Here are some rather delightful pictures from the period between just before the Great War and into the thirties. They are by French painter and illustrator Maurice Millière.
He was born in Le Havre in December 1871 and. after studying in his home town. continued his studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He studied portraiture, life drawing and figure painting under Leon Bonnat, who also taught Dufy and Touloise-Lautrec, which honed his draughtsmanship.
This figure ability was soon translated into cartoons and illustrations for the popular French magazines of the time such as La Vie Parisienne, Fantasio and Le Sourire.
During the period after the Great War, he created a series of pictures of modern young women, usually lounging in their underwear, which were quite unlike anything seen before.
The first jazz (1924)
These illustrations of the modern Parisienne became known as the "Petite femme de Millière" The women were portrayed as independent, self-absorbed and gently erotic, just the job for magazines like La Vie Parisienne.
Most of them seemed unaware that their already scanty underthings were often 'inadvertently' revealing parts of their slim bodies. In this one (above) Mademoiselle's garment has slipped to reveal a perky nipple and the fabric has moulded to her groin through which a hint of colour the same as her hair can be seen; very bold for the time.
Many of the pictures from the magazines had mildly saucy captions. This one here says: At the painter's "shall I take the chemise off as well?"'
Here is a girl trying out a new shower in her bathroom. This one reads: "Without travel or holidays I don't miss anything from the countryside. Look! I have even installed the rain at home."
"Of needle and thread", this one is called. "A dress is like love, the more you set it right the more you keep warm."
This one is entitled Troubling arguments.and depicts our young lady with a despairing looking man (who loooks very like the artist himself) Oh dear, a femme fatale, no doubt.
Millière's illustrations feature one distinctive looking girl above all others and he used the same model, Fanny, for many years. This two page spread from La Vie Parisienne depicts Fanny going off for a modelling session with him.
With his “Femmes Poupées” (doll women) Millière created the genre of boudoir art; the depiction of fetching young women in their underwear. He directly inspired Louis Icart (1888-1950) and, above all Alberto Vargas (1896-1982). Millière, essentially, created tyhe lingerie clad pin-up which still exists to this day, with artists like Olivia de Berardinis.
Between 1907 and 1937 he contributed a series of pictures to the magazine of the Société artistique Le Cornet, an art and literature society founded in 1895,of which he was a member. These were all of Fanny in various states of undress and over the decades she transformed from a coy teenager into a mature woman. The bottom one is called 'Fanny and her beautiful pussy' and it does mean the same in French!
Here Millière has Fanny as a goat-legged lady faun, although these did not exist in classical legend. All fauns and satyrs were men.
Here is an example of one of Millière's paintings. As he got older he stopped doing the erotic art and devoted a lot of time to charity work, especially for children injured or orphaned during the Great War, for which he was awarded the Legion d'Honneur. He died, a well respected establishment artist, in 1946 at the age of 77;
It is Millière who we have to thank for the birth of pin-up art and he, more than any other of La Vie Parisienne's talented artists, gave us the concept of images of lovely girls depicted falling out of their flimsy underwear.