Although Louis Icart is renowned in the art world for his risque boudoir art etchings and aquatint works, he occasionally strayed into the field of nudes. Many of his works displayed beautiful women in various states of undress, but there are only around 20 known which can actually be classified as nudes in the strictest sense. While the artworks can and should be judged subjectively, we provide you here with our opinion of the 10 best Louis Icart nude etchings.
10) My Model, (Modele) c. 1932
It is rare for Louis Icart to create etching with such a lack of color, but in this instance it creates a dreamy image that serves to accentuate the pale nature of the subject. The playful smile of the model as she poses for the artist imagines a slight embarrassment, as if she is just beginning to become more comfortable undressed. The artist makes a cute remark, eliciting a slight giggle that brightens her eyes for just a moment. Created later in his career, this 21 1/8 x 16 1/2 etching had a low print run, and is difficult to locate in the market today.
9) Fair Model, (Premeire Rose) c. 1937
“Fair Model” was released late in Icart’s career, and many would consider this piece as beyond the boudoir art style. It seems more like a work by one of the later pin-up artists, such as Vargas, although the setting is pure Icart. The blonde woman still wears her shoes, indicating this is a staged pose. She looks down and away, brushing her hair from her neck with her arm, which suggests a submissive or self-conscious attitude. Her clothes are carefully laid on the chair, displayed intentionally as props as if to say “You can see my clothes here, and you can look at me here without them”. Created in 1937, the edition must have been small, but it’s appeal appears to have ensured that numerous examples still exist today on the market. At 18 1/4 x 11 1/8, it is an average-sized work for Icart during this period.
8) Repose, (Sommeil) c. 1934
“Repose” is an interesting piece from several perspectives. It is 18 5/8 inches high, and a whopping 45 1/2 inches wide, making it one of the largest etchings ever created by Louis Icart. This sleeping mademoiselle has all of the features of classic French beauty. Her pale complexion, almost white tightly-curled hair, generous thighs, and diminutive feet were all hallmarks of the accepted definition of 1920’s iconic women. We stumble upon her asleep on some sort of fur, with her feet still wearing her heels from the evening. A diamond bracelet still adorns her wrist, a forgotten detail, or a gift from a suitor. Perhaps an image of post-coital exhaustion with a contented smile on her lips. Regardless, “Repose” was created in 1934 as boudoir art began to give way from partial nudity to total nudity as being acceptable to the buying public. We do find this etching occasionally in the market, but expect to pay dearly for it if for no other reason than the sheer size.
7) Red Fan , c. 1940
“Red Fan” was created very late in Louis Icart’s career. There are many points of departure from his usual style, not the least of which is the choice of model. She appears immature, almost to the point of being child-like. Her legs and arms are very long and slender, her breasts are small, and her stomach stretched and flat. Her full cherub-like cheeks accent her perfect smile, and her hair is thick and luxurious. We have no way of knowing the age of the model, or if it just an image Icart conjured from his own mind. Like most of his work, we find more puzzles to ponder the longer we examine them. The etching is very small, at a mere 7 7/8 x 10 1/4 inches, but story it tells is as large as our own imagination. Having been produced so late in Icart’s career, the total production run would have been very small. It rarely comes to market, and so expect to pay accordingly to obtain one, even for an etching of such a small size.
6) Venus in the Waves (La Vague), c. 1931
In the 1930’s, Louis Icart began experimenting with motion in his images, a motif rarely explored by him before. “Venus in the Waves” is one of his earliest examples, with the stormy clouds, rising waves, and accompanying seagulls all contributing to the motion of the piece. The seagulls flank her as if they are friends, as animals often are to a goddess on Earth. It almost appears as if she is summoning the wave to caress her, and the foam at the breaking crest becomes wings she can use to fly, like her bird familiars. She is no mere mortal, she is a force of nature. At 19 x 15 3/8, it is an average size for the period. This stunning image can usually be found by diligent seekers, but prices are often higher than the average Louis Icart etchings.
5) Laughing (Rieuse), c. 1930
Resting on huge fluffy white pillows we find a mature woman relaxing and smiling, at home and comfortable without her clothing. She holds her arms above her head as if to facilitate the view of her breasts. She is unabashed, unashamed, and proud of her body. As is typical of Louis Icart nudes, she still wears her shoes even in such a playful pose. The work departs from the typical 1920’s etchings in that the outlines of the figure are very dark and defined, as if it were an attempt to make the piece appear hastily made. The etching markets itself as a mere sketch dashed off to capture the moment when the subject was most at ease. At 11 3/8 x 16 3/8 inches it is an average size for Icart’s etchings from the period. Fairly hard to find, “Laughing” can command reasonable premiums over typical similar Icart etchings
4) Human Grenade (La Grenade), c 1917
During World War I, Louis Icart continued to produce etchings, but the majority dealt with patriotic themes. “Human Grenade” epitomizes the indomitable spirit of the homeland. His first known nude etching, a young, beautiful, red-haired girl explodes upward from the ground, her silky hair entwined with holly leaves and berries. Symbolizing life and rebirth, it is an iconic image in stark contrast to the horror and destruction of the war. It also has the distinction as one of the only times Louis Icart presents a woman with bare feet. As such an early etching, it is likely no more than 50 were made. At 17 3/8 x 12 inches, it is of below-average size for the period. Nearly impossible to find in any condition, collectors can search for this etching for years an never find one. It is the rarest nude on this list by a large margin.
3) Pink Slippers (Reveil), c. 1936
Clearly difficult to locate, “Pink Slippers” has been on the hit list of collectors for decades. A rare nude with black hair, this graceful form on her bed strikes a classic pose. With the sweeping background treatment reminiscent of canopy fabric, the smiling woman almost beckons the viewer with her left hand to join her on the bed. This particular etching is of average size, at 11 x 24 1/2 inches, but the elongated shape tends to make the image even more striking. As is usual for Louis Icart, she wears her heels even in the bed, adding a pink flash of color to an otherwise colorless background. Her atypical short tangled hair and dark eyes give her a genuine sassy attitude.
2) Venus (Venus), c. 1928
Created directly in the most explosive period of the boudoir art genre, “Venus” is a statement that affirms to the world that a woman does not require the trappings of clothing to be beautiful. Here Louis Icart uses generous contrasts of light and darkness to illuminate the graceful goddess who sprawls across a bed of fur. The effect of the fur and the draped bed canopy takes the circular format and makes it almost swirl. With roses in her hair and a large golden bracelet, she rolls effortlessly in a relaxed abandon. As always, we find her still wearing her slippers, a trademark of Louis Icart nudes. The sweeping lines combine the tassel from the canopy sheet with the graceful form, almost looking like a tail. The etching measures 13 3/8 x 18 7/8 inches, which is a quite average size for the period. However, the stunning work and the striking subject matter means that “Venus” is rarely available on the market.
1) Eve (Eve), c. 1925
Produced in 1925, “Eve” was a groundbreaking piece for Louis Icart. Not since World War I had he produced a full nude, something somewhat taboo in the boudoir art genre. Here he displays his interpretation of the first woman through his model, with apples littering the floor, and one near her mouth missing a bite. The symbolism is clear; she has take a bite of the apple and is no longer free from sin. She lets out a long sigh of satisfaction, and stretches her arms, for she has just lost her virginity and is now a woman. Coiled around her forearm is a snake bracelet, to remind us of the snake in the Garden of Eden. Although her hair is short and tightly curled, the thick and long fur of the blanket on the bed drapes down, almost as if it is her hair. The brilliant illumination of the figure adds an almost angelic quality to her beauty. In a single image, Louis Icart chronicles the transition of a girl into a woman, a theme attempted by many but accomplished by few. This etching was so popular and so much in demand that it was recreated by Icart in a different format in 1933 under the title of “Love’s Awakening”. It is today among the top etchings by Louis Icart reproduced in poster and giclee formats. At 13 1/4 x 18 7/8 inches, the etching is not an imposing size. However, for the exceptional imagery, stunning execution, and difficult theme, we must give the number one spot to “Eve” from the nude etchings library of the master of boudoir art.