Monday, November 12, 2007
Mariette Lydis, Nude - hand-coloured drypoint, 1949
Several websites make the claim that the Buenos Aires-based artist Mariette Lydis also worked under the pseudonym Suzanne Ballivet, both for clandestine erotica and for risqué trade publications. Because Ballivet's Initiation Amoureuse claims to have been printed in Buenos Aires in 1943, and because although Ballivet’s work is cruder and more hurried, there are definite stylistic affinities between the two women, for some time I thought that this identification was quite likely. After all, it's hardly likely that there could have been two different French women artists obsessed with lesbianism and erotic transgression living and working in Buenos Aires at the same time. And the pseudonym would have given Lydis the opportunity to have a second crack at commercially-attractive texts by writers such as Baudelaire and Louys.
However, it turns out that Lydis and Ballivet are, in fact, two completely different women. Suzanne Ballivet was an artist in her own right, who studied at the Beaux Arts de Montepellier in the 1920s, where she met the illustrator Albert Dubout, whom she was to marry in 1968. Initiation Amoureuse was actually published in Paris by Georges Guillot around 1950; the Buenos Aires claim is just a piece of flim-flam of the kind beloved of clandestine publishers.
Mariette Lydis, Nude torso - hand-coloured drypoint, 1949
Both Lydis and Ballivet worked with Georges Guillot around the same time, which is another possible source of the confusion between the two. I have an edition of Verlaine's Parallèlement published by Guillot in 1949, illustrated with original drypoints by Mariette Lydis. There were 520 copies, of which 190 had the drypoints (plus 5 planches refusées) delicately hand-coloured by the publisher's wife, Nadine Guillot. My copy also has one of 90 additional suites of the drypoints in black.