Eberhard and Phyllis Kronhausen  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Phyllis (born 1929) and Eberhard Kronhausen (1915 - 2009) are two American counselers, filmmakers and curators of erotic art, mainly active in the 1960s and 1970s, being part of the sexual revolution. They both studied with Theodor Reik in New York.

In 1968 they organized the exhibition The First International Exhibition of Erotic Art. In the late 1960s and early 1970s they turned to filmmaking and directed Psychomontage (1963), Why? (1970) and were interviewed in the documentary film Danish Blue (1968). Both Psychomontage and Why were screened at Amos Vogel's Cinema 16 and anthologized in Film as a Subversive Art. Later The Kronhausens had a San Francisco branch of the Erotic Art museum, which was located at 540 Powell Street.



The Kronhausens met at the University of Minnesota, where Phyllis got a bachelor's degree in Business Administration and Eberhard got a Master's degree in psychology. They moved together to New York City, where Phyllis studied "Marriage and Family Life Education" at the Teacher's College of Columbia University, and Eberhard followed suit two years later. They also studied psychoanalysis at the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis, founded by Dr. Theodor Reik to provide for analytic training of non-medical students. Upon graduation they moved to San Diego, where they were both licensed to practice psychotherapy.

In 1959, they published their first book, Pornography and the Law. This would be the first of a long line of sex-related books. Pornography and the Law made a distinction between "frankly pornographic writings" and "serious" (but not necessarily less erotic) writings, such as the works of Henry Miller or D.H. Lawrence. In 1960 Phyllis Kronhausen testified in a California obscenity case, involving a series of soft core erotic writings. According to the Kronhausens, "her testimony resulted in an acquittal of the defense, saving the author and publisher of these truly harmless books many years in jail."

European period

After publishing Pornography and the law, the Kronhausens began to acquire a collection of erotic art. This brought them to Europe, where they were active during the 1960s. As they reminisced in 1978:

It so happened that from 1960 on we came to spend more and more time in Europe, first on psychological consultation and later because we felt that we had both been spending too much time in the same cultural environment and needed a change for our own personal development.

In Europe we collected more erotic art, our most notable discoveries from the beginning of that period being the Dutch painter Melle in Amsterdam, the German painter Hans Bellmer, the Trieste-born artist Leonor Fini, and the French surrealist André Masson in Paris.

[...] We had occasion, in fact, to watch the transformation of pornography into art before our own eyes when Hans Bellmer one day worked in our presence, making a complicated and highly erotic engraving from a series of common pornographic photographs. --"How nice people like us got involved in erotic art", in The Complete Book of Erotic Art (1978)

Their books were translated into German and French starting in the late 1960s

They organized the “First International Exhibition of Erotic Art" at a public museum in Lund, Sweden in 1968 – overcoming a lot of institutional resistance. They even succeeded in having the public poster for the show feature a graphic representation of sexual intercourse.

In relation to that show they published the two-volume art book Erotic Art in 1968 and 1969, featuring illustrations of erotic art from different periods of time and different cultures. This would lead to other picture books such as Erotic Book Plates (1970), The International Museum of Erotic Art (1973), and Behind Closed Doors : A Marriage Manual (1979). The latter was not really a manual but rather a book of nearly 2,000 black and white photographs without text, featuring a real French husband & wife couple having sex in a variety of positions, in every room of their home including the hallway and stairs. (The photography was by Robin Schwartz, a woman who was a friend of the couple.)

In 1978 the Kronhausens were featured in Hustler magazine, with a piece on the Bible's Book of Genesis, illustrated with a series of erotic paintings. "What poor, sick, twisted guilt-ridden, neurotic mind first conjured up a sexless Garden of Eden?" the article begins. The Kronhausens then argue that the Bible has been misunderstood, and that the story of Adam and Eve is not about the discovery of sin, but about the loss of innocent enjoyment of sex - "and with it the appearance of false shame where none is called for, and needless guilt where no evil has been committed." The paintings that illustrate the article were said by the Kronhausens to be by an anonymous artist and dated to 1850-1900, but could well be 1970s imitations of 19th century art, and are not necessarily about the Garden of Eden.

New-age period

Starting in the late 1970, the Kronhausens turned to New Age spirituality. They were living at that time in California, and came into contact with the teachings of the Indian-born theosophist and spiritual director Jiddu Krishnamurti, at his American foundation in Ojai, California, where they watched many of his talks at the video library.

In the 1980s and 90s they became involved in nutrition, creating a diet called "Formula for Life" which they publicised through two books of that title (1989, 1990). They advocated abstinence from red meat and therapeutic megadoses of Vitamin C. They also advocated for nutritional supplements such as glutathione.

At the turn of the millennium they became involved in Buddhist philosophy and psychology. They attempted to apply the result of these studies to the fields of history, politics, and psychotherapy in their last book, Staying Sane in a Crazy World (2008)


Unless otherwise noted, all titles are by Eberhard and Phyllis Kronhausen.

  • Pornography and the law: The psychology of erotic realism and pornography, Ballantine Books, 1959; revised edition 1964.
  • Sex Histories of American College Men : A Study in Detail of the Sex Life of American College Men Showing the Cultural and Psychological Influences On Sexual Development, 1959
  • The Sexually Responsive Woman, Grove Press, 1964 (with a foreword by Simone de Beauvoir)
  • Sexual Response in Women, 1965
  • Walter: the English Casanova, 1967
  • [as editors] Walter, “My Secret Life": the unique memoirs of England’s most uninhibited lover, 1967
  • Erotic Art: a Survey of Erotic Fact and Fancy in the Fine Arts, Grove Press, 1968
  • Erotic Art vol. 2, Grove Press, 1969
  • Erotic Fantasies, a Study of Sexual Imagination. New York: Grove Press, 1969.
  • Erotic Book Plates, Bell, 1970.
  • The International Museum of Erotic Art, 1973
  • The Sex People: Erotic Performers and Their Bold New Worlds, 1975
  • The Complete Book of Erotic Art, [compiles Erotic Art vols. 1 and 2], Bell Publishing Company, 1978. ("This book is dedicated to the people of Sweden and Denmark without whose maturity and dedication to democratic freedom the first international exhibition of erotic art would not have been possible.")
  • Robin Schwartz and Phyllis Kronhausen, Behind Closed Doors : A Marriage Manual, with nearly 2000 photographs. Materia Medica, 1979.
  • [with Harry B. Demopoulos, M.D.] Formula for Life. The Definitive Book on Correct Nutrition, Anti-Oxidants and Vitamins, Disease Prevention, and Longevity. William Morrow and Company, 1989.
  • Eberhard Kronhausen, Formula for Life: The Anti-Oxidant, Free-Radical Detoxification Program, 1990
  • Staying Sane in a Crazy World, 2008

Selected bibliography


  • Psychomontage (UK, 1963, short)
“The Kronhausens, a Paris-based team of psychotherapists, produced a series of books as well as several films to present the findings of their exploration of human sexuality. Their Psychomontage offers a provocative and funny look at the erotic in everyday life.” (mubi.com)
  • Freedom to Love [Freiheit Für die Liebe] (Germany, 1970)
“A film about the irrationality of common sexual prejudices and traditional sex laws, Freedom to Love advances the point of view that sexual freedom is not inimical to the interests of society.” (mubi.com)
  • Why do they do it? (Denmark, 1971)
“The well-known sex researchers and proponents of erotic freedom present a plea for sexual tolerance in the form of a factual, non-moralistic portrayal of unorthodox sex acts.” (mubi.com)


Eberhard Kronhausen is name-checked on the cover of the Frank Zappa album Freak Out! (1966) under the heading "These People Have Contributed Materially In Many Ways To Make Our Music What It Is. Please Do Not Hold It Against Them".


  • "Woman [is] the untouchable saint who through her spiritual purity raises and ennobles the grosser, baser male".
  • "What modern women seem to want is not just more sex, but better sex. Together with increased aggressiveness in mature women, there appears to be a trend toward demanding, and if necessary, seeking, better sexual performance from male partners".
  • "One should not... be surprised to hear that failure to achieve sexual happiness is likely to have an adverse effect on the woman’s total relationship with her partner and may lead to the breakdown of their relationship".

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Eberhard and Phyllis Kronhausen" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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