John Willie: The Leonardo Da Vinci of Fetish Art
In the introduction to the reprint of Bizarre magazine, published by Taschen, Eric Kroll considers its creator and editor, John Alexander Scott Coutts, aka John Willie, to be the Leonardo da Vinci of Fetish. But who is John Willie, and why is he so important to the art of BDSM?
Fig.2. Gwendoline and "The Missing Princess" (1951-52)
Fig.3. “Pony Girls” by John Willie. The artist was drawing these fetish images as early as the 1940s, having been inspired by London Life magazine.
John Willie was born on December 9, 1902, in what was then British Singapore. In 1903, his family returned to their country of origin, England. After studying at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he became a second lieutenant but was forced to leave the institution in 1925 when he married Eveline Fisher, a nightclub receptionist, without the permission of his commanding officer. The couple moved to Australia the following year. However, in 1930, they divorced. In 1936, Willie met Holly Anna Faram, his future wife, muse, and model, at the High Heel Club, where "shoe lovers" and other fetishists gathered. In 1945, John Willie moved to Canada, where he stayed for a year before going to the United States.
Fig.4. "Pretty Polly"
Fig.6. Cover for the Bizarre magazine
Sick and Broke
In 1946, he published the magazine Bizarre, the first 20 issues of which were under his editorship. Willie gave up the magazine in 1956 and sold it to someone described only as REB. The magazine would last for another six issues before closing in 1959. In 1957, John Willie moved to Hollywood. Sick and broke, he returned to England and went to his sister's house, who lived on the island of Guernsey. John Alexander Scott Coutts died in his sleep of a brain tumor on August 5, 1962.
Fig.8. Gwendoline and "The Missing Princess"
It is interesting to note that the publication of Bizarre occurred when, in the United States, mass media such as cinema and comics were being policed and censored. In the case of cinema, during the period from 1934 to 1968, the large North American film studios were coerced, through self-censorship, to formulate a set of guidelines to control the content of their productions. Thus, the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, was created, whose application determined what could not be shown in films: nudity, references to sexual perversions, adultery, miscegenation, ridicule of the clergy, illegal trafficking in drugs, and specific words and phrases. Regarding comics, a code similar to that of cinema was created in 1948 by the Association of Comics Magazine Publishers, which determined, for example, that sexy, wanton comics should not be published, no drawing should show a female indecently or unduly exposed, and in no event more nude than in a bathing suit commonly worn in the United States of America, and no scenes of sadistic torture should be shown.
Fig.10. Gwendoline and "The Missing Princess"
Fig.11. Gwendoline and "The Missing Princess"
Fig.12. Sweet Gwendoline in "The Escape Artiste"
The publication of the twenty-six editions of Bizarre, from 1946 to 1959, occurred exactly during this period of censorship of media aimed at the general public. To avoid attracting censorship attention, John Willie did not publish depictions of nudity, homosexuality, violence, and sexual acts that could be interpreted as perverse or immoral by authorities.
Fig.13. Sir d'Arcy & "The Wasp Women"
Fig.14. Photography by Willie
In the exclusive Premium version of the article more on Willie's quest for realism, his views on sexual tolerance and bpndage, use of photography, and attention for his damsel in distress Sweet Gwendoline, many more rare examples of his groundbreaking fetish art, and as a bonus feature you can discover Willie's subversive comic Gwendoline and "The Missing Princess" (1951-52) in its entirety..