Pierre Molinier

Pierre Molinier was a French surrealist photographer and painter born in Agen, France, in 1900. His began his career as an artist by painting landscapes but eventually turned to photography and photo-collage as his primary means of expression. Molinier made little impact on the art world until very late in life. In 1955, he contacted André Breton and sent him photographs of his paintings. Breton integrated him into the Surrealist group and organized an exhibition of Molinier’s paintings in Paris, in January–February 1956.

Between 1965 and his suicide in 1976, he chronicled his exploration of his subconscious transsexual desires in graphically detailed images of pain and pleasure. It was also in this year that Molinier, with the aid of a remote control switch, began to create photographs in which he assumed the roles of dominatrix and succubus previously taken by the women of his paintings. In these beautifully-made, intimate black and white photographs, Molinier, either alone with doll-like mannequins or with female models, appears as a transvestite, transformed by his ‘fetish’ wardrobe of fishnet stockings, suspender belt, stilettos, mask and corset. In montages, an unlikely number of stockinged limbs intertwine to create the women of Molinier’s paintings.

He defined eroticism as ‘a privileged place, a theatre in which incitement and prohibition play their roles, and where the most profound moments of life make sport’.

For the last 11 years of his life Molinier played out his own most profound moments in the ‘theatre’ of his Bordeaux atelier. He intended his photographs to shock, inviting the viewer to bring to the images his or her own response of excitement or disgust.

By the 1970s, Molinier’s health began to decline. Like his father before him, Pierre Molinier committed suicide at 76 years of age by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.