(German, 1902–1975) was a photographer, sculptor, writer, and painter, associated with the Surrealist movement. Born in Katowice, Poland, Bellmer was coerced by his overbearing father into working at a steel factory and a coal mine, even after passing university entrance exams. He began studies in engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin, but left to pursue his interest in art and politics. Bellmer had become especially close to George Grosz
, one of his drawing instructors, whose critical perspective on society influenced Bellmer’s studies and interests.
In 1924, Bellmer worked as a book printer and illustrator at Malik Verlag, where he demonstrated artistic talent and contributed drawings to Dadaist novels. In the late 1920s, Bellmer began traveling, and visited several countries, including France, Italy, and Tunisia. With the rise of Fascism and Nazism in the early 1930s, he stopped working as a means of resistance by refusing to provide support to the state; at this point, Bellmer established his artistic career, and began creating the distorted, mannequin-like dolls for which he is best known.
In 1933, Bellmer crafted the original Doll
, since destroyed, and photographed it in a series of erotic postures. He published a collection of 10 of these images, accompanied by text, in Die Puppe
(1934), and submitted a copy to the Parisian Surrealist magazine, Le Minotaure
. The publication of Bellmer’s work confirmed his status within the Surrealist movement, as his art seemed to epitomize the Surrealist ideal of coupled attraction and aversion. Bellmer’s dolls, one of which he made with a large, bulbous abdomen and two hinged pelvises, often appear fragmented and mangled, as though appendages had been detached and rearranged. They appeared naturalistic and fantastical at the same time, evoking an array of emotional responses, from recognition and excitement to fear and revulsion.
Bellmer moved to Paris in 1938. He continued to draw in a unique figurative manner, and his work prominently featured themes of the subconscious, dreams, sexuality, lust, and death. His first solo exhibition took place in 1943 at the bookstore, Librairie Trentin, in Toulouse, France. Bellmer’s work has since been displayed in various museums and galleries worldwide, including the Whitechapel Gallery in London, the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY.