Hans Bellmer

Self portrait of Hans Bellmer and his doll

Hans Bellmer was a German draughtsman, painter, surrealist photographer, constructor of dolls, etcher, lithographer and writer deeply involved in erotic fantasy which links well with my subject matter: pornography. He was, like many surreal artists inspired by Sigmund Freud’s theories on dreams and the surreal possibilities of the unconscious mind, Freud was also an important figure in my research.

From "La Poupée/ Die Puppe" by Hans Bellmer

After the rise to of the Nazis in 1933, Bellmer began to construct several dolls with fragmented bodies that could be dismantled and rearranged in various configurations. This work was published “Die Puppe” in 1934. He created sexualized images of the female body-distorted, dismembered, or menaced in sinister scenarios. This sexualisation of the female body is also evident in pornography but Bellmer presents this sexualisation in a very different and disturbing way. Using a narrative format, he photographed the dolls in a range of grotesque-often sexual-positions. The images he conveyed were of death and decay, abuse and longing.

From "La Poupée/ Die Puppe" by Hans Bellmer

Despite dolls having such sweet connotations, the dolls Bellmer constructed had much darker underlying connotations. I found this extremely clever, how Bellmer turned an everyday object, an all too familiar toy and made it strange. The dolls symbolised social, sexual and historical repression. This idea of repression was a significant part of my research on pornography. Freud and Wicclair suggested that pornography could be an outlet, a maintainer for the sexually repressed or frustrated. Bellmers’ work could have also been created with a similar intention.  His work could merely be the very vision some conjure up in their wildest of sexual fantasies-disjointed members, flexibility, bodies without faces, broken dreams, dark and maybe violent passions. Bellmer also created drawings and paintings full of erotic variations of the female body.  He later published “Les Jeux de la Poupée” in 1949 and “L’Anatomie de l’Image” in 1957.

I found Bellmers’ work extremely interesting. I love how surreal his work is, making it visually striking and intriguing. I also love the reasoning behind his photographs and dolls- they express erotic desires, breaking away from social norms. Similarly to pornography, Bellmers work represents the right of being free to express ourselves. Neither in tend to offend and neither do I when I come to make my images.  Whilst I find some of his images quite scary, I cannot help but appreciate the work for what it is and what it represents.

Linking to Catharine MacKinnon’s quote on what she believes to be objectifying, “viewing something as body parts” Bellmer has brought exactly that into visual matter. Bellmers dolls show how by sexualising women we view them merely as their body parts. This view is extremely distorted, as there is obviously more to women then just their breasts and genitals. There go it could be suggested that Bellmer recognised this as a distorted view which is why he represented and constructed his dolls in such a disfigured way.

After looking at Bellmers’ works I decided to begin photographing peoples’ body parts, objectifying them and viewing them just as physical matter.


Pictures of Bellmers dolls.

One comment

  1. This is very interesting, and the stuff of nightmares that I find myself to be very drawn to. I suppose as with any figure, you can have a right to express anything with that as well – not just dolls. What if Hans were to master multiple exposure whilst utilising the human body to create a similar sinister effect?

    Scary thinking about it.

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