Fantastic art  

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"The four floors of the Museum will be devoted to the exhibition, which will include more than 700 objects [...] ranging from such extremes as Giovanni di Paolo and Leonardo da Vinci of the fifteenth century to Walt Disney, Rube Goldberg and Thurber of the twentieth century, and including such famous names both old and modern as Hieronymus Bosch, Duerer, Arcimboldo, Hogarth, William Blake, Cruickshank, Lewis Carrol, Daumier, Delacroix, Edward Lear, Redon, Chagall, de Chirico, Duchamp, Picasso, Arp, Dali, Ernst, Grosz, Magritte, Miro, Klee, Man Ray, Tanguy, Peter Blume, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Alexander Calder."--Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism (1936)

Adspectus Incauti Dispendium (1601), woodblock title page from the Veridicus Christianus.
Adspectus Incauti Dispendium (1601), woodblock title page from the Veridicus Christianus.
Image:Richard Dadd - Come unto These Yellow Sands.jpg
Come unto These Yellow Sands (1842) by Richard Dadd. Images of nude and semi-nude fairies dancing in rings became popular during the Victorian era.

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Fantastic art is an art genre. The parameters of fantastic art have been tentatively defined in the scholarship on the subject ever since the 19th century. However, the genre had to wait for the inter war period to be mentioned by name at the "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism" exhibition of winter 1936/1937 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which displayed pre-surrealist works such as The Titan's Goblet by Thomas Cole.

Fantasy has been an integral part of art since its beginnings, but has been particularly important in mannerism, magic realist painting, romantic art, symbolism, surrealism and lowbrow. In French, the genre is called le fantastique, in English it is sometimes referred to as visionary art, grotesque art or mannerist art. It has had a deep and circular interaction with fantasy literature.

Fantastic art explores fantasy, "space fantasy" (a sub-genre which incorporates subjects of alien mythology and/or alien religion), imagination, the dream state, the grotesque, visions and the uncanny, as well as so-called "Goth" art. Being an inherent genre of Victorian Symbolism, modern fantastic art often shares its choice of themes such as mythology, occultism and mysticism, or lore and folklore, and generally seeks to depict the [inner life] (nature of soul and spirit).

Fantastic art should not be confused with fantasy art, which is the domain of science-fiction and fantasy illustrators such as Boris Vallejo and others.


Historic artists and fine artists

Fantastic art is a loosely defined art genre. However, the first "fantastic" artist is generally believed to be Hieronymus Bosch.

Middle Ages and Renaissance

Flemish fantastique

The first "fantastic" artist is generally said to be Hieronymus Bosch. Other medieval and Renaissance artists who have been labeled fantastic include Matthias Grünewald, Hans Baldung Grien, Brueghel and Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

In Italy, the fashion for grotesque art starts.

17th century

17th century art

Jacques Callot, but also the Mannerist and baroque grotesque and the auricular style and the Bizzarie di varie figure (1624) by Giovanni Battista Braccelli.

18th century

18th century art

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Henry Fuseli, Francisco de Goya.

But also sets of ornamental prints such as Les costumes grotesques et les métiers (c. 1695) by Nicolas de Larmessin II and Mascarade à la Grecque (1771) by Ennemond Alexandre Petitot and the fantastic architecture of Étienne-Louis Boullée, Claude Nicolas Ledoux and Jean-Jacques Lequeu.

19th century

19th century art

William Blake, Gustave Doré, Gustave Moreau, Arnold Böcklin, Odilon Redon, Max Klinger. Lesser known artists include Charles-Frédéric Soehnée. Artists working in the print medium were Grandville.

20th century

20th century art, Surrealism

Salvador Dalí, Rudolf Hausner, Johfra, H. R. Giger, Odd Nerdrum, Mati Klarwein,Ernst Fuchs and Paul Rumsey.

Also deserving to be mentioned is Artforms of Nature (1904) by Ernst Haeckel.

United States

In the United States in the 1930s, a group of Wisconsin artists inspired by the Surrealist movement of Europe created their own brand of fantastic art. They included Madison, Wisconsin-based artists Marshall Glasier, Dudley Huppler and John Wilde; Karl Priebe of Milwaukee and Gertrude Abercrombie of Chicago. Their art combined macabre humor, mystery and irony which was in direct and pointed contradiction to the American Regionalism then in vogue.

In postwar Chicago the art movement Chicago Imagism produced many fantastic and grotesque paintings, which were little noted because they did not conform to New York abstract art fashions of the time. Major imagists include Roger Brown, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, and Karl Wirsum.


The historiography of fantastic art began when the Surrealists started to inspect their roots and drew up a list of their predecessors, see Proto-Surrealism.


Fantastic#Bibliography of the fantastic

See also

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