Félicien Rops was a Belgian artist, known primarily as a printmaker in etching and aquatint. Rops often combined soft-ground etching—a technique practiced by few artists of his day—with mezzotint or aquatint, and sometimes added hand-coloring to his plates. His etchings were popular, and influenced many younger artists, including Symbolists such as Edvard Munch and Max Klinger.
Rops met Charles Baudelaire towards the end of the poet’s life in 1864, and Baudelaire left an impression upon him that lasted until the end of his days. Rops created the frontispiece for Baudelaire’s Les Épaves, a selection of poems from Les Fleurs du mal that had been censored in France, and which therefore were published in Belgium. His association with Baudelaire and with the art he represented won his work the admiration of many other writers, including Théophile Gautier, Alfred de Musset, Stéphane Mallarmé, Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, and Joséphin Péladan. He was closely associated with the literary movement of Symbolism and Decadence.
Like the works of the authors whose poetry he illustrated, his work tends to mingle sex, death, and Satanic images. According to Edith Hoffmann, the “erotic or frankly pornographic” nature of much of Rops’s work “is at least partly due to the attraction these subjects had for a provincial artist who never forgot his first impressions of Paris”.