The Tentacle Erotica in The War of the Worlds by Henrique Alvim Corrêa
In 1906, nine years after its first edition, the book The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells, had received another edition among the many it already had. The difference is that this new edition didn’t come with the illustrations by the British artist Warwich Goble, who had illustrated the first edition, but with those of a Brazilian artist named Henrique Alvim Corrêa (Fig.1).
Fig.1. Illustration for The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells
But who was Henrique Alvim Corrêa?
Henrique Alvim Corrêa was born in Rio de Janeiro, in 1876, and died in Brussels, in 1910. In 1892, right after the proclamation of the Republic of Brazil, at the age of 16, Henrique left for Europe. In 1903, he sets himself a challenge: to make a series of illustrations from the classic The War of the Worlds. With the authorization of H. G. Wells, Henrique produces 132 illustrations for the book.
Fig.2. Illustration for The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells
The War of the Worlds
What draws attention in Henrique’s work for The War of the Worlds is the violence and eroticism reconciled by the artist’s use of expressionism when representing the alien invasion. Different from Warwich Goble’s work, Henrique Alvim Corrêa chooses to insinuate more than show clearly the alien forms (Fig.2), through a play of lights and shadows that recalls the mise en scene of expressionist films that emerged much further ahead, such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1920. As an offshoot of the erotic prints, he had been developing, Henrique creates, for Wells’ work, one of the most famous images: that of a woman, being attacked by alien tentacles (Fig.3), in a deeply erotic pose that reminds us of The Dream of the Fishermans Wife, from Hokusai.
Fig.3. Illustration for The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells
However, the eroticism in the work of Henrique Alvim Corrêa is not limited to these images from The War of the Worlds. Of what was left of his work, since part was lost, in 1914, when Germany invaded Belgium, and in 1942, when the ship, which transported his drawings and illustrations to Brazil, was sunk by a German torpedo, we can see how his erotic is constituted in a transgressive way, by mixing the sacred and the profane and by showing the hypocrisy of social behavior. Thus, in some of his images, we see angels masturbating men or shaving women (Fig.4 and 5), as if the profane and the sacred had never been separated in our culture.
Fig.5. Untitled Source: Pinterest.
In one of his most striking engravings, we have, sitting on a penis whose tip is a skull, a woman having oral sex with an angel (Fig.6), in a situation that recalls Bataille’s notion of the profane and sacred: “From eroticism it’s possible to say that it is the approval of life even in death”. In another engraving (Fig.7), continuing this theme, the artist exhibits a variation of the death and the maiden, again using the play between light and shadow.
Produced under the pseudonym HL, Henrique Alvim Corrêa will also explore social behaviors, such as representing a couple copulating in front of their own daughter (Fig.8), which resemble some shunga images, for example, Couple and kids under mosquito net (c.1800), from Kitagawa Utamaro, or by subtly exposing the shameless behavior of a cleric on the beach (Fig.9). Among the various erotic images that Henrique Alvim Corrêa created, one stands out as a work that could well belong to the series that he made for The War of the Worlds or be a reinterpretation of The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, from Hokusai, since we see a woman, whose legs are tentacles, attacking a male figure. In a way, this image can be interpreted as an emblem of the work of Henrique Alvim Corrêa, at the moment when death, violence and sex are unified by the absurdity that is the very human condition.
Click HERE and check out a profound article on Hokusai’s The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (130+ mesmerizing pics!)
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