Hans Bellmer

Hans Bellmer Photo

A German born artist and photographer, Hans Bellmar is considered as having a surrealist style in photography by historians of the two mentioned fields. Until 1926 that is at the age of 24, Bellmer worked at his personal advertising firm as a draftsman. The artist is known for his project on mutated body forms of dolls and their unusual poses; in order to combat the fascism being imposed on people by the Nazis. Bellmer’s influence was from Oskar Kokoschka’s letters published in print. Kokoschka was an Austrian poet and artist.

In 1933, he produced the first doll that was 56 inches in heights made from flax fiber using plaster and glue. In 1934, he documented various parts of the dolls in a single photograph and later on produced photos of such nature. In the same year, he published a book titled, Die Puppe meaning The Doll. It includes ten monochrome photograph’s of the doll Bellmer initially composed in tableaux vivants. At the time, his work was acknowledged in the art culture of Parisan, particularly among the Surrealists. This was because Bellmer’s photography and art referred to sexuality and beauty of women. His work was featured in Minotaure, a journal on surrealism. The book was anonymous with no identity of the photographer. However, in 1938 due to the content of the images and the purpose, the Nazis labeled his work as degenerated art. This meant that anybody producing modern art will be sanctioned, and Bellmer was forced to leave Germany, thus he headed towards France.

Once the war was over, Bellmer lived in Paris forever. He then quit making dolls and turned towards creating erotic etchings, drawings, paintings, pornographic photography and teenage girl prints.

In 1975,Hans Bellmer said goodbye to this world and died from cancer. He was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

After his death, much happened concerning his work –  most of the things were good and some were unfortunate for the popularity of his work. In 2001, one of the creatures from Silent Hill 2 (video game) resembled the dolls made by Bellmer. However, the designer of the monster claimed that the inspiration came from traditional folklore of Japan. Apparent references to Hans Bellmer’s art and photography were visible in Love Object, a film made in 2003. Moreover, a band from post punk era in New York, took its name from the works of Bellmer on his dolls and called their band Bellmer Dolls. A 2004 film, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, categorized in the anime genre, featured aspects of Bellmer’s uncanny and erotic dolls. In fact, Mamoru Oshiihas, the director recalled Bellmer’s doll work as an inspiration for the production.

On the other hand, in 2006, the London Whitechapel Gallery removed Hans Bellmar’s twelve photographs from an exhibition from fear of Muslim neighborhoods that they will be offended by the sexually explicit content.

Many exhibitions of Bellmar’s work have taken place in locations, such as Paris’s Galerie Daniel Cordier, 1963; London’s Robert Fraser Gallery, 1966; Berlin’s Kunst Verein, Hannover’s Kestner Gesellschaft, Munich’s Galerie Wolfgang Ketterer, all in 1967; Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, 1970; Paris’s CNAC Archives, 1971; Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, 1975; Paris’s Galerie André Francois Petit, 1976; Paris’s Centre Pompidou and Filipacchi, 1983; Hannover’s Kestnergesellschaft, 1984; London’s Editions Graphiques, 1985; New York’s Isidore Ducasse Fine Arts, 1990; Krannert Art Museum, 1991; and many more.