The Blasphemous Sensuality of Camille Clovis Trouille
Marijn Kruijff
8 min

The Blasphemous Sensuality of Camille Clovis Trouille

8 min
A while ago, our co-author Darya introduced me to the French artist Camille Clovis Trouille (1889-1975). She told me that there is a good chance his subversive art will evoke a discussion. Shunga Gallery is not averse to a bit of controversy so we decided to put it to the test.

'Camille Clovis Trouille as mannequin restorer'

Fig.1. ‘Camille Clovis Trouille as mannequin restorer‘ (Source:

So who was this intriguing “agitator”?

Oddly enough, Trouille is described with the pejorative Sunday (amateur) painter on the Wikipedia page while his controversial and often blasphemous, risqué work was recognized by some of the most important artists of his time. Salvador Dali and Louis Aragon were impressed by his anti-war painting Remembrance (Fig.2) when they saw it at the exposition Salon des peintres et écrivains révolutionnaires,  Also, one of the co-founders of surrealism André Breton was a fan of Trouille who crowned him “the grand master of anything goes” and even offered him an exhibition in his gallery.

clovis trouille: Painting Remembrance

Fig.2. ‘Remembrance‘ (1931) (Source: )

Everything is Erotic

Although he was embraced by the surrealists, Trouille considered himself a nonconformist. He didn’t like to categorize things and said, ‘I paint what I love, I paint feminine beauty. For me everything is erotic.’ So even when André Breton, who was a big fan of his work, offered him an exhibition he declined afraid that he would be labelled in any way. He apparently needed this nonaligned status in order to be completely free concerning the choices of style and themes, such as his unbridled criticism of authority in general, and the church and the military in particular. The scatalogical details (Fig.7 and 11) in which he makes fun of Catholicism are a compelling example of this.

Camille Clovis Trouille: two females confessing

Fig.3. ‘Le confessionnal‘ (1959)

Traumatic Experiences

Trouille was born in La Fère, in the Picardie region of France. He attended the École des Beaux-Arts of Amiens from 1905 to 1910. Besides painting he studied fashion and advertising, and worked as a designer for Chez Draeger. Due to his traumatic experiences in the First World War he developed a strong aversion for the military which can be found in some of his paintings.

Mannequin Restorer

Trouillé’s refusal to join forces with the big names in surrealism and the few sales he made during his small independent shows were the reason he also worked as a mannequin restorer at a department store in Paris. He was a perfectionist and reworked many of his pieces. Therefore the total amount of paintings he made is limited (around 100).

Camille Clovis Trouille: Promise

Fig.4. ‘Promise

Paints with Hot Coals

In 1947 Trouille finally joined the surrealists in the International Exhibition of Surrealism arranged by André Breton and Marcel Duchamp at the Maeght Gallery in Paris. In repsonse to his ‘Rememberance‘ piece (Fig.2) Breton wrote the following note “To my dear friend Clovis Trouille who paints with hot coals.” Despite this attention, it then took another twelve years before he took part in another major show, the Exposition Eros internationale Surréaliste at the Galerie Daniel Cordier in Paris.


Trouille’s principled attitude and self-reliance give him a special place in art history. The epitaph on his tombstone puts it nicely: “Here lies the artist who lost his life while earning it!”

Camille Clovis Trouille: guillotine


Camille Clovis Trouille 'Dialogue au Carmel (1944)

Fig.6. ‘Dialogue au Carmel ‘(1944) by Camille Clovis Trouille

camille trovis trouille: 'La Peinture En Révolte'

Fig.7. ‘La Peinture En Révolte (Voyeur canonized),‘ (Source:

camille trovis trouille: Mon tombeau

Fig.8. ‘Mon tombeau (My grave)‘ (1947)

Camille Clovis Trouille: painting wit a nude nun talking on the phone

Fig.9. Detail of  ‘Mon tombeau‘ ‘

Camille Clovis Trouille: painting with two kissing nuns

Fig.10. ‘Rêve Claustral’ (Claustral dream)‘ (1952)

Camille Clovis Trouille: painting wit sex orgy with copulating popes and Christ and nuns

Fig.11. ‘L’Immenculée Conception

vase with phallus and vulva-shaped flowers by Clovis Trouille

Fig.12. Untitled (1906)

camille trvois trouille: 'Le présent des gaules

Fig.13. ‘Le présent des gaules‘ (Source:

Fig.14. ‘Stigma Diaboli‘ (1960) (Source: )

camille clovis trouille: bikini

Fig.15. ‘Bikini

Camille Clovis Trouille: 'Madame Rosa Voyante'

Fig.16. ‘Madame Rosa Voyante

camille clovis trouille: 'Oh! Calcutta! Calcutta!'

Fig.17. ‘Oh! Calcutta! Calcutta!‘ (1946) (Source:

Complete Nudity

Oh! Calcutta, Calcutta! produced in 1946, is Trouille’s most famous painting (Fig.17). More than two decades later, the title was used for the notorious and subversive 1969 musical revue by Kenneth Tynan. The controversy surrounding this show was caused due to its extended scenes of complete nudity, both male and female.

camille clovis trouille

Fig.18. ‘The Palace of Wonders

camille clovis trouille

Fig.19. ‘Funerailles’ (My Funeral)‘ (1940/46)

camille clovis trouille

Fig.20. ‘Sleeping in‘ (1955)

camille clovis trouille nun

Fig.21. ‘Religieuse italienne fumant la cigarette’ (Italian nun smoking a cigarette)‘(1944)

Odalisque by Camille Clovis Trouille

Fig.22. ‘Odalisque (The Oasis)‘ (1942-43) (Source:

camille clovis trouille de sade

Fig.23. ‘Dolmancé et ses fantômes de luxure (Dolmancé and his phantoms of lust)‘ (1959)

camille clovis trouille le confessor

Fig.24. ‘El Confessor‘ (1948)

camille clovis trouille swan

Fig.25. ‘Faites-moi Cygne (Make Me Into a Swan)‘ (1959)

camille clovis trouille wine love tobacco

Fig.26. ‘Long Live Wine, Love and Tobacco‘ (1946)

camille clovis trouille le salon

Fig.27. ‘Le Salon‘ (1921-25)

The following video features a substantial amount of work by Trouille…

Click HERE to check out the exciting contemporary surrealism of Michael Hutter….!!


For me personally, this is an artist that I appreciate more and more every time I come across his work! How do you value Clovis Trouille’s art? Start or join the discussion in the comment box below…!!