Anthony Christian found his first mannequin (300 yrs old) in a shop in Paris in 1975 and immediately christened him Mr Frank as he had cost so many Francs! He took him back to London and created the first series of white mannequin paintings in June 1976. Anthony moved to Italy at the end of 1976 and the next year created a second mannequin series, this time in red. In the middle of 1977, on a visit to Paris, he found Mrs Frank (350 yrs old) in the same shop that he had found Mr Frank. At the end of 1977 Anthony moved to Paris and painted Mr and Mrs Frank together for the first time in June 1978. The painting was called Pieta. The Love and Marriage series followed in 1985 when he was living in New York and, due to huge demand, Anthony created a second white mannequin series in 1986/87.
From time immemorial, Man has celebrated his sexuality through Art: sometimes he has paralleled his sexual and Spiritual joys, resulting in such wonders as India’s Khajaraho Temple which, due to its colossal size has survived the dreaded censor and centuries of puritanical hypocrisy. Most Erotic Art, however, not being on such a grand scale, has been vulnerable to the tyrannical censor, who enjoyed it himself whilst hiding it away from the common man, allowing him to see only what those in power considered suitable as a means to keep him under their strict political or religious thumb.
In spite of tyrants, however, artists have continued to create, from the highly erotic Illuminated Manuscripts of medieval monasteries to the great Shunga paintings of Japan, from the miniatures of sixteenth and seventeenth century Rajasthan to the intricate ivories of China, or, in the West, from the hands of Masters as diverse as Rembrandt and Courbet to Beardsley and von Bayros, to name but a few of the countless artists who have produced the great body of Erotic Art that exists today, but has been hidden until relatively recently.
In fact, the first thing that amazes any student about to embark on a study of Erotic Art is the sheer quantity of what has been produced; then surely he would be further amazed that so many people had worked so hard to keep it more or less unknown. Even the artists themselves would keep their more daring works well hidden, in fear for their very lives for having created it. Happily the censor, the blackhead on the face of Society, is now being slowly but steadily squeezed out, and so one can begin to get a clearer idea of the vastness and true greatness of this genre, especially through publications such as Lyall Stewart’s “Erotic Art of the Masters” or the Kronhausen two volume “Erotic Art” or best of all the most extensive Klinger Catalogues, to name but a few in a veritable library of books on Erotic Art now available in most bookstores worldwide.
It was only Goya’s high connections at Court that saved him from the lunacy of the Inquisition, for painting the “obscene” Naked Maja, today universally recognized as one of the greatest works of art in the world. Since early on in my youth I had a horror of censorship, never quite able to grasp the concept that one man might think he had the right to tell another what he could or could not look at. It has been with no little delight that during my lifetime I have watched as, especially in Literature and the Cinema, the critic has been made ever more redundant. I still feel however, that the visual arts are not entirely free of prejudice, or a censorial force that prevents the genre of Erotic Art from being recognized as the truly great art form I believe it to be. I hope that my work might contribute to the Universal recognition of this wonderful genre which after all is the greatest possible celebration we can have of our very existence, and the love we might find in it. I hope that I might live to see this genre placed on at least equal footing with all other forms of art found in the museums of the world.
While I would never create a work of art that was shocking for shocking’s sake, neither would I dream of censoring – or expecting anyone else to censor – any inspiration that I might receive. I paint for many reasons; one of them is to educate, and I hope by the beauty and integrity of my work that I may teach people the difference between pornography and great art, and shatter the last shackles bonding those imprisoned by ignorance or hypocrisy.
Few people could be as intimately acquainted with the old masters as myself; from the age of three I studied them in books, and then from ten years old I studied them and virtually lived with them for six years in London’s National Gallery, where I was given, uniquely, a highly privileged permission to study by copying, a fact recorded in countless national and international newspapers at that time. On top of all that, I then studied Rubens and Rembrandt for a further seven years, whilst also studying the drawings of Leonardo and Michelangelo concurrently. The old masters are my heritage; I have spent my life painting in what has often been called an “old master style.” My respect for them is unswerving, and anyone thinking my work is in the slightest derisive could not be further from the truth. The greatest of their works gives Art the very credibility it has today. I do admit to an occasional chiding of one or two of them who I feel were somewhat pompous at times, or who sucked up to the Establishment just a little too much, but the (visual) chiding is always done with love, and most certainly with great respect.
Personally, I celebrate sex as a pure and loving form of communication, regarding it in fact as the “outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace,” For me it is nothing short of worship, of the beauty of women in general – within and without – and the particular beauty of one’s own partner or, even more wondrous, of one’s Soulmate, if one is lucky enough to find her, as I have been. Only if sex is abused or perverted could it ever be considered as “obscene” or dirty in any way, and no work of mine would ever abuse sex in any way or on any level. My only interests are to close the door once and for all in the face of anyone who would have us believe that sex is sinful or dirty – of course it can be, as can politics and religion – that never more clearly seen than now – but when treated with love and respect, as it certainly is by myself, it can only be regarded as beautiful, which is what I, as an Artist, attempt to reflect – as I attempt to further the cause of the things I most believe in…Love, Truth and Beauty.
This is a series of paintings of my wife, Fanny, sleeping. It is a natural progression from my well known Mannequin Series in which I concentrate on Drapery, one of my favourite subjects to paint. In that series, I draped the inanimate mannequins , giving them a sense of life and emotion. Here I have reversed that idea by taking a real person, the love of my life, and painting her in an objective manner concentrating once again on the fantastic drapery.
When I moved to New York in 1981, although I was completely unaware of it, it was at a very special moment in the City’s history. Also completely unaware of it having any special significance, the place I found to live was a loft in downtown Manhattan, in fact on its most southern street at the river’s edge called South Street. My loft was on the top floor, and I overlooked both the huge old galleon permanently moored there called The Peking, as well as the Brooklyn Bridge which fast became my favourite bridge and my favourite view in the world.
I loved the area I had found myself in as I even found many New Yorkers who, when they asked where I lived and I told them, would respond in surprise. “South Street? Never heard of it!” I loved having found somewhere even locals didn’t know about, especially as I also loved the oldness and crumbling quality of it all. Sadly, it was that very quality that had caused a huge development company to acquire the entire area with the intention of turning it into a modern tourist centre, pulling down where necessary, but at the very least giving facelifts to the point of unrecognizability, the very buildings that were amongst my favourites.
So much did I fall in love with this city, especially this tiny part of it, for the first time in my life I went out into the streets to paint it. I became a sort of New York Monet, and certainly hoped I might do for New York what Monet did for Paris. After quite a short while however, I realised the developers and demolition were moving ahead faster than I could paint, and so I went around taking a few photographs of my most treasured corners, thinking that if the worst came to the worst at least I would be able to finish off my series from those photographs. Some even included the Twin Towers, which had quickly become the first really modern building in the world I actually loved and, on one clear bright sunny day, I had been to its roof and over-looked this tiny island that had so totally captured my heart.
This is the small series I was able to create of that unforgettable time and place in New York’s history.