The New Art History has begun to examine an aspect of Surrealism rarely discussed by art historians under Modernism-the overall misogyny of the movement. The New Art History asks questions related to gender, race, and sexuality, and sexuality and desire derived from male fantasy were at the center of Surrealists concern. The German Surrealist Hans Bellmer’s work, La Poupée (Doll), represents a typical way that Surrealists conceptualized femininity and depicted women. Hans Bellmer published this as part of a book of photography, Les Jeux de la Poupée (The Games of the Doll), in 1938. His photographs depicted severely deformed and twisted adolescent female dolls. The sadomasochism and fetishism throughout his doll series indicate how the male fantasy and ambivalent fear of women affected his representation of the female figures.
Despite the misogyny apparent in Hans Bellmer’s work and the interests associated with the New Art History, a few contemporary critics such as Rosalind Krauss have attempted to defend his works, arguing his depiction of women actually symbolizes his political protest against Nazis and German totalitarianism. My presentation will focus on opposing their argument. A close look at his works will reveal why his photographs should be regarded mainly as the expression of his sadomasochistic fantasy. Modern rage of masculinity is paradoxically expressed in his pictures through his uncanny obsession with female bodies.
Bellmer’s work also will be discussed in light of works by other surrealists such as Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Luis Bunuel. This will demonstrate that Bellmer’s photographs reflect the misogynist tendencies and characteristics of Surrealism.
Aelee Kwon, ’02 Seoul, Korea
Majors: English Literature and European Studies
Sponsor: Christina McOmber