Born in Katowice, Poland in 1902; Bellmer began his artistic career in Berlin under the tutorship of George Grosz. Grosz himself specialized in social commentary that never shied away from representing the people as visually disgusting and viscerally ill. The common view that these two artists shared of representing humanity as grotesqueries, was unwelcome is late 30’s Germany. The Nazi’s had their own idea of what was acceptable as art and Bellmer was labeled a degenerate. Bellmer did have some admirers at the time, the Surrealists that worked and played in gay Paris loved his work. The deformed torsos and sexually confrontational work harkened to the Surrealists, whose own work dealt with psychology. With a massive series of disturbing photographs of life-sized handmade dolls (poupees), Bellmer fled to France. He was detained in a detention camp by the French authorities until 1940. Destitute before making his way to France, he was even more impoverished as he shuffled out of prison. Disowned by his homeland and treated as a war criminal in France, his career seemed dead. Encouragingly, Bellmer was hired by the French erotic writer, George Bataille, to create prints for the book, Historire de l’oeil . Bellmer’s images of decaying, diseased bodies and entwined limbs lent themselves well to Batailles’ writings. This relationship was extremely fruitful for both, and Bellmer continued producing prints for numerous editions of books including, De Sade’s Petit Traite de Morale. Empty stomach behind him, Bellmer created numerous photographs and prints that showcased his disturbing bend towards physicality and eroticism.
Bellmer died in Paris in 1972, respected by a few, unknown to most. While his subject matter upset and disgusted the timid; history has embraced Bellmer as a visionary of horrific images and deeply personal eroticism. His work has been gaining respect and tomes detailing his work are trickling into popular culture. A unique talent, Bellmer’s work confronts the viewer head-on, making some observers very uncomfortable, but those that can stomach it are entranced by the skill and bravery displayed.
One of Bellmer’s drawing for Batailles’ Story of the Eye 1950, showcases his obsessive sense of detail, and his penchant for the disturbing. With disdain for organized religion and a depiction of swine and sex, this work stands as one of his more accessible pieces. The translucent body of the “takee” displays Bellmer’s obsession with the visceral insides of life. Indicative of much of his work, this view through the skin presents itself as sickly fleshy in some of his more extreme works. A skull stares blankly, while being anally humiliated by a pig-headed sodomizer. Standing on the pig’s shoulder’s, with ankles that expose muscle and sinew, a woman “christens” the act with golden illumination. Bellmer’s flowing line work contrasts the necrophilia, warm showers and prickly fuckers to create a work of disturbing beauty. This piece stands as a primer to the more extreme of his work and just scratches the surface of the depravity and artistic insanity that he treats the brave to.
Hans Bellmer’s work resonates in the under currents of subculture and has influenced the likes of H.R. Giger and Chris Marrs. Books detailing the twisted visions of this artist are few but The Anatomy of Anxiety by Sue Taylor covers his photos and prints remarkably, while taking a psychoanalytical approach to his work. Uncover his art in Surrealist anthologies and on the net, a strange visionary worth discovering and well worth the hunt. You may even realize that you’re not the only one that is intrigued by diseased zombie-like nymphs awoken from the hidden recesses of your subconscious.