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Grotesque art

Parent categories: grotesque - visual arts

Related: caricature - fantastic art - grotesque gallery - art horror

Artists: Bosch - Fabullus

Garden of Earthly Delights (detail) - Hieronymous Bosch

Rediscovery of Nero's Golden House

When a young Roman inadvertently fell through a cleft in the Aventine hillside at the end of the 15th century, he found himself in a strange cave or grotta filled with painted figures. Soon the young artists of Rome were having themselves let down on boards knotted to ropes to see for themselves. The frescos that were uncovered then have faded to pale gray stains on the plaster now, but the effect of these freshly-rediscovered grottesche decorations was electrifying in the early Renaissance, which was just arriving in Rome. When Pinturicchio, Raphael and Michelangelo crawled underground and were let down shafts to study them, carving their names on the walls to let the world know they had been there, the paintings were a revelation of the true world of antiquity. Beside the graffiti signatures of later tourists, like Casanova and the Marquis de Sade scratched into a fresco inches apart. (British Archaeology June 1999), are the autographs of Domenico Ghirlandaio, Martin van Heemskerck, and Filippino Lippi [1] (http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/97apr/rome.htm). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domus_Aurea [Jul 2004]

The grotesque in art

A powerful esthetic category involving disruption and distortion of hierarchical or canonical assumptions. The notion combines ugliness and ornament, the bizarre and the ridiculous, the excessive and the unreal. The term derives from the Italian term for grottos (grotteschi), i.e., the ruins in which statuettes of distorted figures were found in the XV and XVI centuries. The Romantic era, with its interest in the dispossessed, in all those who before the age of Revolution had been nameless and invisible, made the grotesque its indispensable adjunct. Victor Hugo, for whom the grotesque was indispensable opposite the sublime, aptly indulged his penchant for antithesis when he claimes that the grotesque is "the richest source nature can offer art." M. Bahktin placed the grotesque at the heart of the carnivalesque spirit.

With its insistence on ironic reversals, on fluent and fertile opposites, the grotesque also resembles the topos of The World Upside-Down, that topsy-turvy universe where things are no longer in their place, where order is disrupted, where hierarchies tumble, and the Fool is king. Both the Grotesque and The World Upside-Down possess a darkly comic portent, that the fantastic uncovers and explores; both serve the key function of revealing the constructed nature of rationality, of the mandate that everything be in its place. The surface relationships by which daily life is governed are anything but ordained and stable; indeed, they can be understood as absolute only by dint of a sustained illusion. --http://fantastic.library.cornell.edu/grotesque.php [Jan 2005]

Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta (1590s) - Joris Hoefnagel

Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta (1590s) - Joris Hoefnagel

The adjective grotesque, was originally applied to the style of the decorative frescoes found in the buried ruins of Nero’s Domus Aurea at Rome. These long-buried chambers were rediscovered in the last two decades of the 15th Century. The strange ornamental designs that were found there ‘featured elaborate fantasies with symmetrical anatomical impossibilities, small beasts, stylised human heads, and delicately-traced, indeterminate foliage all merged into one unified decorative whole.’ Pliny, in his Natural History, recorded the principal artist’s name: Fabullus; recounting how the painter went ‘for only a few hours each day to the “Golden House” to work while the light was right…’ --http://www.spamula.net/blog/2006/06/faces_of_the_grotesque [Jun 2006]

Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta
One of the most fascinating, to my eyes, of the artworks discussed in the book is an illustrated manuscript entitled Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta, a collaboration of sorts between the Croatian calligrapher Georg Bocksay and the Flemish miniaturist and illustrator Joris Hoefnagel. Bocksay, a virtuoso penman, had been commissioned to compile what amounted to a very elaborate calligraphy sampler by his patron, Emperor Ferdinand I. Thirty years later, Ferdinand's grandson (Rudolf II), asked Hoefnagel to illuminate the manuscript, a task he executed to outstandingly beautiful effect: --http://www.spamula.net/blog/archives/000108.html [Jun 2006]

Joris Hoefnagel
Joris Hoefnagel (1545 - 1601), Flemish painter and engraver, the son of a diamond merchant, was born at Antwerp.

He travelled abroad, making drawings from archaeological subjects, and was a pupil of Jan Bol at Mechlin. He was afterwards patronized by the elector of Bavaria at Munich, where he stayed eight years, and by the Emperor Rudolph at Prague. He died at Vienna in 1601.

He is famous for his miniature work, especially on a missal in the imperial library at Vienna; he painted animals and plants to illustrate works on natural history; and his engravings (especially for Braun's Civitates orbis terrarum, 1572, and Ortelius's Theatrum orbis terrarum, 1570) give him an interesting place among early topographical draftsmen. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joris_Hoefnagel [Jun 2006]

In the mid-1590s Hoefnagel began the process of adding illuminations to Bocskay’s calligraphic masterpiece (Vignau-Wilberg 1992b, 16-18). Hoefnagel’s task was formidable. When Hoefnagel began the task of adding illuminations to the codex, the writing model book had rested undisturbed in Emperor Rudolf’s Kunstkammer for almost thirty years. --http://www.slais.ubc.ca/courses/libr559f/04-05-st1/portfolios/G_Bahnemann/Mira_Paper.pdf [Jun 2006]

Mira calligraphiae monumenta : A Sixteenth-century Calligraphic Manuscript inscribed by Georg Bocskay and Illuminated by Joris Hoefnagel (1590s) [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
In 1561-62, Georg Bocskay, imperial secretary to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, inscribed the Mira calligraphiae monumenta as a testament to his preeminence among scribes. He assembled a vast selection of contemporary and historical scripts, which nearly thirty years later were further embellished by Joris Hoefnagel, Europe's last great manuscript illuminator. This book, now in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, is reproduced here in complete facsimile form, accompanied by a commentary that includes a full description; a discussion of its patron, Rudolf II, and his cultural and historical milieu; the biographies of Hoefnagel and Bocskay; and an analysis of the manuscript's role in their careers. The introduction discusses the broader issues raised by the manuscript. Topics include Hoefnagel's nature imagery, which encompasses plants, fruits, and small animals, and its relation to the spread of interest in botany and zoology at the end of the sixteenth century. Another topic is calligraphy and its place in the art and culture of the sixteenth century. The manuscript's remarkable calligraphy will be of particular interest not only to scholars but to collectors, graphic designers, and typographers as well.

See also: grotesque - grotesque art - fantastic art - Fabullus - Rome - 1500s

The Grotesque in Art

http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~werdna/grotesque/grotesque.html This is an exhibit of visual art that exposes and explores various artists' treatments of the principal anxieties of modern man. The graphically violent content is intended for mature audiences. Themes covered are fear, religion, paranoia, madness, torture, sex, death, war

Artists include: Ivan Albright. The Picture of Dorian Gray. 1943-44. (!) Miriam Beerman. Untitled. 1969. (!) William Blake. Urizen: The Web of Religion. 1794. (!) Edward John Burra. Le Bal des Pendus. 1937. (!) Luis Caballero. Untitled. 1977. (!) Bruce Conner. Child. 1959-60. (!) Salvador Dali. Soft Construction with Boiled Beans: Premonition of Civil War. 1936. (!) Paul Delvaux. Ecce Homo. 1949. (!) Otto Dix. Venus of the Capitalist Era. 1923. Oil on plywood. Whereabouts unknown. (!) Otto Dix. The War. 1929-32. Triptych, oil on wood, (!) Max Ernst. The Anti-pope. 1941-42. (!) Philip Evergood. Lily and the Sparrows. 1939. (!) H.R. Giger. Landscapes of Death: Babies. 1975. (!) Gregory Gillespie. Pregnant Female. 1967. (!) Gregory Gillespie. Fragment from a Vietnam Shrine. 1966. (!) Sidney Goodman. The Walk. 1963-64. (!) Francisco de Goya. The Incantation. c. 1797-98 (!) Nancy Grossman. Caracas. 1971. (!) George Grosz. The Little Murderer. 1918. (!) George Grosz. Metropolis. 1971. (!) Lous Guglielmi. Terror in Brooklyn. 1941. (!) Alfred Kubin. Madness. 1904. (!) Edvard Munch. Scream. 1893. (!) Jean-Marie Poumeyrol. The Revenge II. 1975. (!) Illya Repin. Ivan the Terrible and His Son. 1885. (!) Larry Rivers. Celebrating Shakespeare's 400th Birthday (Titus Andronicus). 1963. (!) Sibylle Ruppert. The Last Ride. 1976. (!) Sibylle Ruppert. The Third Sex. 1977. (!) David Alfaro Siqueiros. Cain in the United States. 1947. (!) Lucas Samaras. Photo-Transformation. 1973-74. (!) George Tooker. The Subway. 1950. (!) Antoine Wiertz. Hunger, Madness, Crime. 1864.

See also: fantastic art - art horror - horror - grotesque - art - grotesque art - printmaking - illustration - Gustave Doré

Comic Grotesque: Wit And Mockery In German Art, 1870-1940 (2004) - Pamela Kort

Comic Grotesque: Wit And Mockery In German Art, 1870-1940 (2004) - Pamela Kort[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From Publishers Weekly
A skeleton urinates in a river, demons torment sobbing broken men, and the devil mates with Salome to infect the Pope with syphilis in this history of the mania for the bizarre in German visual art, performance and literature. The book, produced in conjunction with an exhibition at the Neue Galerie in New York, begins with curator Kort's essay on the symbolist painter Arnold Bocklin, who produced lushly painted scenes of mythic figures and monsters at play. As the book goes on, the genres become less traditional, encompassing the fields of photography, collage and even puppetry. In addition, the images themselves become more abstract, as lurid mélanges of male, female and animal bodies form comic nightmares. Certainly, the horror of two world wars and the rise of fascism had an influence on the explosion of art produced in the comic grotesque mode in Germany, particularly in the Expressionist, Dada and Surrealist schools. However, as Frances S. Connelly and Robert Storr point out in this book's essays, the comic grotesque style has been something of a constant in Western Art, and is well represented today by artists like Cindy Sherman. The degree to which the works on display in this handsome collection still disquiet, shock and move us is a testament not only to the imagination of the artists who produced them, but also to the ongoing depravities of war and violence. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --via Amazon.com

Product Description:
Filled with irreverent wit, comical elements, and absurdist humor, the concept of the grotesque has fascinated artists since ancient times, but it achieved importance as a novel aesthetic approach in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Starting with Arnold Böcklin’s grotesque pictorial compositions, this volume, accompanying an exhibition, brings together a dazzling array of artists who drew inspiration from grotesque ideas about disorder, distortion, and inanity, including Lovis Corinth, Paul Klee, Max Klinger, Otto Dix, Alfred Kubin, Kurt Schwitters, and Emil Nolde. Essays consider the frequently overlooked connection between the visual arts and other media, specifically the rise of cabaret culture and humor magazines. In addition, the authors examine the legacy of the grotesque movement as seen in modern drama, art, and performance. With nearly two hundred color and black-and-white illustrations, this striking collection traces the evolution of a largely ignored, but hugely influential, movement in modern art. --via Amazon.com Product Details

See also: 2004, comic, grotesque, Germany

Disparites & Deformations: Our Grotesque (2004) - Robert Storr

Disparites & Deformations: Our Grotesque (2004) - Robert Storr [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
Historically speaking, "grotesque" first referred to the bizarre motifs discovered in Nero's palaces in the 15th century--strange hybridities of plant, animal, and human forms. Such whimsies became fodder for Renaissance masters and later for Baroque, Rococo, Romantic, modern, and postmodern artists. For the Site Sante Fe Fifth International Biennial Exhibition, invited curator Robert Storr examines contemporary embodiments of the grotesque tradition in art, a spirit which unites formal opposites: emotional and intellectual conflicts, beauty and ugliness, delight and delirium, tragedy and comedy. Producing an art of revelatory impurities that encompasses both the wondrous and the disturbing, the grotesque has informed many of the key postmodern movements in art and culture. The Biennial brings together internationally known artists working in a wide range of media, subject matter, and conceptual and aesthetic approaches, including Louise Bourgeois, Bruce Conner, Inka Essenhigh, Tom Friedman, Ellen Gallagher, Robert Gober, Douglas Gordon, Paul McCarthy, Sigmar Polke, Susan Rothenberg, Jenny Saville, Cindy Sherman, and Kara Walker. Essay by Robert Storr.

J. K. Potter

Purebred (1995) - J. K. Potter
image sourced here.

  • Neurotica: The Darkest Art of J.K. Potter - J. K. Potter, Lydia Lunch (Introduction) [Amazon.com]
    A woman's belly becomes a mouth, protruding a tongue that becomes a shark. A toothy demon named Gropius manhandles a breast. Zoomorphic, liquescent distortions of naked human flesh. This is the world of J. K. Potter, whose eerie black-and-white photomontages have illustrated tales by H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison and many other writers of the macabre. Neurotica is a gorgeous 128-page collection of the darkest of Potter's work, including several portraits of performance artist Lydia Lunch and a striking semi-nude/nude series of writer Poppy Z. Brite. Afterword by Potter describes his "low-tech garage artist" techniques.

    see also: contemporary art

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