The Sundial, by Marquis Franz von Bayros
'Erzählungen am Toilettentische'.

Franz von Bayros was a Croatian-Austrian graphic artist, illustrator and painter, most famous for his erotic artwork. Bayros was part of the so-called "Decadent Movement" and illustrated various books with risqué scenes. They caused outrage and made his name notorious. He is often referred to as the "Marquis von Bayros", a nod to French erotic writer the Marquis de Sade. His portfolio series 'Erzählungen am Toilettentische' ('Tales at the Dressing Table', 1911) was such a scandal that he was banned from Münich. Few at the time recognized his gift for drawing the most provocative scenes with enticing delicacy, which make him one of the 20th century's most infamous but masterful erotic artists.

Early life and influences
Franz von Bayros was born in 1866 in Zagreb, Croatia, which was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire at the time. His father came from a Spanish aristocratic family, but nevertheless worked at the Austrian railroad company. Bayros studied art at the Academy of Vienna. In 1896 he married Alice Strauss, stepdaughter of famous Austrian composer Johann Strauss Jr. After a year the marriage was declared invalid and Bayros moved to Munich, the cultural center of Germany at that time. He continued his studies at the Special School of Adolf Hölzel in Dachau and Heinrich Knirrs School in Munich. Among his graphic influences were Aubrey Beardsley and the Rococo movement.

'Fleurettens Purpurschnecke' (1905).

Success and controversy
In the late 19th century certain artists took interest in depicting hedonistic scenes, mostly to shock the conservative, devout and prudent Victorian community. They were quickly nicknamed "the Decadent Movement" and Bayros became one of their members. In 1904 he held his first major exhibition. But Bayros gained his true fame as a book illustrator. He specialized in books with strong erotic content, among them 'Fleurettens Purpurschnecke' (1905), 'The Memoirs of Fanny Hill' (1906), 'Arabian Nights' (1906), 'Pentamerone' (1909) and 'Decamerone' (1911). These works were already audacious enough to shock most people. But Bayros also toyed with taboos in his work, such as lesbianism, zoophilia and nude prepubescent girls. Most critics failed to realize that Bayros merely drew these topics, not actively engaged in them. Even fewer people recognized his sense of design, elegant linework and gracious sensuality. Some drawings have a gentle sense of comedy in them and should not be taken that seriously. But to many he was just a depraved pervert. His 1911 work 'Erzählungen am Toilettentische' caused a huge scandal. Censors banned it and Bayros was forced to leave Munich.

Later life
Bayros moved to Vienna, but felt the city wasn't the right artistic environment for him. He wanted to move to Rome, but the outbreak of World War I in 1914 forced him to stay in Vienna for the next four years. After the war it took a long while before war-ridden Europe recovered. Bayros sank in depression because he didn't receive as much commissions as before. Eventually he found new energy when he was asked to illustrate Dante Alighieri's 'The Divine Comedy'. The work is widely considered his last genuine masterpiece. A fitting end to his career, as Bayros died in 1924 from a cerebral hemorrhage.

Legacy and influence
Franz von Bayros remains one of the most celebrated erotic artists of all time. The ban on his work solidified his legend for the ages. His works still inspire and titillate people to this day. He was a major influence on Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's equally controversial graphic novel 'Lost Girls' (1991-1992). Bayros' artwork was furthermore used in the sleeve of 'She' (1999), an album by the band Maldoror, a project by Mike Patton (Faith No More) and Masami Akita (Merzbow).

Tales from the Dressing Table, by Marquis Franz von Bayros
From: 'Erzählungen am Toilettentische'.

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