Hans Bellmer

German (Kattowitz, Germany [now Katowice, Poland], 1902 - 1975, Paris, France)

La poupée (The Doll)

photograph | album with ten gelatin silver prints
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  • La poupée (The Doll)

    Hans Bellmer, La poupée (The Doll), 1936; album with ten gelatin silver prints, 6 3/4 in. x 5 1/8 in. (17.15 cm x 13.02 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Purchase; © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Bellmer's work reflects both desire and loathing for the female body — a classic surrealist conflict. To create his photographs, he constructed a life-size female doll whose role oscillated between passive victim and persuasive seductress. Made out of modular, jointed body parts, it could be reassembled in a variety of contorted postures. In 1936 Bellmer published the photographs in La Poupée (The Doll), a book with an intimate format. Unlike the doll itself, the small book (just over four inches tall) could easily be hidden in a coat pocket between private viewings.

Bellmer began the project in Berlin just as Hitler came to power, and thus was forced to work in secrecy to avoid being branded a degenerate. Though he was virtually unknown in Germany, he found an audience among the French Surrealists, who reproduced his photographs in the December 1934 issue of the journal Minotaure (Minotaur), and who welcomed him when he relocated to France.

6 3/4 in. x 5 1/8 in. (17.15 cm x 13.02 cm)
Acquired 1982
Collection SFMOMA
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


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