the last 11 years of his life Molinier played out his own most profound moments in the ‘theatre’ of his Bordeaux ‘boudoir-atelier’.

Molinier intended his photographs to shock. He invites each viewer to bring to the images his or her own response, of excitement or disgust. What was essential was that everyone should be ‘contaminated’.

The French artist died in 1976 from a self-inflicted gunshot.  His suicide was a final performance in front of the mirror in his studio where for a dozen years he enacted and photographed his rituals of erotic self-transformation.


Pierre Molinier

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 Sursa: The independent