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Title: Language, Body, World: The Art of Hans Bellmer
Authors: Dupecher, Natalie
Advisors: Doherty, Brigid
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Keywords: anagram
Avant garde
European modernism
Subjects: Art history
European studies
French literature
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation takes up the written and visual work of Hans Bellmer (1902–1975), arguing that, throughout his career, he sought to formulate a vocabulary that might articulate his understanding of language, the body, and art as inextricably connected. “The imagination derives exclusively from bodily experience,” he wrote in 1938, and his work bears out this stated investment in phenomenology and attachment to the body as primary formal model. In every medium in which he worked—his famous poupée (doll) photographs, drawings, prints, paintings and sculptures—the body appears contorted, doubled, turned inside out, or made transparent. In an important treatise from 1957, Bellmer described the body as a linguistic artifact that was, like a sentence, amenable to internal disarticulation and reorganization. It would reach its apex, he wrote, in a total union with the exterior world. I trace the development of this idea across Bellmer’s three most important projects: his first poupée photographs, made in 1933/34, which he sequenced into an artist book titled Die Puppe; his second poupée construction, made in 1935 and built around a ball joint, which Bellmer regarded as inviting a number of anatomical and poetic possibilities, and which he explored in a collaborative artist book titled Les jeux de la poupée; and the aforementioned treatise from 1957, Little Anatomy of the Physical Unconscious, or, The Anatomy of the Image, in which a meditation on the reflex (which replaced the joint as privileged mechanical metaphor) led him to describe the body as an anagram. This dissertation situates that aim within Bellmer’s artistic and historical context, pursuing related questions about the place of the human figure in Surrealism; and the potential of visual art, in restructuring the relationship between a human subject and its environment, to articulate an ethical mode of engagement with others and with the world.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

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