Bellmer's dolls  

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Hans Bellmer

Bellmer's dolls is the name commonly given to an arts project by German artist Hans Bellmer. It is said that Bellmer initiated his life-sized female doll project to oppose the fascism of the Nazi Party by declaring that he would make no work that would support the German state. Represented by mutated forms and unconventional poses, his dolls were directed specifically at the cult of the perfect body then prominent in Germany. Bellmer was influenced in his choice of art form by reading the published letters of Oskar Kokoschka (Der Fetisch, 1925).

Bellmer's 1934 anonymous book The Doll (Die Puppe), produced and published privately in Germany, contains 10 black-and-white photographs of Bellmer's first doll arranged in a series of "tableaux vivants" (living pictures). The book was not credited to him, he worked in isolation, and his photographs remained almost unknown in Germany. Yet Bellmer's work was eventually declared "degenerate" by the Nazi Party, and he was forced to flee Germany to France in 1938.

His work was welcomed in the Parisian art culture of the time, especially the Surrealists under André Breton, because of the references to female beauty and the sexualization of the youthful form. His photographs were published in the Surrealist journal Minotaure. Being known among the avant-garde did not, however, prevent him from being imprisoned in the Camp des Milles prison at Aix-en-Provence for most of World War II.

The doll from Bellmer's 1934 work pioneered in form and meaning of similar dolls.

Bellmer's doll developed from a series of three events in his personal life: meeting a beautiful teenage cousin in 1932; attending a performance of Jacques Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann (in which a man falls tragically in love with an automaton); and receiving a box of his old toys. After these events he began to construct his first doll.

In his works, Bellmer explicitly sexualized the doll as a young girl. On the other hand, the doll incorporated the principle of "ball joint" , which was inspired by a pair of sixteenth-century articulated wooden dolls in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum.

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