Hans Bellmer’s Maldoror


Les Fleurs du Mal.

That favourite novel of the Surrealists receives the attention of yet another Surrealist artist. Dalí and Magritte both made their own attempts to illustrate Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror, a book that many people would consider beyond the reach of easy pictorial representation. I tend to think that the novel’s delirious, dream-like prose offers endless interpretations; this earlier post managed to haul one paragraph in the direction of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Hans Bellmer’s series of 33 intaglio prints were produced from 1967 to 1971, and use the book as a mirror for the artist’s erotic obsessions. Not an unwarranted point of view but Bellmer makes the novel seem much more overtly erotic than it is. The images here aren’t the best quality. Better copies and a complete set of the prints may be viewed at a larger size here.






The Shell.


Girl with Hoop.


The Sketch Table.



Previously on { feuilleton }
Les Chants de Maldoror by Shuji Terayama
Ulysses versus Maldoror
Books of blood
Magritte’s Maldoror
Frans De Geetere’s illustrated Maldoror
Maldoror illustrated

5 thoughts on “Hans Bellmer’s Maldoror”

  1. Following your link to the Christine Argillet Gallery, I see that they claim that all the prints date to 1967 or earlier
    IIRC, Bellmer never recovered the capacity to work after his 1969 stroke, and any prints published in his name after that date are pastiches, from people whom Bellmer (or his dealer) subcontracted to repeat his obsessions in a flaccid imitation of his style.

  2. Interesting, I did wonder about the dates. If they are fakes they’re a lot more faithful than the shoddy Dalí prints that were doing the rounds before he died.

    You get a similar thing with Aubrey Beardsley and the fakes that appeared in the 1920s. These are very well-known, and have a section of their own in one of my Beardsley books, but you still find them attributed to Aubrey on occasion, not only on the web but also in books that require a token illustration.

  3. A few of them seemed weak. Like out-takes from his earlier portfolios for ‘Madame Edwarda’ and ‘Story of the Eye’. I can imagine Bellmer working on a drypoint plate, realising that it wasn’t up to standard, and filing it away somewhere in his studio… only to bring it out later (or for his dealers to get hold of it) for this project.

    Browsing around the art-auction websites, I see that the Maldoror portfolio comes in different sizes. There are 15-print and 18-print versions, and a 30-plate version, and now the Christine Argillet Gallery have included three old prints from the 1940s to bring the total up to 33.

    I have to wonder how many of them were specifically made with Maldoror in mind, and how many were unconnected plates lying around Bellmer’s studio that he or his dealers brought together with “Maldoror” as a title of convenience.

  4. Yes, the Symons book is the one with the fakes.

    The Underground print above is one I’m sure I’ve seen before as a work that wasn’t part of a series. If this set was cobbled together as a spurious collection then they were lucky that Maldoror is one of the few books that allows such vague illustration, even if it isn’t as erotic as the series would imply.

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