I have a fondness for unique children's books and always keep an eye out for them in second hand bookshops; you know, the ones with the creaky hardwood floors? One of the illustrators I like to watch for, is Latvian artist Feodor Rojankowsky, known as "Rojan", who worked in Paris in the '20s and '30s.
My favorite Rojan illustrated book, from my personal collection, is a Little Golden Book published in 1933, Gaston and Josephine, a delightful story about two little pigs, who leave their farm in France for an adventure in America. I love this one so much, I had to find a copy on eBay, for my daughter, as well. Another of his books, The Three Bears, from my childhood, is just as quirky, and full of old world charm.
Although he was primarily known as a children's book illustrator, Rojan's other artistic endeavours were less well known, but no less appreciated. He regularly illustrated erotic fiction and his output was impressive. His erotic drawings often accompanied the poetry of Raymond Radiguet and Pierre Louÿs, as well as many others of the golden age of French erotica.
Rojan's chief accomplishment, has always been considered to be Idylle Printanière or Spring Idyll, published by ER Books as Paris Spring 1933, a "story without words" telling of an encounter between two elegant travellers who meet on a platform in the Paris Metro.
This art-deco masterpiece has lost none of its original fire and brilliance. The original 1933 edition, with only 516 sets printed, is now almost unobtainable and has fetched up to £2,500 at auction.
Here's a steamy example of Pierre Louÿs' poetry, which Rojan often illustrated, from Poetica Erotica. Ed. T.R. Smith. New York: Crown Publishers, 1921, translated to English by Horace M. Brown.
She has gone out, she is far from me,
but I see her, for all things in the room,
all pertain to her, and I, like all the rest.
This bed still warm,
over which I let my lips wander,
is disordered with the imprint of her form.
Upon this soft cushion has lain her little head
enveloped in its wealth of hair.
This basin is that in which she hath bathed;
this comb has penetrated
the knots of her tangled locks.
These slippers beg for her naked feet.
These pockets of gauze contained her breasts.
But what I dare not touch, is the mirror
in which she gazed upon her hot bruises,
and where perhaps remains still
the reflection of her moist lips.