24.3.14

Artists & Entries




Artists
Akerman, Mariano
Bacon, Francis
Bak, Samuel
Beksiński, Zdzisław
Bérain, Jean
Boilly, Louis-Léopold
Bolten, Arent van
Bruegel the Elder, Pieter
Callot, Jacques
Chapman Brothers, Jake & Dinos
Clovio, Giulio
Coquelin, Antoine
Desprez, François
DeVille, Julia
Delvoye, Wim
Doré, Gustave
Dubuffet, Jean
Ernst, Max
Fischli und Weiss
Floris, Cornelis
Fontanarrosa
Fuller, Timothy Jacob
Genovese, Alfredo
Gervasi, Elvio
González, Jesús
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco
Gravina, Francesco Ferdinando Il
Hoefnagel, Joris
Inga, Javier
Kertész, André
Kuksi, Kris
Lequeu, Jean-Jacques
Mäetam, Marko
Maschen, Santos
Marin, Livia
Menasché, Sergio
Messerschmidt, Franz Xaver
Nine, Carlos
Nowak, Till
Oliehoek, Jan
Ovchinnikov, Alexander
Petitot, Ennemond-Alexandre
Picasso, Pablo
Piranesi, Giovanni Battista
Quino
Raphael
Reinhardt, Ad
Riccardi, Fabrizio [+]
Salviati, Francesco
Santos, Carlos
Slarner, Liliana
Tanguy, Yves
Verona, Cachi
Weber, Andreas Paul
Wolverton, Basil
Yamaguchi, Yuka



Entries
A Curate's Egg
A la búsqueda del factor grotesco
A Procession of Grotesques
Acerca de lo Grotesco en las pinturas de Bacon
Alcances del sentimentalismo artístico
Ars Poetica
Arte argentino
Arte grotesco: algunos de sus alcances
As Funny as It Gets
Art as Intention in Context
Art Matters: Ideas & Themes Illustrated
¿Arte o Gato por Liebre?
Artistic Imagination
Artistic Monsters
Aspectos grotescos del arte de Bacon
Asunto de 6.000.000
Atypical Beings
Auricular Style
Bacon: Painter with a Double-Edged Sword
Bakhtin: The Body Grotesque
Banham y la estética del colectivo porteño
Best Regards to Medusa?
Bien complejo y bien porteño
Books: The Grotesque and Its Relatives
Bretagne fantastique
Buraq
Capricious
Chair-Ladder
Clavileño el Alígero
Configuraciones grutescas
De la mímesis como problema
De monstruos, prodigios y maravillas
Decoração insólita
Domus Aurea, Rome
Double-Edged
Educar con el ejemplo
El factor grotesco
El firulete, un asunto de importancia medular
El juego de Bacon
El laberinto del fauno
El ser y el trabajo
El todo mezclado
Estética do grotesco: Christoff
Estilo auricular
European Ornamental Prints
Figura en el espejo, 1971
Flora Picturesque
Francis Bacon en Buenos Aires
Francis Bacon y lo Grotesco
Fribolitus fribolitantis
Gigantomachy
Giornale Nuovo
Grotesco el cuerpo
Grotteschi
Grotesques selon l'Encyclopédie Larousse
Grotto-litera-turistika
Hibridaciones varias
Hindu Deities
Historia de la Arquitectura
Imaginary Art
Insuperable en la sátira: Antonio Gasalla
Jugando con fuego
Kafka
Kayser plus Bakhtin
Kuntillet Ajrud
La grottesca
La Revelación según Bak
La tradition des grotesques
Las fuentes hispánicas del arte baconiano
Las inscripciones de los carros
L'écriture des grotesques
Les Luthiers
Les songes drolatiques de Pantagruel
¿Lo bello que en lo feo o lo feo que en lo feo?
Lo familiar vuelto inquietante
Lo Grotesco en las pinturas de Bacon
Lo Grotesco en las pinturas instintivas de Bacon
Lo imaginario
Maniérisme : rébellion mélancolique
Masquerade: Somewhere between the Mask and the Face
Media and the Grotesque
Medieval Grotesqueries
Medieval Imagination
Mi linda maestra
Montaigne: Boscage or Crotesco
"Multiplica las sonrisas"
Netherlandish Realities
¿No es acaso el árbol un hombre?
"No Grotesques in Nature"
O fator grotesco
O grotesco
O grotesco nas artes visuais
O império do grotesco
Of Purpose in 20th-Century Art
Ornament and the Grotesque
Ortega y Gasset sobre la Metáfora
Painters and Poets Alike
Paradoxical Times
Popular Science: Grotescology
Quiebre y Derrame
Resources
Resourceful Jahsonic
Rocaille
Sacred Hybrid
Shell and Content
Significado de "A la que te criaste"
Sólo nos es segura la inseguridad
Terminología de las artes plásticas
The Child Catcher
The Creole Arabesque - El firulete criollo
The Fear Factor
The Fictitious Image
The Grotesque
The Grotesque in Bacon's Paintings
The Grotesque in Bacon's Paintings, 1999-2009
The Grotesque in Twentieth Century Art
The Hour of Jeanne d'Évreux
The Human Body in Modern Art
The Macclesfield Psalter
The Paradoxical
The Uncanny
Theatrical Murder
Transgressing the Boundaries
True Monsters
T.S. Eliott, "The Hippopotamus," 1925
T.S. Eliott, "The Hollow Men," 1925
Um estilo marginal
Versatilidad
Viva la mezcla
Viva la muerte



Bookmarks & Resources
Bibliography
Favorite Resources
Grottesca
Grotesco Online
Links
The Grotesque Times

21.3.14

Cornelis Floris

1508-1575

A Mannerist Netherlandish artist, Floris developed a bizarre set of designs featuring mascarons grotesques in 1555.[1]

Cornelis Floris, Grotesque Ornamental Mask (Mascaron), Antwerp, 1555
Etching by Frans Huys
Wolfsburg Kunstmuseum

In 1555, Floris designed between 18 and 22 sheets with human faces made up from vegetal elements, some highly stylized, others still recognizable as leaves and fruits. The images merge the animal and vegetable realms, and also the living and nonliving. Floris' designs intermix classical and not-so-classical components in most unexpected and extravagant ways.

Floris, Mascaron "i", Antwerp, 1555
Engraving by Huys
From: Pourtraicture ingenieuse de plusieurs façon de Masques. Fort utile aulx painctres, orseures, Taillieurs de pierres, voirriers et Taillieurs d'images (Ingenious portrayal of several types of masks. Useful for painters, stoneworkers [and other trades]).

Floris, Mascaron "h", 1555
Engraving by Huys (Pourtraicture ingenieuse).

Floris was born in Antwerp but spent some time in Rome in the late 1530s when he would have been exposed to examples of Ancient Roman and Renaissance grotesque decoration. The grotesque style often featured fanciful creatures--part human, part plant. The prints of Cornelis Floris have been described as having a sinister quality about them. In several of his prints, the combination of the auricular (ear-like) quality of the framework and the presence of individual figures apparently held prisoner by it, does give an unsettling effect (V&A).

Cornelis Floris
Ornamental Grotesque, Print "F", from Veelderleij Veranderinghe van grotissen ende Compertimenten ghemaeckt tot dienste van alle die de Conste beminne ende ghebruiken, Antwerp, 1556.[2]
Etching, 30.7 x 20.9 cm.
Published by Hieronymus Cock
Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The etching series Veelderleij Veranderinghe van grotissen ende Compertimenten are known in English as "Many Variations of Grottoes and Compartments."

Associated terms: putti, festoons, strapwork, shell motif, fantasy, snail, Auricular Style, imprisonment, Mannerist art.

Floris was a pioneer of the Auricular Style, which was to reach its a peak only in the 17th century.[3]

Johannes Lutma, Cartouche auriculaire, Amsterdam, 1633-54.
BnF, Paris.[4]

References
1. Incomplete sets of the suite are available from Amsterdam Rijksmuseum and MAK Vienna (Ornamental Prints Online). See also Carsten-Peter Warncke, Die ornamentale Groteske in Deutschland, 1500-1650, 2 vols., Berlin: Verlag Volker Spiess, 1979.
2. Désiré Guilmard, Les maitres ornemanistes : dessinateurs, peintres, architectes, sculpteurs et graveurs, Paris: E. Plon, 1880-81, p. 477 no. 6; Berlin Staatliche Museen, Katalog der Ornamentstichsammlung, Berlin and Leipzig, 1936-39, no. 211.1; Peter Ward Jackson, "Some Main Streams and Tributaries in European Ornament from 1500 to 1750", VAM, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1969, 38.
3. Auricular describes the smooth, curved, rippling and pliable shapes that resemble a human ear. Floris' prints are very early examples of this type of ornament which was developed by goldsmiths attempting to demonstrate organic forms extruding from the surface. The style probably influenced the later Baroque and Rococo movements: in various of his designs, Floris incorporates abstracted zoological motifs, in most cases relating to the ocean.
4. Guilmard, Maîtres ornemanistes, vol. 2, pl. 16.

Online Resources
• Misteraitch, Giornale Nuovo: Faces of the Grotesque, 2006
• Peacay, BibliOdyssey: Grotesque Mask Heads, 2011
• Akermariano, Imaginarium: Masquerade, Somewhere between the Mask and the Face, 2011

19.3.14

Raphael: The Vatican Loggia


The loggia, or colonnaded porch, on the second story of the Apostolic Palace is one of the Vatican’s most remarkable art treasures; its decoration, designed by Raphael (1483—1520) and executed by his workshop in 1517- 1519, epitomizes the spirit of the Italian Renaissance in its synthesis of Christian and classical themes. The thirteen square vaults of Raphael’s loggia each contain four frescoes of scenes from the Bible, from the Creation to the Last Supper. Meanwhile, the plasterwork of the other architectural elements is decorated with "grotesques"—fanciful arabesques enlivened with a wide variety of human and animal figures—modeled after ancient Roman wall paintings. [...] the grotesque ornamental style elaborated by Raphael has been imitated as far afield as the corridors of the United States Capitol, and the Bible scenes served as influential models for popular prints.[1]

Raphael Sanzio and Giovanni da Udine
Detail from Pilaster IX, with acanthus foliage populated by animals, and flanking half-pilasters, with grotesque imagery.
fresco, 1515-19
Vatican Loggia, Apostolic Palace, Rome.[2]

The Raphael Loggia consists of numerous vaults, arches and pilasters forming a gallery sixty-five meters long and four meters wide. Its construction was begun by architect and painter Donato Bramante in 1512, under Pope Julius II and was completed by Raphael under the reign of Leo X. Raphael began work on the frescoes in 1517.

Raphael Sanzio and Giovanni da Udine
Pilaster with Grotesques, fresco, 1515-19
Loggie, Apostolic Palace, Rome
Colored engraving by Volpato & Ottaviani, 1772-77

Grotesque Motifs

Raphael and Da Udine
Grotesques, 1515-19
Detail from engraving by Volpato & Ottaviani (after drawings by Camporesi & Savorelli Teseo); Le Loggie di Rafaele nel Vaticano, Rome, 1772-77.

Half-Figure
From a set of gouache colored engravings (Le Loggie di Rafaele nel Vaticano, 3 vols., Rome, 1772-77).[3]

Raphael and Giovanni da Udine, Grotteschi (Grotesques, candelabrum arrangement), fresco, 1515-19. Pilaster detail. Papal Loggias, Vatican.[4]

Raphael and Giovanni da Udine, Grotteschi (Grotesques, candelabrum arrangement), fresco, 1515. Pilaster detail. Papal Loggias, Vatican

Rafael, Grotesque motif, 1515-19
Detail from engraving by Volpato & Ottaviani (after drawings by Camporesi & Savorelli Teseo); Le Loggie di Rafaele nel Vaticano, Rome, 1772-77.

Notes
1. Nicole Dacos, The Loggia of Raphael: A Vatican Art Treasure, Abbeville, 2008.
2. Ibid., p. 43, pl. 19.
3. Photograph by Alan Carroll, 2012 (Surface Fragments and photo-album). Engraving is by Volpato & Ottaviani (after drawings by Camporesi & Savorelli Teseo).
4. Photograph by Alessandro Vasari, c. 1880-90 (Istituto Nazionale della Grafica).

18.3.14

Montaigne: Boscage or Crotesco


Michel Eyquem de Montaigne considers Horace's approach when offering his own, albeit brief, commentary on the grotesque. Significantly, he does so while likewise crossing the border between art and literature.[1]

He begins his essay "Of Friendship" like this:

CONSIDERING the proceeding of a Painters worke I have, a desire hath possessed mee to imitate him: He maketh choice of the most convenient place and middle of everie wall, there to place a picture, laboured with all his skill and sufficiencie; and all void places about it he filleth up with antike Boscage [foliated ornament] or Crotesko [grotesque] works; which are fantasticall pictures, having no grace, but in the variety and strangenesse of them.[2]

After duly admiring the grotesques, he compares them to his own writings:

And what are these my compositions in truth, other than antike workes, and monstrous bodies, patched and hudled up together of divers members, without any certaine or well ordered figure, having neither order, dependencie, or proportion, but casuall and framed by chance? [3]

Montaigne then quotes Horace's line about the woman with a fish tail:

"Definit is piscem mulier formosa supernè."[4]

Boscage or Crotesco? Both.

A woman faire for parts superior
Ends in a fish for parts inferior.[5]

Lucas Hugensz van Leyden (1489-1533)
Ornamental Panel with Grotesques, 1528
engraving
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Ancient hybrid motif
Roman mosaic from Carthage, Tunisia
Bardo Museum, Tunis

NOTES
1. Gwyneth of Perth. Images in this post are not hers, but mine.
2. Montaigne, Literary and Philosophical Essays: "Of Friendship", lines 1-6 (The Harvard Classics, 1909–14; Bartleby).
3. Ibid., lines 6-10.
4. Ibid., line 11; Horace, Ars Poetica, 4.
5. Ibid., line 12.

17.3.14

Décor à la Bérain


Jean Bérain père est un peintre, aquarelliste, dessinateur, graveur, ornemaniste et décorateur de théâtre français né à Saint-Mihiel, Meuse, le 4 juin 1640 et mort à Paris le 24 janvier 1711, âgé d'environ 71 ans.

Fils d'un arquebusier lorrain, après avoir étudié avec Charles Le Brun, il est nommé à la cour de Louis XIV en 1674 comme dessinateur de la Chambre et du Cabinet du Roi. Ses créations très variées comprennent des décors d’opéras, de fêtes et de pompes funèbres, des habits, des pièces d’orfèvrerie et d’arquebusiers, des modèles de lambris et de plafonds, des meubles des perspectives de jardins, de carrousels, des décorations pour les poupes ou les proues de vaisseaux royaux.

Il dessine les maquettes de costume pour les pièces de théâtre et opéras, dont ceux de Jean-Baptiste Lully, représentés à la cour et devient le décorateur officiel de l'Académie royale de musique en 1680, succédant à Carlo Vigarani. Il joue un rôle important dans l'histoire du costume de ballet4.

Il est l'auteur des cartons de nombreuses tapisseries pour la Manufacture de Beauvais comme pour celle des Gobelins.

Décédé veuf de Louise Rauhaut, à l'âge de 71 ans, dans son appartement aux galeries du Louvre, il fut inhumé en l'église Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois.

Son fils, Jean Bérain, continuera son œuvre.

Décor à la Jean Bérain

Le style Bérain. Jean Bérain père a marqué un renouvellement de l'art grotesque, en allégeant le style floral chargé d’acanthes propre de la Renaissance, hérité de Charles le Brun, et en anticipant le rococo.


Dans toutes ses œuvres, qui touchent à la plus grande partie des arts décoratifs, on trouve une unité d'inspiration qui justifie le terme de style Bérain. Ce style influencera l'Europe entière : il sera exporté par le décorateur Daniel Marot en Angleterre et en Hollande, et par Paul Decker en Allemagne.


Ce style est baroque et caractérisé par l'utilisation du thème des grotesques cher au XVIe siècle et à l'École de Fontainebleau, traité de façon très personnelle, et par un goût marqué pour les grandes architectures classiques. Les compositions sont toujours centrées, encadrées de portiques ou de lambrequins, ornées de façon symétrique de volutes et peuplées de petits personnages fantastiques. Il fait usage de l'aquarelle, et ses dessins présentent une grande délicatesse de trait.


Le style Bérain, célèbre pour ce que l'on nomme "arabesques", (le terme est ici utilisé en tant que synonyme de "grotesque", sans aucune référence au monde arabe), fut adopté pour la décoration des majoliques de Rouen, ainsi que de Marseille, et influença les manufactures espagnoles et italiennes (céramiques de Lodi et de Turin). Pendant toute la première moitié du XVIIIe siècle, le décor " à la Bérain ", le plus souvent en camaïeu bleu, est typique des faïences de Moustiers. Autour d'un sujet central, généralement un personnage mythologique, s'articule un réseau d'arabesques parfaitement symétrique, enrichi d'éléments architecturaux, de cariatides, de bustes et d'animaux irréels.









Plus d'images chez Carroll et Marinni.

14.3.14

Giornale Nuovo

A fantastic source of inspiration, available since 2002 :)

One of the best resources online ever:

Giornale Nuovo
Of things near and far...

An Accumulation of Inconsecuential Notices
in the Shape of a Web-Log

Compiled, and Published on the 'Spamula' Domain
by S_____ H_____, in K_____, Sweden,
MMII - MMVII


Smart logo by Misteraitch features motif from Luigi Serafini's Pulcinellopedia Piccola (Milan: Longanesi, 1984).

Entries, annotated list
• Thank You, and Goodnight! - The Giornale’s final entry, including some illustrations from Serafini’s Pulcinellopedia.
• Ghisi - Allegorical engravings by the 16th-century Mantua-born printmaker.
• House of Rats - More works by stained-glass virtuosa Judith Schaechter.
• Érik Desmazières - Evocative contemporary etchings of imaginary places.
• Alberto Savinio - Composer, musician, painter, writer & De Chirico’s brother.
• Didier Massard - Imaginary landscapes made by photographing miniature tableaux.
• More Odds and Ends - The Artempo exhibition in Venice; Brian Dettmer’s carved books; Tiger Tateishi.
• Van de Venne’s Album - A portfolio of watercolours depicting life in 1620s Holland.
• Butt Johnson - Remarkably intricate drawings by a contemporary Brooklyn-based artist.
• Eva Bonnier - A 19th-century Swedish portrait-painter.
• Veridicus Christianus - Images from the first Jesuit emblem-book by Phillips and Theodoor Galle.
• Marc Dennis - Vivid realist paintings by the New York-resident contemporary artist.
• Tales of the Arabesque - Cursory outline of the decorative style inspired by elements from Islamic art.
• Laurie Lipton - Dauntingly-detailed pencil-drawings by the American-born artist.
• Palmer’s Sketchbook of 1824 - An album of drawings by the nineteen-year-old artist.
• Eisbergfreistadt - A project by Kahn & Selesnick documenting a fictional principality established on an iceberg off the Baltic port of Lübeck.
• Arent van Bolten - Grotesque prints and sculptures by a little-known Dutch artist.
• Crispin de Passe - A brief overview of the life & work of the 16th/17th-century Dutch-born engraver.
• Xul Solar - Watercolours by the Argentine painter, sculptor, writer, and inventor.
• Hard Stones and Rain Flower Pebbles - More works in pietre-dure and some ornamental Chinese pebbles.
• Della Bella - Works by the 17th-century Florentine printmaker.
• Soehnée - Singularly-weird drawings made in 1818-9 by an obscure Alsatian artist.
• Callot - A handful of works by the prolific printmaker.
• Matton - Interior spaces painstakingly reconstructed in miniature.
• Houtin - Etchings depicting imaginary gardens.
• Mélancolies - Graphic works depicting sadness, desidia, sloth, acedia...
• Ciafferi, Poli & Poli - Three little-known 17th/18th-century Italian artists.
• Greetings from... - A collection of misprinted postcards.
• Schulz - Slightly perverse cliché-verre prints by the author of The Street of Crocodiles.
• Habert-Dys’s Alphabet - A late 19th-century illustrated alphabet.
• Engraved and Etched English Title-Pages (ii) - More ornamented pages, including work by John Droeshout, Abraham Bosse, Francis Barlow, Wenceslas Hollar and William Faithorne.
• Engraved and Etched English Title-Pages (i) - Pictorial pages by William Hole, Simon and William de Passe, Christophe Le Blon, Thomas Cockson, Thomas Cecill and William Marshall.
• Peake - Illustrations of Dickens by the novelist, draughtsman, poet & playwright.
• The Naming of Names - Botanical illustrations as reproduced in Anna Pavord’s book.
• ‘Master L. D.’ and ‘Juste de Juste’ - More prints from the Fontainebleau school.
• Anatomy, Geometry - Two images from Cheselden’s Osteographia; and two images from the manuscript original of Stoer’ Geometria et Perspectiva.
• The Genius of Castiglione - A selection of etchings by Il Grechetto.
• Griemiller’s Rosary - A richly-illustrated alchemical manuscript from Bohemia.
• Basoli’s Alphabet - Elaborate lithographs published in 1839: ‘a collection of pictorial thoughts composed of objects beginning with the individual letters of the alphabet.’
• The Genius of Salvator Rosa - Graphic works by the 17th-century painter, satirist & songwriter.
• The Life of the Dead - A 1933 collaboration between American poet Laura Riding Jackson and British painter John Aldridge.
• Faust in Prague - A sinister-looking manuscript (in fact an 18th-century fake) purporting to be a handbook such as that used by Faust to conjure spirits.
• Denton Welch - Sparkling prose and ‘prettified surrealism.’
• Into the Wood - A strange tale by Robert Aickman, and a vacation in the Swedish woods.
• Miscellaneity, etc. - Reflections on the motley and the various, inspired by Neil Kenny’s book The Palace of Secrets, and its account of the works of Béroalde de Verville.
The Golden House Revisited - 18th-century depictions of the decorative frescoes in the Domus Aurea.
• Morghen and the Moon - An 18th-century Florentine printmaker’s depiction of a voyage from the Earth to the Moon.
• Jean Mignon - Prints associated with the Fontainebleau school: specifically those based on designs by Luca Penni.
• Civitas Veri - Del Bene’s allegorical poem, and its intriguing engraved illustrations.
Faces of the Grotesque - A brief overview of the decorative style born with the rediscovery of Nero’s Domus Aurea, illustrated with a variety of stylised faces.
• Clovio, and the Farnese Hours - An illuminated manuscript nine years in the making.
• Theatrum Mortis - Valvasor’s ‘Theatre of Death:’ a book comprising a Totentanz, a catalogue of notable deaths, and depictions of infernal torments.
• Gnoli’s ‘Modern Bestiary’ - A set of drawings made in 1968 by the Italian artist subtitled Cos’è un mostro, (What is a monster)?
• De Gheyn - The Antwerp-born painter and graphic artist, and his works naer het leven (from the life), and nyt den gheest (from the mind or spirit).
• Pictorial Stones - Stones naturally patterned with ‘landscapes,’ etc.; decorated stones; and pietre-dure work.
• Paulini’s ABC, etc. - Some letters from an elaborate mannerist alphabet, engraved by an obscure Italian.
• Merian - A small selection of works by the Swiss-born engraver.
• Bellange - The idiosyncratic mannerist etchings of an artist employed at the court of the Dukes of Lorraine, in Nancy.
• Gallows Literature - Some snippets from Charles Hindley’s compilation Curiosities of Street Literature.
• Эмблемы и символы - Emvlemy i Simvoly: the only Russian emblem-book.
• Carlo Maggi’s Voyage - The Codex Maggi: a A Venetian diplomat’s painted biography.
• The Grapes of Ralph - A selection of Ralph Steadman’s illustrations for a ’90s Oddbins catalogue.
• A Paper Museum, and the Academy of Lynxes - Cassiano del Pozzo’s Museo Cartaceo and the Accadmia dei Lincei founded by Cesi, et al.
• Varo - More paintings by the Spanish-born surrealist.
• Reading Browne on the Bus - The works of Sir Thomas Browne, and the peculiar afterlife of his skull.
Repræsentatio,’ etc. - Engravings by Georg Donauer, after designs by Balthasar Küchler.
• Images of the Gods of the Ancients - Vincenzo Cartari’s illustrated 16th-century book on the Græco-Roman pantheon.
• Typotius - A compendium of imprese, and the man who got top billing on its title-page.
• This Page Has Intentionally Been Left Blank - Autumnal reflections, and some drawings by Giambattista Tiepolo.
• A Fine, Useful Booklet - A treatise on ‘perspective for dummies’ dating from 1531.
• Personages - A small selection of paintings by Remedios Varo.
• Steingruber’s Alphabet - An 18th-century architectural alphabet: ground-plans and elevations modelled on individual letter-shapes.
• De’ Grassi’s Animals - More images from a 14th-century manuscript ‘notebook.’
• De Bry’s Alphabets - Johann Theodor’s 1595 Neiw Kunstliches Alphabet and the 1596 Alphabeta et Characteres.
• Neuw Grottessken Buch - Exuberantly grotesque designs by the goldsmith Christoph Jamnitzer.
• Kircher’s Obelisks - The polymath on hieroglyphs on obelisks in Rome.
• The Republic of Dreams - About imaginary realms in general, and Jerry Crimmins’ surreal République in particular.
• Redon, Again - More Noirs by the 19th-century painter.
• Hepburn’s Alphabets - Alphabets real and fanciful as printed on a broadside engraving designed by a Scottish Jesuit in 1620.
• A True Account of What Happen’d in the Kingdom of Sweden - In an appendix to Joseph Glanvill’s posthumous book about the dangers of witchcraft.
• The Discovery of a World in the Moone - 1638 treatise by John Wilkins.
• Bracelli - The slender graphic œuvre of the creator of the Bizzarie di Varie Figure.
• Raimondi - Images by the master-engraver, active in early 16th-century Rome.
• The Empire of Vegetables - Humourous illustrations by Amédée Varin.
• Lucas van Leyden - A master-engraver working in the early 16th century.
• The Dream of Raphael - A complex and puzzling engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi: nothing to do with Raphael.
• Cort’s and Floris’s Virtues - A suite of mannerist engravings published in Antwerp in 1560.
• Lequeu - More visionary architecture (and other weirdness) from 18th-century France.
• Maschere della Commedia - Commedia dell’Arte-inspired images by Daniele Scarpa Kos, Luigi Serafini, Giandomenico Tiepolo and Maurice Sand.
• Patientia - An emblem-book in manuscript: the work of a young Joris Hoefnagel.
• Bruegel: Seven Vices and a Virtue - More engavings after designs by the Flemish master.
• Atalanta Fugiens - Michael Maier’s ‘multimedia’ alchemical treatise.
• Boullée - Visionary architecture from 18th-century France.
• Michelangelo’s Dream - The complex symbolism in a single drawing.
• A.G. Rizzoli - The visionary architectural designs of an eccentric draughtsman.
• Bruegel’s Proverbs - Engravings illustrating Netherlandish proverbs after designs by the famous painter.
• De’ Grassi’s Alphabet - Images of the figurative alphabet from a 14th-century manuscript.
• Théâtre d’Amour - A hand-coloured compilation of love-emblems dating from 1620.
• Psalmanazar - An 18th-century impostor, including some images from his Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa.
• Mitelli’s Games - Card, dice and board games designed by the Bolognese printmaker.
• Bishop Wilkins’s Ark - A digression about the practicality of Noah’s Ark, in the Essay Towards a Real Character.
• The Ship of Fools - Sebastian Brant’s satirical poem and its woodcut illustrations.
• Malpertuis - An appreciation of Jean Ray’s unusual novel.
• More Mitelli - Further examples of the Bolognese engraver’s work.
• István Orosz - Anamorphic images and other works by the Hungarian graphic artist.
• Max Klinger - Some graphic works from the 1880s.
• Of Winters & Lost Works - Arcimboldo’s personifications of winter; mention of some lost works by the same artist.
• Giuseppe Maria Mitelli - The Bolognese printmaker, active in the late 17th & early 18th centuries.
• Figurative Alphabets - Alphabets whose letters are composed of pictures of animals or people.
• Judith Schaechter - A contemporary artist notable for working in the medium of stained glass.
• Aldrovandi’s Watercolours - Paintings of zoological subjects commissioned by the natural philosopher.
• Nobson Central - Paul Noble’s magnificently obsessive drawings.
•Curiosities of Literature - Announcing a project to digitise Isaac D’Israeli’s 19th-century compendium of book-lore.
• The Late Max Ernst - Paintings from the artist’s old age.
• Circulus - A sequence of mannerist engravings by Phillips Galle after designs by Maarten de Vos.
• More Belgian Art - Paintings from late 19th-century Belgium.
• Brief Reflections on Spam - Thoughts on the then-vexatious problem of comment-spam.
• Ensor vs Khnopff - The contrasting careers of two Belgian painters.
• A Map of Schlaraffenland - A satirical map of an imaginary country.
• Hoefnagel & Hoefnagel’s Archetypa - Emblematic engravings by Jacob H., based on designs by his father, Joris.
• Psychobox - Concerning a compilation of psychological tricks and tests, illustrated with optical illusions.
• The Discovery of America - A book of drawings by Saul Steinberg.
• Burnet’s Sacred Theory - The geological treatise Telluris Theoria Sacra and its accidental influence on aesthetics.
• Max Ernst’s Blues - Some paintings made in the years 1957-9.
• Vertumnus, Autumns - Personifications of Autumn, by Arcimboldo, and his painting Vertumnus.
• Elsheimer - About the 15th/16th-century German-born painter: the first to portray an astronomically correct night sky.
• Under the Hill - Aubrey Beardsley’s unfinished novel.
• ‘Behmenists and Philadelphians’, etc. - About the English followers of the mystic Jakob Böehme, illustrated with images from Böehme’s works.
• Il Ballarino - Images from Fabritio Caroso’s 1581 dance-manual, etc.
• Haavikko - Some English translations of works by the Finnish poet.
• Lambsprinck - Emblematic images from the 1625 alchemical tract De Lapide Philisophico.
• The Flight into Egypt - The book-art of Timothy C. Ely.
• Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes - The 1615 treatise by Salomon de Caus.
• Drolleries - Marginal decorations from the illuminated manuscript known as the Croy Hours.
• The Mantegna Tarot - Neither a tarot, nor the work of Mantegna.
• Mantegna, Engraver - 15th-century engravings attributed to the Venetian painter and draughtsman.
• Petrantoni - Black-and-white collages by the contemporary Italian artist/designer.
• Bretschneider - Images from the 1617 emblem-book Pratrum Emblematicum.
• De’Barbari - 15th/16th-century engravings by the man Dürer called ‘Meister Jakob.’
• Summer - Personifications of Summer by Arcimboldo.
• Campagnola - Early 16th-century engravings.
• ‘The Hundred-Headless Woman,’ Continued - More of Max Ernst’ collages.
• ‘Misfortunes of the Immortals’ and ‘The Hundred-Headless Woman’ - Early collage-sequences by Max Ernst.
• Istanbul - The elusive quality of childhood memories.
• Father Cats - A 1627 emblem-book with verses by the Dutch jurist, diplomat and poet Jacob Cats.
• The Kings of Redonda - M.P. Shiel, John Gawsworth, Javier Marías and the ‘Kingdom’ of Redonda.
• Paula Rego - More graphic works by the Portuguese-born artist.
• The Apollo Prophecies - A thirty-six foot long black and white panoramic photograph, and other works, by Kahn and Selesnick.
• Balli di Sfessania - Images of Commedia dell’Arte characters as etched by Jacques Callot.
• Lilacs - Mikhail Vrubel’s painting, and the flower itself.
• Gillray, Continued - Conclusion of a brief account of the caricaturist’s life and work.
• Gillray - First part of a brief account of the caricaturist’s life and work.
• Bletted Medlars - Regarding the medlar, and the mention of it in Robert Aickman’s novel The Late Breakfasters.
• The Suit of Books - Jost Amman’s 1588 designs for playing-cards with decidedly non-standard suits: Ink-pads, Books, Drinking-cups and Pots.
• A Fourth Spring - Arcimboldo’s personifications of Spring.
• More ‘Natural Curiosities’ - More images from Albertus Seba’s Thesaurus.
• Mayday in Munich - A visit to the Alte Pinakothek museum in Munich.
• Velly - More paintings by the Breton-born artist.
• Kahn & Selesnick - Photographs from the duo’s Scotlandfuturebog series.
• Four Babels - Four 16th-century depictions of the Tower of Babel.
• Moralia Bornitiana - Jakob Bornitz’s 1678 emblem-book.
• Figurines - William T. Vollmann; Soviet-era ceramics by Natalya Dan’ko; Anna Akhmatova.
• Proscenium Vitæ Humanæ - Images from the 1627 emblem-book produced by Johann Theodor de Bry.
• Arcimboldo’s Elements - Arcimboldo’s personifications of water, air, fire and earth.
• Anatomia Universa - Anatomical plates from the posthmously-published work of Paolo Mascagni.
• The Da Costa Hours - Images from the illuminated manuscript known as the Da Costa Hours.
• Bresdin - Graphic works by the 19th-century French artist.
• Floating Fruit - Images from Johann Christoph Volckamer’s opus Nürnbergische Hesperides.
• Decalcomania - Max Ernst’s use of this technique.
• Zichy - Erotic drawings from the 1870s.
• Starowieyski - Striking Polish film & theatre posters.
• Cellarius - Images from the Harmonia Macrocosmica.
• Perspectiva Literaria - Illustrations of geometry and perspective by the Nuremburg goldsmith Hans Lencker.
• Mikrokosmos - An emblem-book published in Antwerp in 1579, by Laurentius Haechtanus, with engravings by Gérard de Jode.
• Optotypes - Herman Snellen’s eye-test charts.
• Tom Thumb - A book for Swedish children learning English, with illustrations by Mervyn Peake.
• Before and After the Future - The pre- and post-futurist works of Giacomo Balla.
• Prodigiorum - Images from Conrad Lycosthenes’ ‘Chronicle of Omens and Portents.’
• Odd Nerdrum - Some earlier works by the Norwegian painter.
• Bernini’s Elephant - About the sculptural setting of the obelisk in Rome’s Piazza della Minerva.
• Jakob von Gunten - Robert Walser’s peculiar tale, illustrated with stills from the movie by the Brothers Quay.
• Anima Animus Animation - More of Jan Švankmajer’s artworks.
• James Henry Pullen - Artworks by an inmate of the Royal Earlswood Idiot Asylum.
• Della Porta - Images from the Neapolitan philosopher’s 1586 treatise De Humana Physiognomia.
• The Birth and Education of Dionysus - Engravings reproducing decorative images from Nero’s Domus Aurea.
• Redon’s Noirs - Sombre works in charcoal by the symbolist painter.
• Ruysch - Images of morbid dioramas, and an excerpt from one of Leopardi’s dialogues.
• Some Serpentine Specimens - Images from Albertus Seba’s Thesaurus.
• Švankmajer - The Czech animator’s un-animated artworks.
• The Salt, or the Ketchup? - A review of Christopher Alexander’s The Phenomenon of Life.
• Mira Calligraphiæ Monumenta - Calligraphy by Georg Bocksay; miniatures by Joris Hoefnagel.
• Athaneo - Romaguera’s Catalan emblem-book.
• Isola - A contemporary Italian painter’s puzzle-like pictures.
• The Temptations of St Anthony - Comparing interpretations of a stock subject.
• Fomenko - Mathematical art by the Russian mathematician and revisionist chronologer.
• Geometry & Perspective - Lorenz Stoer’s ‘perspectival examples specifically for craftsmen in wood.’
• Ivories - 16th/17th-century carvings of the utmost intricacy.
• Thomas Jones - A Welsh painter's informal views of 18th-century Naples.
• The Cat’s-Paw - Paintings by Richard Dadd.
• A Week of Kindness - Max Ernst’s famous collage-novel Une Semaine de Bonté.
• Vallotton’s Woodcuts - Striking 19th-century woodcuts by the Swiss-born artist.
• Martini - Alberto Martini’s illustrations of Poe.
• Shrigley - The superficially inept works of this Scottish-born artist.
Pulcinellopedia - Regarding Luigi Serafini’s Pulcinellopedia Piccola.
• How I Found the Codex - How I came to know about Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus.
• In a Hot-Air Balloon - The Montgolfier brothers’ first passengers: a sheep, a duck and a cock.
• Collages - Eva Lake’s works in collage.
• Theatrum Cometicum - Stanislaus Lubinetski’s 1667 treatise about comets.
• Character Heads - Expressive busts by the eccentric 18th-century Austrian sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.
• Primo-Avrilesque - The pioneering monochrome paintings of Alphonse Allais.
• Physiognomies - Images from Le Brun’s System on Physiognomy.
• Of Things Near and Far - About the 19th/20th-century Anglo-Welsh author Arthur Machen.
• Perspectiva - Curious representations of solid geometry by the Nuremburg goldsmith Wentzel Jamnitzer.
• Bizzarie - A bizarre series of 17th-century engravings by Giovanni Battista Bracelli.
• Calendar - Images from the illuminated manuscript known as the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.
• The Strife of Love in a Dreame - Or, Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.
• Los Disparates - Some of Goya’s etchings.
• Lupercalia - Concerning Lupercalia, the city of Rome & St. Valentine’s Day; illustrated with engravings by Piranesi.
• Nursery Rhymes - Etchings by Paula Rego.
• The City - Woodcuts by Frans Masereel.
• Holiday Reading - Includes images from the illuminated manuscript known as the Mira Calligraphiæ Monumenta.
• On the Finding of a Glove - A suite of engravings by Max Klinger.
• Natura Morta - The Breton artist Jean-Pierre Velly.
• Mister Sís - The author/illustrator Peter Sís, and his book The Three Golden Keys.
• Late Roses, Early Snow - The first entry on Giornale Nuovo.



EXTRAORDINARY JOB. THANKS MR H !

11.3.14

Arent van Bolten


The Dutch artist Arent van Bolten was born at Zwolle c. 1573. He is known to have been in Italy in 1596 and 1602. By 1603 he was back in his home-town, where he married one Birgitta Lantinck. The couple had eight children. He was a silversmith by profession. Bolten's designs were engraved by Pierre Firens around 1604-1616. At some point he moved with his family from Zwolle to Leeuwarden, where he died, c. 1626-1633.

Van Bolten was a silversmith and sculptor, but got especially well known for his drawings. His most frequent subjects were grotesque figures and monsters, biblical and mythological scenes and scenes from peasant life.

Arent van Bolten, Grotesque Animal (Hybrid), 1610-30
bronze
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam informs Van Bolten was known for his work as a silversmith and sculptor, but especially for his drawings. Besides his designs for work in precious metals he drew numerous drawings of grotesque figures and monsters, biblical and mythological scenes as well as pictures of peasant life. Several of his grotesques and ornaments appeared in print and were widely distributed.

The Rijksmuseum has a great collection of engravings based in his sketches in its online database.

Bolten’s reputation rests mainly on his drawings, particularly an album in the British Museum that bears the title "BOLTEN VAN SWOL/TEEKENINGE", whose drawings range from ornament, objects in precious metals, grotesque figures and monsters, to figural scenes from the Bible and mythology, the Shrovetide carnival, Commedia dell’arte and scenes from peasant life.

This British Museum album was compiled by an unknown collector ca. 1637, who had the drawings numbered, and grouped into thematic sections. The collector wrote: "Some of van Bolten’s drawings of monsters and fanciful animals bear a resemblance to those in the prints of Christoph Jamnitzer […] and Wendel Dietterlin the Younger." But see also those by Cornelis Floris, and Van Vianen. Several of the designs in the album had been "turned into meticulously-faithful prints" and published in Paris between 1604 and 1616 by a Flemish-born printseller named Pierre Firens.

A number of fantastic bronze animals have been attributed to van Bolten on the basis of stylistic similarities to his designs known from the drawings and the prints. Four different models have been documented. At least ten examples of the birdlike creature are known. Some of them seem to have been designed as novelty lamps, where the wick (and the flame) would come out of the creature’s mouth. Another figurine, of which just a single example is recorded, depicts a monster with a reptile’s head, a bird’s body and legs, with snail-shells in place of wings. A third statuette shows a creature with the head of a buffalo, the body of a frog, with stylised wings in place of forelegs, and the hind legs of a hoofed animal. It is not known whether these bronzes were van Bolten’s own work, or whether they were modelled from his drawings, or the engraved copies thereof.

Resources
Amsterdam Rijksmuseum Collections
• Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Dawn of the Golden Age—Northern Netherlandish Art 1580-1620, December 1993 - March 1994
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
The Public Domain Review
• Aeron Alfrey, Monster Brains, 30.4.2007
• Misteraitch, Giornale Nuovo, 17.5.2007
• Marinni, Livejournal, 30.1.2012
• Roger Latour, Flora Urbana, 14.2.2014
• Frank Forte, Horror Illustrated, 26.2.2014.

Christoph Jamnitzer, New Grotesques Book, 1610
• First title page text, in German:
« Neuw
Grotteßken Buch,
lnventirt gradirt und verlegt
Durch
Christoph Jamnitzer Bürg: und Goltsch: in Nürnberg.
Ein Uralt Antiquischer Tempel
Vol Nagelnewes seltzams grempel
Dienstlich für all, so Kunst belieben
Von Neuem jetzt her für getriben
Hof nicht daß soll ohn Frucht abgehn
Wems nich geliebt, der laß es stehn.
Anno 1610
. »
In French:
« Nouveau livre de grottesques,
inventé, gravé à l'eau-forte, et édité
par
Christophe Jamnitzer, bourgeois et orfèvre à Nuremberg.
Un très vieux temple d'antiquités
Plein d'un fouillis rare et battant neuf
Pour servir à tous ceux qui aiment l'art
De nouveau édité présentement
J'espère qu'il ne restera pas sans fruit
Que celui-là le laisse auquel il ne convient pas.
Anno 1610
. »
• Second title page, in German:
Der fadesckisch Radesco Baum
Deßgleich man hatt gesehen kaum
Dann Er tregt wunderliche Frücht
Wie man allhie vor Augen sieht.
Durch Christoff Jamnitzer Bürger und Goltschmidt Inn.
Nürmberg. o. J.
In French:
L'Arbre fadesque Radesco
Auquel on ne vit guère jamais pareil
Car il porte d'étranges fruits.
Comme ici même on voit devant les yeux.
Commentaire:
Comme le Marché aux drôleries (Schnackenmarckt) présente une foire d'ornements, la planche de l'Arbre Radesco en est un verger : le spectateur est invité à entrer dans le jeu de la découverte, par une promenade visuelle faite de surprises et d'amusements. Il doit y reconnaître ça et là des motifs récurrents de l'orfèvrerie nurembergeoise depuis un demi-siècle, voire des objets d'orfèvrerie eux-mêmes : la petite dame à la large jupe ronde apparaissant en haut à droite évoque un de ces Verres de mariée à renverser dont raffolait la société allemande du seizième siècle.
Le Germanisches Nationalmuseum en conserve un exemple des années 1620 réalisé par Caspar II Beutmüller très semblable (Inv. HG 12236). Le jeu induit par l'objet, dit Trinkspiel, s'appuyant sur les mêmes codes de surprise et de plaisanterie que les motifs proposés par Jamnitzer, constituerait la raison de sa présence.
Cette page de titre sert également de sommaire, puisqu'elle annonce un certain nombre d'ornements qui seront présentés dans les pages suivantes.
• 69 Images version in La pupille.

Additional Material
Rijksstudio Akermariano: The Grotesque as Structure and Aesthetic Category
The Grotesque Times

8.3.14

Ornament and The Grotesque


Alessandra Zamperini, Ornament and the Grotesque: Fantastical Decoration from Antiquity to Art Nouveau, London: Thames & Hudson, 2008.


Grotteschi
Grotesques in candelabrum arrangement
Fresco painting


A lavish survey of the grotesque style in European painting and decoration, from Roman times to the late nineteenth century.

In the fifteenth century, the ruins of Nero’s Domus Aurea were discovered in Rome. The first explorers to enter the interior of this spectacular palace complex had the sensation of finding themselves in a series of grottoes, and this is why the fanciful frescoes and floor mosaics discovered there were called "grotesques."

As Nero's Golden House was unearthed in Rome at the end of the 15th century, its sumptuous interiors not only sparked renewed interest in ancient culture but also revealed an unfamiliar, playful style of ancient ornament. Far removed from the formal language of traditional classical ornament, what was found was something essentially decorative and only semi-serious. Walls and ceilinga were adorned with parodies of classical mythology, fantastic hybrid monsters, images of perverse eroticism, impossible architectural visions, giant butterflies, mischievous putti, monkeys, sphinxes and nightmare insects - a repertoire of uninhibited imagination where nothing was taboo.

A fashionable form of ornamentation in ancient Rome, grotesques consist of loosely connected motifs, often incorporating human figures, birds, animals, and monsters, and arranged around medallions filled with painted scenes. Inspired by this discovery, fifteenth-century Italian artists such as Perugino, Signorelli, Filippino Lippi, and Mantegna immediately started to copy the ancient Roman examples, incorporating their motifs in their own work.

The most famous use of the style was Raphael's Loggie (c. 1518) in the Vatican Palace, which became immensely famous and influential all over Europe. Raphael's arrangements and motifs made the grotesque into a European-wide fashion, and it soon became an integral decorative feature of the most lavish residences, incorporating ceramics, textiles and tapestries.

This magnificently illustrated book covers the entire history of the grotesque in European art, from its Roman origins through the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century. It reveals the key periods, influences and artists that shaped grotesque ornament, from its origins in Roman and medieval art to the discovery of the Golden House, the Classical revival and its most important stylistic developments between the 15th and 19th centuries. The book also illuminates how grotesque decoration was transformed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries into arabesque, chinoiserie, and singeries, and how it continued in the nineteenth century, leading eventually to Art Nouveau.

7.3.14

Lo imaginario

Su razón de ser y manifestación en las artes visuales
por Mariano Akerman

Acaso también carnívoro.

Lo imaginario monta su espectáculo. El individuo disconforme con la realidad que lo rodea suele recurrir a la imaginación. Verdadera aliada de sueños, aspiraciones y fantasías, la imaginación le ha permitido al hombre llegar a visualizar una nueva realidad ya desde tiempos inmemoriales. Y, en no pocos casos, la imaginación junto con la inventiva terminaron por modificar e incluso trascender la realidad. Ejemplo de ellos son las artes visuales, donde lo imaginario ocupa desde siempre un lugar que le es propio y que en nada carece de significación.


La imaginación al poder es el conocido lema de la revuelta estudiantil que tuvo lugar en París en mayo de 1968. El mismo constituía una invitación a rebelarse contra el poder establecido; no era necesario aceptar el orden hasta entonces vigente, ya que, según la generación del '60, otros tantos mundos eran también posibles. Se quería cambiar el orden establecido. Sólo era cuestión de proporcionarle el poder a la imaginación.

3.3.14

Transgressing the boundaries


The notion of the grotesque in art has been around for centuries, but it is currently being re-imagined, often with humour and a sense of the absurd, by many contemporary artists.

Rudely transgressing the boundaries between the elevated and the profane
by Jonathan Griffin

The grotesque got its name by mistake. When, one day in fifteenth-century Rome, a young man fell into a hole in a hillside, he assumed he’d discovered a Roman grotto. He fetched a lantern and found wild frescoes over the grotto’s walls: half-human, half-animal figures, with legs and arms transforming into curling vines or ornamental volutes. In fact, he had stumbled upon Nero’s buried Villa Aurea, the raised floor level giving the rooms a grotto-like appearance. Nevertheless, the term ‘grotteschi’ stuck as a label for this newly discovered style that radically dissented from the classical restraint to which the Renaissance had hitherto adhered.

Conceptions of the grotesque have gone through many incarnations over the years, but something of this muddled etymology still persists. Whether one is talking about the carnivalesque use of the term, as expounded by Mikhail Bakhtin in his analysis of the Renaissance writer François Rabelais, or Wolfgang Kayser’s Romantic notion of it as something ‘ominous, nocturnal and abysmal’, the grotesque belongs underground. It is subversive, rudely transgressing the boundaries between inside and out, above and below, elevated and profane. It has to do with the corporeal subterranea – the guts and the bowels, and the processes through which internal juices are ejected into the world.

The League of the Gentlemen, BBC, United Kingdom, 2000

Little wonder that the grotesque is as popular today as it was in the fifteenth century. It allows us to get (at least a partial) handle on some of the most unspeakably vile and frightening categories of human experience, and it does so with humour and a sense of the absurd. Despite remaining distinct from comedy (which, unlike the alienating grotesque, is a convivial and socially cohesive genre), it has contributed to some of the most intelligent television and film comedy of recent years. Think especially of The League of Gentlemen,[1] but also South Park, Little Britain and the work of Steve Coogan and Chris Morris; not all caricature is grotesque, but when bodies are defiled or grossly exaggerated (with prosthetics, for instance) they become more disturbing than simple parodies. There is no easy laughter here.

The grotesque never strays far from popular culture. Perhaps that is where it draws its danger – by queering those subjects closest to home. Onetime collaborators Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy are twin titans of the grotesque in contemporary art, and while their approaches to it are quite different, their visions are both filtered through the detritus of daily life – foodstuffs, cartoons, film and TV.

Kelley’s approach was specifically Bakhtinian. His Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction series 2006–11 consists of elaborate reinterpretations of dress-up days, carnivals, Halloweens and fantasy rituals that he found photographed in high-school yearbooks. He was fascinated by the ways in which ordinarily suppressed desires seep through the surfaces of such scenarios. Caves and grottos were also always significant places for him. At the time of his death, Kelley was working on a reconstruction of his childhood home, to be sited next to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit. Beneath it, he planned to dig out a labyrinth of spaces for ‘private rites of an aesthetic nature’ – mysterious activities that one might well imagine to encroach on the grotesque.

McCarthy, in contrast, is preoccupied with the bodily rather than the social grotesque. The characters that populate his films, performances and sculptures move beyond caricatures – rather, as in the case of his depictions of the cartoon character Alfred E. Neuman (Bossy Burger 1991) or George W. Bush (Train, Mechanical 2003–9), they are caricatures of caricatures. The latter, an animatronic sculpture of two Bush-headed figures sodomising two cartoon pigs, dodges first impressions of coarse political satire when one realises that the hybrid figures are actually part president, part Disney cartoon pirate and part casts of the artist’s own torso. Uncertain laughter at an uncertain body has long been a hallmark of the grotesque.

Many of McCarthy’s projects involve the construction of sets in which he is filmed engaging in exuberantly transgressive behaviour (the sets often remaining in the gallery as evidence). They are not so different in status from the “grotto” of Nero’s villa, nor from Kelley’s deviant basement. The fibreglass rocks of Kaari Upson’s Grotto 2008–9 also provided shelter for the artist, who, wearing enlarged prosthetic breasts and a silicone vagina, inhabited various female stereotypes and participated in a phone-sex role play, Jungian therapy (also over the phone) and other rambling monologic diatribes. Upson’s alter egos are grotesques – not caricatures – and to spy on them in videos installed subsequently within the grotto is a profoundly disquieting experience.

Describing the activities of the artist group gelitin as performances isn’t always accurate, especially when members of the audience are invited to join in. Sweatwat 2005 was an installation for which viewers took off their clothes, donned towels and climbed into a gallery space that was filled, ankle deep, with water. Piles of furniture, an obscene sculptural fountain and a home-made sauna crowded the space; the pipes from a transparent elevated toilet ran past the heads of visitors who were invited to sit and drink yellow cider with the artists. During the course of the exhibition, the gallery was a place where the boundaries between inside and out, viewer and artist, subject and object, clean and dirty were gleefully – and liberatingly – violated.

Visitors to Ryan Trecartin’s exhibition Any Ever 2011 entered carpeted and furnished rooms in order to watch his frenetic videos. Trecartin’s infatuation with adolescence lends itself to the bedroom as a site of private play-acting and experimentation (the teenage grotto), and his films often appear to have been shot in such places. The critic Peter Schjeldahl has likened him not to masters of filmic transgression such as Jack Smith and John Waters, but to Cindy Sherman, whose photographs of herself in disguise feature regularly in lectures on the Freudian uncanny, a close cousin of the grotesque. (Sherman, in heavy make-up and dyed hair, is uncanny; Trecartin, gabbling at the camera in bright yellow face paint with gold teeth, is grotesque.)

Also trampling across the line between the uncanny and the grotesque are Nathaniel Mellors’s lifelike animatronic sculptures, cast from the faces of actors in his films. Often they are programmed to deliver lines from the films themselves. Hippy Dialectics (Ourhouse) 2010 consists of twin faces connected by a long swag of hair. In the accompanying episodic film Ourhouse (ongoing from 2010), a character called The Object visits a family and proceeds to eat – and excrete – all their books. (Notice how the family home provides the setting for so many of these works.)

The grotesque is thriving not only in contemporary performance and video-based work. Depictions of grotesque bodies have a rich heritage in painting and drawing. There is a particular sensibility that can be traced from the introduction of cartoon imagery into modernist painting in the 1960s – when Philip Guston made the leap from Abstract Expressionism to cloddish pictures of heads with massive single eyes, or hairy pointing fingers. Jim Nutt, Peter Saul, Erró and John Wesley all similarly embraced lowbrow sources, and exploited the ordinarily innocuous tone of comic book characters to summon visions of derangement and dysfunction, often sexual in nature. (Within the world of bona fide cartooning, Basil Wolverton and Robert Crumb had themselves already been bombarding the defences of taste and decency since the 1950s and 1960s.) The heirs to this generation arrived in the 1980s – painters such as Carroll Dunham, George Condo and John Currin, who flagrantly polluted overt references to historical art (fine academic portraiture in particular) with pop cultural allusions. For obvious reasons, the history of the grotesque is intimately entangled with the theorisation of postmodernism.

Not only are these painters all men, but their work tends towards provocatively sexualised depictions of women. That’s not to say that their art is necessarily misogynistic – the later generation were all schooled in feminist debates around representations of gender, and to a greater or lesser extent work with their tongues in their cheeks – but these paintings’ grotesqueries reveal some conflicted attitudes towards their feminine subjects. (When women Pop artists, such as Dorothy Lannone or Niki de Saint Phalle, made equivalently sexualised work in the 1960s and 1970s, their images were graphically arresting, stylish and strident, but never grotesque.)

So it came to pass that a number of female painters began to make grotesque pictures of women, partly in riposte to the masculine domination of the genre. Lisa Yuskavage, Cecily Brown, Jenny Saville, Sue Williams and, more recently, Dana Schutz, Nicola Tyson, Nicole Eisenman and Tala Madani have all moved to reclaim the feminine grotesque. Yuskavage’s tenderly crafted paintings recall the fleshy excesses of 1970s soft-core pornography; her ambivalence about her confrontational subjects (none of whom seems to think themselves victims) is what makes them compelling. Schutz, Eisenman, Tyson and Madani make as many paintings of men as they do of women; however, their painterly puncturing of semi-abstract bodies (dissolving them, piercing them, exploding them) undermines the cohesive integrity traditionally ascribed to the fully functioning, autonomous masculine physique.

As conversations around representations of gender have become more nuanced and subjective in recent years, so too have the ways in which artists choose to respond to them. Mika Rottenberg, Nathalie Djurberg and Stanya Kahn would all probably identify as feminists, but their performances, videos and animations stray far beyond standard dogma. They share a sensitivity to the interior experience of the female body, and the ways in which that inner space projects into the outside world (those boundaries again). In Rottenberg’s films, such as Dough 2006 or Squeeze 2010, large-bodied women are pushed by – and push into – holes and gaps in the strangely interactive architecture of her sets. Djurberg uses clay as a mutable analogue for human (and animal) bodies in her animated fantastical films. In her video Arms are Overrated 2012, Kahn’s wisecracking protagonists are made of crumbled sheets of paper. These artists portray the human form as nothing more than unstable material waiting to be reshaped by forces outside of its control – what Bakhtin called ‘the ever unfinished, ever creating body’.

The grotesque is an unpredictable firing weapon. When deployed, it usually sprays its buckshot on to more than one target. Artists of colour have made grotesques out of racial stereotypes in order to provoke viewers with questions not only about race, but also gender, sexuality, class, political power and historical record. Rarely, if ever, do they offer their own answers. Kara Walker, Chris Ofili, William Pope L and Ellen Gallagher are most often associated with this strategy. Gallagher, whose signature collaged motifs include bulging eyes, huge lips and Afro wigs (stolen from racist historical caricatures), has said that her art is not intended to be ‘corrective’. Part of these artists’ ambivalence derives from the fact that they have trouble identifying with the stereotypes themselves. As always with the grotesque, the ill-defined distinction between self and other is a source of much anxiety.

The characters in Kalup Linzy’s videos, which approximate television soap operas, are often voiced or acted by Linzy himself. Like Walker, Ofili, Pope L and Gallagher, he takes on ludicrous racially specific caricatures and presents them half ironically, half sympathetically. Perhaps it makes less sense, however, to align Linzy’s project with African-American precedents than to that of a (white) artist such as Upson, who also trades in stereotypes, or to Trecartin, whose films articulate queer sensibilities and concerns, or to Mellors, who draws so widely from television. These structurally unsound categories begin to crumble under their own weight.

In reality, the grotesque, as the art historian Frances Connelly has written, ‘does not exist except in relation to a boundary, convention or expectation’. There’s no such thing as a single grotesque. Thankfully, there will never be a shortage of boundaries or expectations for it to offend.

Essay details. Jonathan Griffin, Rudely transgressing the boundaries between the elevated and the profane: the grotesque, Tate Etc, issue 26, August-October 2012.

Basil Wolverton, Lena the Hyena, ink, 1946
The Shock of the New

Ref. class, feminism, gender, humor and satire, installation, painting, performance, politics, sex, video art, visual culture, abstract expressionism, pop art.

RESPONSE

Jahsonic notes that "since at least the 18th century (in French and German as well as English) [the term] grotesque has come to be used [commonly] as a general adjective for the strange, fantastic, ugly, incongruous, unpleasant, or disgusting, and thus is often used to describe weird shapes and distorted forms such as Halloween masks. In art, performance, and literature, grotesque, however, may also refer to something that simultaneously invokes in an audience a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness as well as empathic pity."[2]

Leonardo da Vinci
Grotesque Head, c. 1480-1510
sanguine, 17.2 x 14.3 cm
Royal Library, Windsor Castle

In his book The Grotesque (1972), Philip Thomson provides a brilliant definition of the grotesque as "the unresolved clash of incompatibles in work and response", being this clash paralleled by the ambivalent nature of the abnormal, which often is present in the grotesque.[3]

"Something analogous to humour can appear in plastic forms, when we call it the grotesque. This is an interesting effect produced by such a transformation of an ideal type as exaggerates one of its elements or combines it with other types. The real excellence of this, like that of all fiction, consists in re-creation; in the formation of a thing which nature has not, but might conceivably have offered. We call these inventions comic and grotesque when we are considering their divergence from the natural rather than their inward possibility. But the latter constitutes their real charm; and the more we study and develope them, the better we understand it. The incongruity with the conventional type than disappears, and what was impossible and ridiculous at first takes its place among recognized ideals. The centaur and the satyr are no longer grotesque; the type is accepted. And the grotesqueness of an individual has essentially the same nature. If we like the inward harmony, the characteristic balance of his features, we are able to disengage this individual from the class into which we were trying to force him; we can forget the expectation which he was going to disappoint. The ugliness then disappears, and only the reassertion of the old habit and demand can make us regard him as in any way extravagant.
What appears as grotesque may be intrinsically inferior or superior to the normal. That is a question of its abstract material and form. But until the new object impresses its form on our imagination, so that we can grasp its unity and proportion, it appears to us as a jumble and distortion of other forms. If this confusion is absolute, the object is simply null; it does not exist aesthetically, except by virtue of materials. But if the confusion is not absolute, and we have an inkling of the unity and character in the midst of the strangeness of the form, then we have the grotesque. It is the half-formed, the perplexed, and the suggestively monstrous." —Santayana, 1895.[4]

In popular conversation and commonplace contexts, grotesque is persistently associated with the ugly or the abject. Technically and ademically speaking, however, grotesque is not just a synonymous with the ugly or the abject. Today the grotesque sometimes transgresses the boundaries rudely. Sometines doesn't do it in that way. Historically, the grotesque has been subtle too. This is true from the motif of The Sorcerer in prehistorical art to Francis Bacon's Lying Figure in a Mirror of the early 1970s. In his text, Griffin mentions the Domus Aurea and authors like Bakhtin and Kayser, but subsequently he tends to avoid dealing with the doubled-edged nature of the grotesque. Instead, he focuses on the commonplace significance of the term. According to Griffin's text, the grotesque is synonymous with nonsensical humor and the abject. But, as Thomson explains, the absurd is not exactly the grotesque: the grotesque has a structure; the absurd has none. Moreover, even if seemingly meaningless, the grotesque cannot but carry a truth of its own.[5] Griffin considers the ordinary sense of the grotesque, which he mostly associates with the coarse and the repulsive. True, excess tends to typify the grotesque, but ambiguity, together with suggestion, persistently play a crucial role in it too. Unfortunately, Griffin does not consider the latter in his essay, which is thus partial and incomplete. In other words, his essay is not on the grotesque as a nuanced aesthetic category, but on certain cases that involve coarse grotesqueness. —Mariano Akerman

"A FINE grotesque is the expression, in a moment, by a series of symbols thrown together in bold and fearless connection, of truths which it would have taken a long time to express in any verbal way, and in which the connection is left for the beholder to work out for himself; the gaps, left or overleaped by the haste of the imagination, forming the grotesque character." —John Ruskin.[6]

The Subtle Way in the Quest of Freedom
by Mariano Akerman

There are grotesques that go beyond the ordinary, the coarse, the repulsive, the abject, and the artless. Instead of being shallow and prosaic, such grotesques prove to be subtle and thought-enlarging. They often involve considerable ambiguity and different levels of sugestion. Some of them constitute authentic visual paradoxes and, being undoubtedly transgessive, they all express the artist's disagreement with the limitations of the real world. Imagination helps to make the artist free. So the artist's imagination becomes a weapon, and the artwork a revolution per se.

Anonymous, Just don't expect it to roar, 2006

Fine grotesqueness has to do with nonconformity, but also with creativity, depth and inspiration. A fine grotesque involves sensitivity, thought and skill.

1. Then lilies, turned to Tigers
Arts & Crafts
United Kingdom, 19th Century

2. Odilon Redon, Cactus Man, 1881
Ian Woodner Collection, New York

3. James Ensor
Skeletons fighting over a Smoked Herring
1891
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique
Brussels

4. Méret Oppenheim
Breakfast in Fur, 1936
Museum of Modern Art, New York

5. Dalí, Autumn Cannibalism, 1936
Tate Gallery, London

6. Andreas Paul Weber, Dung, 1967

7. Francis Bacon
Lying Figure in a Mirror, 1971
Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao

7. Quino, Untitled, c. 1971-73.[7]

9. Yuka Yamaguchi, A New Seedling, 2008

10. Choi Xoo Ang, Flying Hands, sculpture

Notes
by Mariano Akerman
1. These 1999-2002 British tv episodes belong to a genre known as black comedy and even to the so-called horror comedy. A black comedy (dark comedy) is a comic work that employs black humor, which, in its most basic definition, is humor that makes light of otherwise serious subject matter. Horror comedy is a literary and film genre that combines elements of comedy and horror fiction. This genre almost always inevitably crosses over with the black comedy genre; and in some respects could be considered a subset of it.
Philip Thomson on The Grotesque and Related Terms and Modes, The Grotesque, London: Methuen, 1972:
Parody. "Parody is often involved with the grotesque in an interdependent relationship of which it can be difficult to determine whether it is a case of parody being used as a grotesque device or vice versa. A parody (or travesty, or burlesque [...]) which is taken to extremes that is to a point where the conflict between parody and original, or between content and form, becomes intolerable—we might call a grotesque parody, and the grotesqueness may even blot out the parodistic intent. Similarly, grotesque elements are frequently used incidentally in parodies, especially where the intention is savagely aggressive. [...] Parody is used occasionally, to help achieve an overall grotesque effect."
Satire. "The same kind of interdependent relationship is found often between satire and the grotesque. The satirist may make his victim grotesque in order to produce in his audience or readers a maximum reaction of derisive laughter and disgust; and a grotesque text, on the other hand, will frequently have a satirical side-effect or score satirical points, naturally enough when one considers that the grotesque by its very nature is aggressive and aimed discomfiting in some way. But again the crucial factor separating the grotesque from satire is the confusion of incompatibles in work and effect. Unlike the satirist, the grotesque writer does not analyse and instruct in terms of right and wrong, or true or false, nor does he attempt to distinguish between these. On the contrary, he is concerned to demonstrate their inseparability. Satire (and we are of course talking about model cases) aims at two reactions from the audience: laughter, and anger or disgust, but it aims to produce these separately. The grotesque [...] produces a confusion of reaction."
The Comic. "The relationship of the grotesque to the comic is a matter of some controversy. As mentioned earlier, modern writers on the grotesque are almost unanimous in their insistence on the essential comic element in the grotesque. An exception may be Clayborough, but since he operates with different categories (Jungian) it is difficult to see just where he stands on the comic. Kayser is likewise evasive, but seems in the end to accept the necessary presence of the comic in the grotesque. In the present study I have taken the view that there is almost always a comic element in the grotesque (although it may be obscured and in some circumstances denied by rational afterthought)."
2. Jahsonic (Jan Geerinck), Grotesque, The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia, 2007 (accessed 5 March 2014).
3. Thomson, The Grotesque, 1972, p. 27 (Towards a Definition). Today, thanks to David Lavery, Thomson's important contribution is available online.
4. George Santayana, The Sense of Beauty: Being the Outlines of Aesthetic Theory (1895), New York: Charles Scribner, 1905, pt. IV: Expression, § 64: The Grotesque (pp. 256ff.; Online edition by Themista from Illinois).
5. This idea concerning the fictitious image is first expressed by Giordano Bruno, and is later restated by John Ruskin, George Santayana, Roger Caillois, and Philip Thomson. According to Bruno, "habet suam species phantastica veritatem" (De vinculis in genere, 1591). Bruno's dictum suggests that any fictitious species entails a truth of its own (Jahsonic, The fictitious image entails its own truth, Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia, 17 November 2012; accessed 5 March 2014). Caillois translates Bruno's dictum as "L'image fictive possède sa propre vérité" (Au coeur du fantastique, Gallimard, 1965, p. V).
6. John Ruskin, Modern Painters, Vol. III, chap. VIII, pars. 4-15 (Ruskin as Literary Critic, ed. A.H.R. Ball, Cambridge, 2013, p. 135: The Grotesque in Literature). For further discussion, see George P. Landow, The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin, chap. V, sect. IV: The Symbolical Grotesque — Theories of Allegory, Artist, and Imagination, The Victorian Web, 27 July 2005.
7. From Bien, gracias, ¿y usted? [Fine, thanks, and you?], published in 1976. For a discussion, see El ingenioso humor de Quino, Imaginarium, April 2009.
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