|Les jeux de la poupee by Hans Bellmer 1949|
Various authors have suggested two sources of inspiration for Bellmer's work. In 1931, Bellmer attended Max Reinhardt's production of The Tales of Hoffman in which there is a mechanical girl/doll named Olympia who seduces a living man (Freud also mentioned this literary work in his essay The Uncanny). As well, Bellmer's mother apparently sent him a box of childhood toys which included broken dolls (Sulick 14). Whatever the inspiration, Bellmer was not the only artist using dolls or mannequins at the time. Man Ray, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Andre Masson and others all incorporated dolls into their artistic practice around this time.
I find Bellmer's photographs disturbing, but also strangely fascinating. The bizarre range of contortions and dismembered limbs are haunting, but as abstract forms, the images are striking in their virtuosity of composition.
Sulick, Amber Rae. Hans Bellmer's "Les Jeux De La Poupee". Ed. Hans Bellmer and Joint Graduate Program in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management, 2008.
Wood, Ghislaine. Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design. London: V&A Publications, 2007.
P.S. The Canadian Opera Company is performing The Tales of Hoffman in their spring production lineup (April 10 - May 14, 2012). I plan on attending. For more information, visit the COC website here.