Sex in art: Four examples of Scottish eroticism

The Art of Sex

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania

The Wicker Man, Young Adam, Love Made Easy and The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania

You can find good examples of Scottish eroticism without having to wallow through smut. The List picks four artworks that are worth seeking out for some homegrown, highbrow kicks

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania

Sir Joseph Noel Paton, 1849

To a contemporary audience, ‘The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania’ is quite clearly brimming with sex, eroticism and unbridled desire, yet it didn’t offend the notoriously prudish Victorian establishment, who judged it ‘picture of the season’ when it was first exhibited in 1850. Based on a scene from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Paton’s picture features 165 frisky, cavorting fairies and nymphs – kissing, whispering, touching, grabbing and, for the most part, naked. In the centre, Titania herself is draped in semi-transparent robes. These are fairies for adults: wanton and salacious, but veiled by a smokescreen of high literature and otherworldly innocence. (Hannah Brocklehurst, curator of prints and drawings, National Galleries)

On display in the Scottish Collection, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, year round.

Love Made Easy

Oliver Braid, 2011

Perhaps the world’s first ‘pansexual artist speed-dating experiment’ Love Made Easy is the brainchild of Glasgow-based artist Oliver Braid who has sent out an appeal to colleagues who ‘spend more time making objects than making out’. The invitation is open to artists of all backgrounds to apply to participate in the event, which takes place at the Mutual Gallery, Glasgow on the evening of Saturday 12 February and includes an exhibition curated by It’s Out Playground, a DJ set by Christian Newby and the chance to win a free date. Braid has a history of blending the worlds of art and sex. In 2009 he mounted Jamie Radcliffe: The Exhibition, for which he invited numerous artists to create work in response to Braid stalking a school friend through Facebook. While Jamie Radcliffe eventually blocked his old school pal, Braid continued to stalk him through another friend’s Facebook profile.
(Allan Radcliffe)

The Mutual Gallery, Glasgow, Sat 12 Feb. Email to sign up.

Young Adam

Alexander Trocchi, 1957

The name of Alexander Trocchi is almost synonymous with sex. The Glasgow-born beat writer claimed, at a notorious appearance at the Edinburgh Writers Festival in 1962, that the driving force of his writing was ‘sodomy’. Before he had published a single word under his own name, Trocchi had churned out half a dozen pornographic novels for Maurice Girodias’ Olympia Press under the pseudonym Frances Lengel, including such best-selling titles as White Thighs and Carnal Days of Helen Seferis. Trocchi’s most highly regarded novel, Young Adam, was originally published under a pseudonym and featured several extended sex scenes that were later removed when the book was reissued by a ‘reputable’ publisher in 1961. However, even the respectable version of the book – about a young drifter who finds the body of a dead woman in a canal – includes the visceral sex scene involving custard, which contains the unforgettable lines: ‘When I rose from her, she was a hideous mess [ … ] and the custard and the ink and the sugar sparked like surprising meats on the twist of her satisfied mound.’ (Allan Radcliffe)

Young Adam, £5.99, from

The Wicker Man

Robin Hardy, 1973

There is no more erotic scene in Scottish cinema than when Britt Ekland’s Scottish isle beauty Willow performs a pagan song and dance ritual in the room next door to Edward Woodward’s virginal, God-fearing Sergeant Howie, in order to test his sexual purity. Folkie Annie Ross dubbed the vocals and the rear full-length nude is not Ekland but a stand-in, but it’s still the Swedish goddess’ greatest professional achievement and an erotic benchmark in Celtic cinema. Unsurprisingly the scene was excised for its American release at the time. (Paul Dale)

The Wicker Man DVD, £3.99, from

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