In an era when eroticism and seduction were deeply mistrusted and invoked feelings of guilt, a time when syphilis and regular visits to the brothel posed a serious threat to married life, Rops succeeded in depicting the tense male-female relationship in his pictures of voluptuous women and satanic satyrs.
The Kunsthal exhibited over 150 drawings, water colours and etchings from the Victor en Gretha Arwas collection. These works offer a fascinating picture of eroticism during the Fin de Siècle. Rops was an intense artist with a passion for 'woman', which he translated into narrative depictions in his own, inimitable way. His sources of inspiration were entirely literary and verbal. He almost never used professional models, because they slipped automatically into classical poses. "One must not draw a classical nude but the nude of today ... one must not draw the breast of the Venus de Milo but the breast of Tata, which is less beautiful but is the breast of today."
His art was extremely popular among prominent citizens including Victor Hugo and Gustave Flaubert, and composers Franz Liszt and Gabriel Fauré. Artists like Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Auguste Rodin were admirers of Rops' work. His popularity made him the best-paid illustrator in Paris around 1878.