‘Anon’, as we all know, is one of the most prolific thinkers, writers and artists of all time, producing countless artworks, rhymes, songs and witticisms. In the world of erotic illustration, however, Anon often has a very particular meaning, as becomes clear when a set of illustrations is attributed to ‘A well-known artist’ or ‘A celebrated illustrator’. ‘Anon’ was very active in the early years of erotic illustration.
In the respectable, bourgeois, well-heeled world of collectors of erotic art portfolios produced ‘for the appreciative connoisseur’, you didn’t particularly need to know the name of the illustrator, simply that you liked the images. Though not always the case, the better the artist the better the illustrations, and though there were good artist-illustrators who were quite comfortable being know for their erotic work, many had reputations as respectable artists to maintain, so they worked either under pseudonyms or anonymously, thus joining the swelling ranks of Anon.
While many erotic works were illustrated anonymously, in most cases the style of the illustrations gives away the identity of the illustrator very easily, and of course many of the ‘connoisseurs’, and certainly the specialist booksellers, knew exactly who had illustrated what. As specialist bibliographies have been published this information is now common knowledge, but it still leaves a few works where nobody knows who the illustrator was. It’s always good to have some things that may never be known!