Modern Art and the Grotesque

I’ve been reading Modern Art and the Grotesque by Frances S.Connelly. I learnt about earlier forms of “Grotesque” in artworks, and one of them was “The Skat Players” By Otto Dix in 1920.


The bodies are monstrous, jumbled and confusing which is their own “horrific kind of non-sense”. Because the bodies are so disfigured, it causes the viewers to find the, grotesque, because grotesque lack “fixity, stability and order”. Perhaps it’s just what we don’t understand about it that makes us find these things grotesque- the imagery is just not what we are used to. Like how the long coil emerging from the ear of the left figure, and the bizarre eyes of the middle figure, we cannot understand what we are seeing, so we act against it. And if applied more directly to our internal body parts, maybe it’s because we don’t know what is in our bodies, that when we see it, some are afraid and disgusted by it.


I also discovered the topic of surrealism, and this piece is also grotesque:

This artwork was created in 1938 by Salvador Dali. It is an obvious example of morphing a variety of objects/ features together to express uncertainty too. Similarly to cubism, the edges of objects are blurred so the merge is smooth and natural looking, which makes it even more creepy as it becomes more realistic. This is why the mouth part at the centre creeps me most. And if we compare this to the present, such abilities can be used in film and animation now.

I discovered surrealism could provide a visual stimulation for my designs, so I will present this on a moodboard. Now, I want to look into more articles as to why we understand things as disgusting or grotesque, and whether it is simply just because we don’t understand what they are, and our bodies naturally defend themselves from it.



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