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Hans Bellmer

Hans Bellmer

(1902 - 1975)
Born: Katowice, Poland
Style: Surrealism
Famous Works:
  • The Doll (1935-37)
  • The Machine-Gunneress in a State of Grace (1937)
  • The Spinning Top (1944-49)
Hans Bellmer was born and raised in the once German city of Kattowitz, now located in southern Poland, and studied engineering in Berlin. While studying, Bellmer cultivated friendships with German painters Otto Dix and George Grosz, who in turn convinced Bellmer to give up engineering. Bellmer's life took a sudden turn towards art, and in 1933, while working as a draughtsman Bellmer rendered the figure of a young girl in plaster. This first attempt to realize his vision was in fact a pivotal moment and was indicative of what would become the major theme of his work. Memories of his sexual experiences as a teenager coupled with a fascination with his adolescent cousin are thought to have inspired his work. Bellmer's work was, for most of his life, also stimulated by his disdain for fascism, specifically the oppressive dictates of the Nazis. Bellmer published a book of photographs of his sculpted doll, which were considered by some, including the Nazi Party, to be pornographic in nature and included the doll in dismembered and unclothed states. This accomplishment caught the eye of Surrealism founder André Breton, who introduced Bellmer's work to other Surrealists in Paris. Bellmer became a Parisian in 1938 after fleeing the threat of Nazi arrest. He continued to explore the strains of the erotic and violent in drawings and etchings. He addressed his obsessive fantasies about the female body, often contorting, decomposing, and layering its familiar form. Bellmer's dolls were always central to his work, and he brought them to life through sculpture, drawing, and photography. The raw sexuality and bizarre nature of Bellmer's work remain controversial to this day.
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