Camille Clovis Trouille worked as a restorer and decorator of department store mannequins, but is remembered as a Sunday painter who trained at the École des Beaux-Arts of Amiens from 1905 to 1910. His service in World War I gave him a lifelong hatred of the military, expressed in his first major painting Remembrance (1931). The painting depicts a pair of wraith-like soldiers clutching white rabbits, an airborne female contortionist throwing a handful of medals, and the whole scene being blessed by a cross-dressing cardinal. This contempt for the Church as a corrupt institution provided Trouille with the inspiration for decades of work.
After his work was seen by Louis Aragon and Salvador Dalí, Trouille was declared a Surrealist by André Breton – a label Trouille accepted only as a way of gaining exposure, not having any real sympathy with that movement. The simple style and lurid colouring of Trouille’s paintings echo the lithographic posters used in advertising in the first half of the 20th century. They are a precursor to the work of artists such as Robert Williams, Rockin’ Jelly Bean, The Pizz, and Isabel Samaras.
His 1946 portrait of a reclining nude shown from behind entitled Oh! Calcutta, Calcutta! (a pun from the French phrase “oh quel cul t’as” which translates roughly as “oh what a lovely ass you have”) seems a subtle nod to Marcel Duchamp’s LHOOQ (“She wears hot hot pants”) while upping the ante.