Toyen’s Erotic drawings are still block-bait on Instagram almost a century on
Out of the cold, cobbled streets of gothic Prague flourished Toyen, an artist said to be one of the co-founders of Czech surrealism.
Born in 1902, Toyen was born Marie Čermínová, and in 1923 changed their name to Toyen, which was derived from the French word ‘citoyen’, meaning citizen. Toyen preferred this name as it was gender-neutral.
Pybrac was a collection of erotic poems written by the notorious Pierre Louÿs. Pierre rubbed shoulders with Oscar Wilde, Andre Gide and Stephanie Mallarne in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Pierre explored themes of sodomy, lesbianism, incest, and prostitution, leaving him and his work polarising to the present day.
Toyen produced ten sketches/drawings for Pybrac. They are a collection of phallic and erotic imagery, which is arguably reflective of European and more specifically, Parisian sexuality in the 1930’s.
However, the collection of drawings was never intended to be published. They were found scattered amongst hidden manuscripts after Toyen’s death, and then later auctioned off around the world.
Jednadvacet is a collection of 21 drawings, requested by Boshuslav Boruk in 1938 as a gift/primer for his brother’s wedding.
Jednadvacet means twenty-one in Czech. Twenty-one is also the number of pontoon or blackjack; the age in which people tend to get married; and it is also section 21 of Sigmund Freud’s 1920 General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, ‘Development of the Libido’. Bare this in mind when looking at the drawings in Jednadvacet, as the ideas are explored in its imagery.
It is also interesting to see how the protagonist of each image is almost always the woman. The male genitalia is the fetish of the woman, kept in a cage, used as a toy, or even used as a piece for a chessboard.
It is unusual for such work to be from a female lens.
Toyen's work is incredibly revolutionary for the time. A founder of Czech Surrealism, a fearless trans woman, and a boundary-pushing artist, Toyen's work remains to this day, a violation of Instagram's rules. Her work is still alive and important.