Pierre Molinier

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Pierre Molinier (April 13, 1900 – March 3, 1976) was a painter, photographer and "maker of objects". He was born in Agen (France) and lived his life in Bordeaux (France). He began his career by painting landscapes, but his work turned towards a fetishistic eroticism early on. Molinier began to take photographs at the age of 18. Moliener was homosexual transvestite, Pierre Molinier lived the violence and sexual obsessions his fellow Surrealists only dreamt about. Now barely remembered as a footnote to the Surrealist movement, it was Molinier - not Dali, nor Magritte - who did it for real. Between 1965 and his suicide in 1976, he chronicled his exploration of his subconscious transexual desires in Cents Photographes Erotique: graphically detailed images of pain and pleasure now on show in London. In 1955 Molinier made contact with the leading Surrealist Andre Breton and by 1959 was showing at the International Surrealist Exhibition. At this time he defined the purpose of his art as 'for my own stimulation', indicating his future direction in one of his exhibits in the 1965 Surrealist show - a dildo. 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 succuba previously taken by the women of his paintings. In these beautifully-made, intimate black and white photographs, Molinier, either alone with doll-like mannekins 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. The Surrealists, like the Symbolists and Romantics before them, were concerned to liberate man's latent eroticism through their art. In 1959, Breton 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', and for the last 11 years of his life Molinier played out his own most profound moments in the 'theatre' of his Bordeaux 'boudoir-atelier'. Molinier intended his photographs to shock. He invites each viewer to bring to the images his or her own response, of excitement or disgust. What was essential was that everyone should be 'contaminated'. Only then would they be able to know themselves, to discover their true erotic sensibility and find real spiritual freedom. Molinier explored his own senses and uncovered connections between religious ritual and sexuality which he believed had been obscured by the post- Renaissance morality he so despised. He was a transvestite Baudelaire who rather than words, chooses as his medium the corset, the mask and the chain. He asks the viewer to challenge received orthodoxies of art and morality and, like a jester, seeks to destroy taboos. In both this, and his transvestism, Molinier echoes the ancient Shamanic tradition and his experiments in sexual transformation can be interpreted as an attempt to regain the primordial, Platonic perfection of the androgyne. It is significant that his (unrealised) biography was to have been entitled The Shaman and His Creatures. He began a correspondence with André Breton and sent him photographs of his paintings. Later Breton integrated him into the Surrealist group. Breton organized an exhibition of Molinier's paintings in Paris, in January–February 1956.

Pierre Molinier's enigmatic photographs have influenced European and North American body artists since the 1970s, including Jürgen Klauke, Cindy Sherman, Ron Athey, Rick Castro and his work continues to engage artists, critics, and collectors today.

In 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.


  • Borde, Raymond/Breton, André – "Pierre Molinier", Paris, Terrain Vague, 1964.
  • Gorsen, Peter/Molinier Pierre – "Pierre Molinier,lui meme", Munchen, 1972.
  • Molinier, Pierre – "Cent photographies érotiques", Paris, Obliques, 1979.
  • MOLINIER, Pierre – Le chaman et ses créatures, Bordeaux : William Blake & Co., 1995, 96 p. [Preface by Pierre Molinier, introduction by Roland Villeneuve, photomontages, drawings and reproductions of paintings]
  • PETIT, Pierre – Molinier, une vie d'enfer, Paris : Editions Ramsay/Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1992, 267 p., 86 ill. [Biography in French] and Kyoto : Jimbun Shoin, 2000, 300 p., 86 ill. [Translation in Japanese]
  • PETIT, Pierre – Pierre Molinier et la tentation de l'Orient, Bordeaux : Opales / Pleine Page éditeurs, 2005, 64 p., 24 ill.
  • OUDIN, Alain Molinier, une vie magique, Paris Edition en ligne Enseigne-des-oudin, 2006, 205 pages
  • Moi, Petit Vampire de Molinier (Interview de Michelle Sesquès. Introduction et notes de Pierre Petit, Editions Monplaisir, 2012, 76 p., 1 ill.

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