13 March 1902|
Kattowitz, German Empire
|Died||24 February 1975
|Known for||Photography, sculpture, painting, and poetry|
|Notable work(s)||Die Puppe (1934), La Poupée (1935)|
|Movement||Surrealism, Berlin Dada|
Hans Bellmer (13 March 1902 – 23 February 1975) was a German artist, best known for the life-sized pubescent female dolls he produced in the mid-1930s. Historians of art and photography also consider him a Surrealist photographer.
Bellmer was born in the city of Kattowitz, then part of the German Empire (now Katowice, Poland). Up until 1926, he'd been working as a draftsman for his own advertising company. He initiated his doll project to oppose the fascism of the Nazi Party by declaring that he would make no work that would support the new German state. Represented by mutated forms and unconventional poses, his dolls were directed specifically at the cult of the perfect body then prominent in Germany. Bellmer was influenced in his choice of art form by reading the published letters of Oskar Kokoschka (Der Fetisch, 1925).
Bellmer's doll project is also said to have been catalysed by a series of events in his personal life. Hans Bellmer takes credit for provoking a physical crisis in his father and brings his own artistic creativity into association with childhood insubordination and resentment toward a severe and humorless paternal authority. Perhaps this is one reason for the nearly universal, unquestioning acceptance in the literature of Bellmer's promotion of his art as a struggle against his father, the police, and ultimately, fascism and the state. Events of his personal life also including meeting a beautiful teenage cousin in 1932 (and perhaps other unattainable beauties), attending a performance of Jacques Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann (in which a man falls tragically in love with an automaton), and receiving a box of his old toys. After these events, he began to actually construct his first dolls. In his works, Bellmer explicitly sexualized the doll as a young girl. The dolls incorporated the principle of "ball joint", which was inspired by a pair of sixteenth-century articulated wooden dolls in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum
Bellmer produced the first doll in Berlin in 1933. Long since lost, the assemblage can nevertheless be correctly described thanks to approximately two dozen photographs Bellmer took at the time of its construction. Standing about fifty-six inches tall, the doll consisted of a modeled torso made of flax fiber, glue, and plaster; a mask-like head of the same material with glass eyes and a long, unkempt wig; and a pair of legs made from broomsticks or dowel rods. One of these legs terminated in a wooden, club-like foot; the other was encased in a more naturalistic plaster shell, jointed at the knee and ankle. As the project progressed, Bellmer made a second set of hollow plaster legs, with wooden ball joints for the doll's hips and knees. There were no arms to the first sculpture, but Bellmer did fashion or find a single wooden hand, which appears among the assortment of doll parts the artist documented in an untitled photograph of 1934, as well as in several photographs of later work.
Bellmer's 1934 anonymous book, The Doll (Die Puppe), produced and published privately in Germany, contains 10 black-and-white photographs of Bellmer's first doll arranged in a series of "tableaux vivants" (living pictures). The book was not credited to him, as he worked in isolation, and his photographs remained almost unknown in Germany. Yet Bellmer's work was eventually declared "degenerate" by the Nazi Party, and he was forced to flee Germany to France in 1938. Bellmer's work was welcomed in the Parisian art culture of the time, especially the Surrealists around André Breton, because of the references to female beauty and the sexualization of the youthful form. His photographs were published in the Surrealist journal Minotaure, 5 December 1934 under the title "Poupée, variations sur le montage d'une mineure articulée" (The Doll, Variations on the Assemblage of an Articulated Minor).
He aided the French Resistance during the war by making fake passports. He was imprisoned in the Camp des Milles prison at Aix-en-Provence, a brickworks camp for German nationals, from September 1939 until the end of the Phoney War in May 1940.
After the war, Bellmer lived the rest of his life in Paris. Bellmer gave up doll-making and spent the following decades creating erotic drawings, etchings, sexually explicit photographs, paintings, and prints of pubescent girls. In 1954, he met Unica Zürn, who became his companion until her suicide in 1970. He continued working into the 1960s. Of his own work, Bellmer said, "What is at stake here is a totally new unity of form, meaning and feeling: language-images that cannot simply be thought up or written up … They constitute new, multifaceted objects, resembling polyplanes made of mirrors … As if the illogical was relaxation, as if laughter was permitted while thinking, as if error was a way and chance, a proof of eternity.”
In popular culture
The 2003 film Love Object contains clear references to Bellmer's work, including the protagonist's obsessive relationship with a sex doll and the use of Bellmer's name as a leading character, Lisa Bellmer.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, a 2004 anime film, features elements of Bellmer's erotic and uncanny dolls. Additionally, director Mamoru Oshii has referred to Bellmer's dolls as an inspiration for the film.
A creature from the 2001 video game Silent Hill 2 named Mannequin bears a strong resemblance to Bellmer's dolls. However, Masahiro Ito, the monster designer of the game, commented on this saying that they had no influence on his design of the Mannequin; instead his inspiration came from traditional Japanese folklore.
- 2010: Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin; Double Sexus: Bellmer - Bourgeois
- 2006: Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; “Hand Bellmer: Anatomie du Désir”
- 2001: International Center of Photography, New York; Behind Closed Doors: The Art of Hans Bellmer
- 1999: Ubu Gallery, New York; Galerie Berinson, Berlin; “Photographs and Drawings for the 30s”
- 1997: Musée-Galerie de la Seita, Paris; “Bellmer Graveur, 1902-1975”
- 1992: Musée Saint-Roch, Issoudun; “Hans Bellmer par son Graveur Cécile Reims”
- 1991: Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, IL; Hans Bellmer: Photographs
- 1990: Isidore Ducasse Fine Arts, New York; “Hans Bellmer”
- 1985: Editions Graphiques, London; “Hans Bellmer”
- 1984: Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover; “Hans Bellmer, Photographien”
- 1983: Centre Georges Pompidou and Filipacchi, Paris; “Hans Bellmer, Photographe”
- 1976: Galerie André Francois Petit, Paris; Galerie Brusberg, Hannover; “Hommage à Hans Bellmer”
- 1975: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; “Hans Bellmer, Drawings and Sculpture.
- 1971: CNAC Archives, Paris; “Hans Bellmer (retrospective)”
- 1970: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; “Hans Bellmer”
- 1967: Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover; Kunst-Verein, Berlin; Galerie Wolfgang Ketterer, Munich; “Hans Bellmer”
- 1966: Robert Fraser Gallery, London; Bellmer’s de Sade Engravings (closed by police)
- 1963: Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris; “Hans Bellmer”
- Die Puppe, 1934.
- La Poupée, 1936. (Translated to French by Robert Valançay)
- Trois Tableaux, Sept Dessins, Un Texte, 1944.
- Les Jeux de la Poupée, 1944. (Text by Bellmer with Poems by Paul Eluard)
- "Post-scriptum," from Hexentexte by Unica Zürn, 1954.
- L'Anatomie de l'Image, 1957.
- "La Pére" in Le Surréalisme Même, No. 4, Spring 1958. (Translated to French by Robert Valançay in 1936)
- "Strip-tease" in Le Surréalisme Même, No. 4, Spring 1958.
- Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern, 1959.
- Die Puppe: Die Puppe, Die Spiele der Puppe, und Die Anatomie des Bildes, 1962. (Text by Bellmer with Poems by Eluard)
- Oracles et Spectacles, 1965.
- Mode d'Emploi, 1967.
- "88, Impasse de l'Espérance," 1975. (Originally written in 1960 for an uncompleted book by Gisèle Prassinos entitled L'Homme qui a Perdu son Squelette)
- It's a Doll's Life, Ariel Hirschfeld, Haaretz
- Webb, Peter, and Robert Short. Death, Desire and the Doll: The Life and Art of Hans Bellmer. Gardena: Solar Books, 2006, 19-21.
- Hans Bellmer in The Art Institute of Chicago: The Wandering Libido and the Hysterical Body
- Webb and Short, 20, 31.
- Webb and Short, 30.
- Webb and Short, 81.
- Webb and Short, 148, 180
- Oisteanu, Valery (May 2012). "Bound: Hans Bellmer and Unica Zurn". The Brooklyn Rail.
- Webb and Short, 187.
- Webb and Short, 187.
- Brown, Steven T. 2010. "Machinic Desires: Hans Bellmer's Dolls and the Technological Uncanny in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence". Mechademia. 3, no. 1: 222-253.
- "Ghost in the Shell 2:Innocence - The Inspiration". DreamWorks and Go Fish Pictures. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- Masahiro Ito. "Twitter announcement". Retrieved 5 June 2013.
- Fabrice Flahutez, « Hans Bellmer et Georges Bataille, une collaboration éditoriale », cat. exhib. (French) Sous le signe de Bataille. Masson, Fautrier, Bellmer, Christian Dérouet (currator), Musée ZERVOS à Vézelay, 2012.
- Fabrice Flahutez, « Bellmer illustrateur de Bataille. Des pièces inédites au dossier des gravures d’Histoire de l’œil (1945-1947) », in Les Nouvelles de l’estampe, n°227-228, mars 2010, p. 27-32.(french)
- Hans Bellmer: Anatomie du Désir (2006, [Éditions Gallimard / Centre Pompidou]).(french)
- The Doll, Hans Bellmer, Atlas Press, London, 2006, trans. Malcolm Green (first complete translation of Bellmer's suite of essays, poems and photos from the final German version)
- Sue Taylor. Hans Bellmer: The Anatomy of Anxiety (2002, MIT Press).
- Therese Lichtenstein, Behind Closed Doors: The Art of Hans Bellmer, University of California Press, 2001.
- Fabrice Flahutez, « Hans Bellmer : l’anagramme poétique au service d’un rêve surréaliste », Histoire de l’art, n° 52, Paris, 2001, p. 79-94.(french)
- Céline Masson, La fabrique de la poupée chez Hans Bellmer, Paris, éd. L'Harmattan, 2000.(french)
- Pierre Dourthe, Hans Bellmer : Le Principe de Perversion, Paris, Jean-Pierre Faur Éditeur, 1999.(french)
- Fabrice Flahutez, Catalogue raisonné des estampes de Hans Bellmer, Paris, Nouvelles Éditions Doubleff, 1999.(french)
- Robert C. Morgan. "Hans Bellmer:The Infestation of Eros", in A Hans Bellmer Miscellany, Anders Malmburg, Malmo and Timothy Baum, New York, 1993