- Hans Bellmer
- la poupée (the doll)
The photographer to Galerie André-François Petit, Paris
Acquired by the Quillan Company from the above, 1989
London, Hayward Gallery, Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, January - March 1978
Washington, D. C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, L'Amour Fou: Photography & Surrealism, September - November 1985
Madrid, Salon de Exposiciones, The Lost Bodies, Photography and Surrealists, November 1995 - January 1995; and traveling to Barcelona, Centre Cultural, January - April 1996
Greenwich, Connecticut, Bruce Museum, The Surrealist Vision: Europe and the Americas, January - April 1998
Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Puppen Körper Automaten: Phantasmen der Moderne, July - October 1999
Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Dali, Picasso, and the Surrealist Vision, October - December 2005
Riehen/Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Eros in der Kunst der Moderne, October 2006 - February 2007; and traveling to Wien, BA-CA Kunstforum, March - July 2007
Jill Quasha, The Quillan Collection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Photographs (New York, 1991), pl. 63
Dawn Ades, Dada and Surrealism Reviewed (London, 1978, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 295
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Puppen Körper Automaten: Phantasmen der Moderne (Düsseldorf, 1999, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 442
Fondation Beyeler, Eros in der Kunst der Moderne (Riehen/Basel, 2007, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 123
BA-CA Kunstforum, Eros in der Kunst der Moderne (Wien, 2007, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 117
Other prints of this image:
Rosalind Krauss and Jane Livingston, L'Amour Fou: Photography & Surrealism (Washington, D. C.: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1985, in conjunction with the exhibition), fig. 76
Nancy Hall-Duncan, Photographic Surrealism (Cleveland: The New Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1979, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 33
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Although never officially a part of the movement, Hans Bellmer is best known for his affiliation with Surrealism in the 1930s through his photographs of life-sized, surrealistic dolls. In 1933, Bellmer created his first female puppet-doll, or puppe, posed in the image offered here. Made of papier-mâché and plaster over wood and metal parts, this puppe could be assembled and re-assembled at Bellmer's whim. He would photograph this doll, and a second, fleshier version with ball joints, obsessively over the coming years. For the Surrealists, Bellmer's puppe was the perfect Surrealist object, with its combination of unreal and yet sexualized subject matter.
Bellmer said of his dolls: 'I wish to construct a girl who will be both artificial, but complete in all anatomical possibilities, and capable of being able to physiologically alter the giddiness of her passions unto the point of creating an entirely new level of desires' (quoted in Masterpieces of Photography, p. 284). The motivation behind Bellmer's constructs has been analyzed from every perspective, by sociologists, psychologists, and art historians alike: how Bellmer retreated from an abusive father into a fantasy world as a child; how a female automaton in a production of Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffman may have been the inspiration for his models. The exhaustive interpretations of Bellmer's motives, however, pale in comparison to the photographs of the puppet-dolls themselves. In Bellmer's erotic and sometimes sado-masochistic imaginings, they are alternately erotic and unsettling, provocative and shocking. All are undeniably mesmerizing.
Large prints of Bellmer's photographs, such as the one offered here, are rare. Most often encountered are small images from the photographer's limited-edition, octavo volumes, Die Puppe, published in Germany in 1934, and the French edition, La Poupée, from 1936. The image offered here has been cropped from a vertical image showing a fuller view of the doll. In the present photograph, Bellmer focuses on the doll's uncannily life-like face, glancing over a lingerie strap on her armless shoulder.
The photograph offered here is believed to be one of only two large prints of this image extant, the other originally in the collection of Henri Parisot.