Thursday, March 12, 2009

"The Rembrandt of Bondage Illustration"

I discovered the powerful work of the late Robert Bishop (1945-1991) in '87 when I was combing Melbourne's porno bookshops for a rare Greenleaf paperback.

The illustration above adorned the cover of F.E. Campbell's The Seigneury II from HOM Books (House of Milan), the leading publisher (at the time) of bondage/S&M-themed literature and paraphernalia.

Beginning life as a manufacturer of fetish clothing, the company grew into a primary producer of books, magazines and videos thanks to co-founders Barbara Behr and Yogi Klein.

On the back cover of most of F.E. Campbell's 100+ bondage novels, you would find this:

To read an F. E. Campbell novel is to enter another world: a world filled with lust, pain, intrigue, agony, and ecstasy. The author gives his tales of maiden woe a decidedly English twist. It is here that the eternal damsel in distress finds herself presented in sympathetic fashion to a cruel modern world, where she must deal with the physical and psychological aspects of loving restraint.

Campbell was a talented English writer approaching his twilight years who took the writing of novels with bondage themes very, very seriously.

The result is a cannon of extraordinary work that is rich in characterization, written with great attention to detail, innately aware of its readership, tightly plotted, and skilfully resolved.

Robert Bishop, who often signed off as "Bishop" provided provocative, gorgeously rendered illustrations for all of Frank Campbell's novels, and for other HOM projects including the Fanni Hall comics.

Initially influenced by John Willie, the Michigan-born and educated artist worked for Centurian Publications and Harmony Publications early on in his career. His style met with resistance from Harmony because of their strict guidelines regarding the consensual nature of the fiction they were putting out.

At HOM he found a more liberal artistic environment that allowed him to produce the amazing, airbrushed masterpieces that ended up adorning Campbell's novels and those of writer Geoffrey Merrick.




Bishop's work, like the work of Toshio Saeki, has a strong, situational theme to it.

Each image evokes a world way beyond the frame.




Bishop's settings often provide a soft, stark counterpoint to the action.


The work has a brilliant sheen to it that Bishop achieved with the pencil and the airbrush.



One of the more explicit examples of Bishop's work.




Superb!




One of my absolute favorites -- Bishop's take on a "Rocking Dog" with accompanying "pet".


The illustration below (which I had blown up to poster size and placed on my living room wall) provoked outrage many years ago when a friend of my ex-wife took exception to it.

She insisted that it be taken down from the wall during her visit.

Naturally, she was shown the door.


Exquisite use of color.



Panel from one of Bishop's mind-bending comics.

Note the wonderful "Hut of Horror" in the illustration at top left.

Sadly, Robert Bishop, dubbed "The Rembrandt of Bondage Illustration", used a gun to take his own life at 46.

The work of this card-carrying Apostle of Pulp will live on forever.

R.I.P., Sir!

21 comments:

  1. Yes, a great artist and great human being.

    Remember that book I had on the Bishop? It was one of my prime teenage collections of S&M erotica. The book and I spent may hours alone together in private study.

    I used many of the above images for Hellfire decorations and cards in the 90's. The Bishop has a unique aesthetic that few can touch.

    I pity the teenager of today who only needs access any internet terminal to see anything he or she wants...

    In our day the search for cool fetish material took on a semi religious quest. And when it was found, it was treasured.

    Today's young libertines have everything... and yet somehow nothing.

    The thrill of discovery and attainment of classic S&M porn was a noble mission. I remember the John Willie book "Gwendolyne" was another classic from my teen years.

    Enjoying your work Phantom. Keep up the quest!

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  2. It's funny how I recognized the work without ever knowing anything about Bishop. He had a great style that is poorly imitated today. It is a shame about his early death.

    They are all great but the color explicit one with all that pubic hair is just amazing. That needs to be in a museum.

    Thank you for spotlighting him, I need to find more of his work.

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  3. IDFX7 -- I remember that book well. I photographed the pic I turned into a poster from that book.

    Are you and the book still seeing each other?

    Interesting point about today's libertines having everything -- but nothing.

    It's a cliche, but the stuff we work hard to get, we appreciate more.

    Back then, it was hard to get everything because everything was a physical object.

    Thanks for your generous comments.

    ***

    Shon -- yes, Bishop is poorly imitated today.

    Bishop's death was very tragic, but at least he found a vebue for his brilliance for a short while.

    That color pic is amazing. The hair is so well illustrated.

    Glad you appreciate him.

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  4. Jesus! Where do you keep all this stuff?

    I assume you live in one of those converted warehouses everyone on American TV lives in.

    Why do I keep having this image of you, Phantom, conducting tour groups of uninitiated young students through a cultural centre dedicated to the exhibition of pulp icons and their work? Is this an unreasonable dream? And can I work there too?

    And I like the way you refuse to suffer small minded hypocritical fasciste types who don't have the imagination to appreciate what you have on your wall, and fail to acknowledge the presence of genius when they see it. Maybe if you had B & W pictures of couples kissing on parisean walkways, she would have been happy; but piss on her happiness! And tough shit for her and her bland, moderate suckbutt companions! Fuck her; these fuckers must fucking hang. I am GLAD you showed that jackbooted goosestepping bitch with her dyke envy, her chastity nappies and her petty minded high ideals the fucking door.

    Into the mud scum queen!! You and your ilk!!

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  5. These are sublime.

    Probably a stupid question--is there any relation between this HOM publisher and the HOM production company?

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  6. d-- HOM did produce films and videos

    mandingo-- Where do I keep all this stuff? All over the world. Storage centers, garages in Australia and US, and various depositories elsewhere. After a while, it becomes a weight.

    Still, I love it.

    I definitely don't suffer the hypocritical types.

    Thank you for your appropriate, fully justified rant against such killjoys. I like "jackbooted, goosestepping".

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  7. Yes, Phantom that book and I still get together on rare occasions. Its in good nick, too. And rare. I have never seen it before, or since on sale...

    I have original Bishop line drawings in a folio somewhere I got off a collector...

    Alas if only the world were not more like a Bishop drawing. But on occasion, reality has indeed mirrored fantasy. Some of the hotter Hellfire moments, for example, contributed in my own small way to making the universe a better place to live in...

    HOM is House Of Milan. A S&M production house with digs in the Valley. I have visited them twice in person, on my LA sojourns. I have a collection of their material. Nice mid 80's S&M porn. Not my favourite, but good stuff. By the way, if you like Bondage they have a selection of good Bondage Classics DVDs. Most shot film and hard hitting, in that 70's style that we love.

    My tastes move more toward flagellation and spanking. Wherever there is a hand or whip descending onto a deserving buttock...I am there in spirit.

    More later on all this, later...

    avid fan

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  8. His style doesn't do it for me, but I can appreciate his talent and the subject material. Your friend was silly, and makes the rest of us females look bad.

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  9. nyxalinth -- It was a little rich expecting me to remove it from my own wall :-) I understand that his style doesn't work for everybody, but I'm buoyed that you appreciate his talent. For many people, confronting work often blinds them to the talent behind it. For me, talent is talent, and ANYTHING can be aesthetically powerful.

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  10. Discovered BD/SM in early 70's & HOM there after. Bishop's work was wonderful & I had a good collection of his books. Had all of his Fanny Hall series up until late 70's then a few decades later my stepson steals them & some other HOM books, Gives them to his butt buddys to buy their friendship. Don't know to this day why he's still alive! 2 pics I'd love to have back was where Fanny's head harness was strapped to madam's hip harness. 2nd one was where Fanny & Madam are straddle a strap with their ball gags on the ends of a rod. There ankles connected to each others by a pair of spreader bars, the ankles strapped off to each side, holding their legs apart. Arms encased in leather behind their backs. A dildo in each of them & villain whipping their legs & bottoms to keep them squirming on their dildos.
    Ol'PHart

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  11. PS should have added this on before I was finished. The rocking dog is in reality a rocking horse. Quit common in my day. One of Bishops stories had the heroine set upon a hobby horse with dildo chastity belt & itching cream under her nipple cones. The Y-leash from them tied to the reins. The ride switched on. Ol'PHart

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  12. Anon/ol'PHart -- that sonofabitch! I recall the image you described. I probably have it somewhere. Bishop's sensibility was unique.

    When you refer to a Bishop "story", do you mean a story in pictures, or an FE Campbell story that he illustrated, for example? What a brilliant and pure mind. Not polluted by fear or self-consciousness.

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  13. One thing I miss immensely: natural breasts and pubic hair. Bishop was of the era where these were considered beautiful.

    I've been a fan of his for a long time - the early 70s and no one in all that time has even approached him.

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  14. Very interesting bondage art, stuff I've never seen much of before. The bondage art I have recently is good but doesn't have the look to it like this stuff does. I have always been interested in bondage myself not as severe as this but still I have to admit I do like bondage art, especially good art. Thanks for the blast from the past Phantom I enjoyed it very much! ♥

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  15. I`ve never really understood the appeal of bondage, i just want to see a gorgeous sexy 18 year-old bird with a big knob stuck up her arse (preferably filmed in POV).

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  16. When I referred to Bishop stories was illustrated by Bishop but probably written by someone else. Was in either Knotty or Hogtied, in the 70's. Ol'PHart

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  17. Bob's death was a huge loss...he chose suicide, rather than a slow, lingering death to pancreatic cancer...I understand.

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  18. In 1979 , while doing a photo shoot for HOM I met Robert Bishop. The same day I also met Campbell. Campbell , Bill Ward and Bishop were the three main B&D artists of that time. Some also say Willy and Stanton. Bob however touched me because after the photo shot he presented me with a drawing he had done of myself. Bob Bishop started drawing over 43 years ago for Centurian Publishing. Because Centurian was not big enough to pay his salary he went to HOM for full time work and was there for nearly 20 years. Most of his drawings were done in the mid 70's and early 80's . In the mid 80's he took over as editor and chief. He did a few drawings at that time and left around 1988. He died suddenly in 1991. We corresponded for years until I lost touch. He is surely missed.
    Contact me, I made a Yahoo group with the Hunter Rose Collection.

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  19. What a wonderful site.. congratulations.. A year ago I produced a film called Tabloid.. which very lightly dealt with the BDSM scene in LA in the golden era of the mid-70's. I would like to further explore this world. If anyone knows any of the principals of HOM, such as Barbara Behr (Dragin) Mr. Bishop, so well displayed above or photographer Chuck Dagion. I would like to get these pioneers on camera.
    Thanks

    sparkfoto@mac.com

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  20. jbrad1988@yahoo.comDecember 3, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    When I was in the service I wrote stories for HOM several of which he illustrated: Never A Sure Thing, Days of Sand and Nights of Shackles, and several others of which I've forgotten the names. I lost my copies in a move years ago and never found the images online, more's the pity. They were written as "Bradford." Loved his interpretation of my concepts...

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  21. WELL KIDDIES I HAPPEN TO HAVE 12 BISHOP ORIGINALS THAT IM GOING TO BE PUTTING ON THE AUCTION BLOCK SOON IM STILL IN THE PROCESS OF APRAISING THEM BUT IF ANYONE IS INTERESTED
    only serious inquiries please I will send images any info would be use full MY E-MAIL IS filosophy @cox.net

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