BOOK REVIEW: The Madman’s Gallery by Edward Brooke-Hitching

The Madman's GalleryThe Madman’s Gallery by Edward Brooke-Hitching
My rating: 5 of 5 stars Page

Out: March 7, 2023 [Some editions may be out in your area]

The Madman’s Gallery presents a selection of bizarre, curious, macabre, grotesque, surreal, and psychedelic artworks with essays offering insight into the background of each painting or sculpture, including information on influences and what is known about what motivated these atypical acts of creativity. Not all of the artworks are the product of mental illness – though some are and when something is known about the artist’s mental state it’s mentioned. They are all just, in some way, preternaturally creative or unconventional.

I was pleased that the book exposed me to a new selection of art. There were only a few pieces with which (as a neophyte) I was familiar. These included: Van Eyck’s “The Arnolfini Portrait,” Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Fuseli’s “The Nightmare,” Gentileschi’s “Judith Slaying Holofernes,” the Olmec heads, and Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory.” There were other well-known paintings that were referenced because they were influenced by or had something in common with the artwork under discussion.

The book disabused me of the notion that the latter half of the twentieth century art was the golden age of freakish art (though that era is well represented with discussions of Dada, Surrealism, performance art, etc.) It’s interesting to learn how much wild and weird art was being producing in previous centuries, given how little of it made it through the filter of history to a general audience.

There are many recurring themes throughout the book: death, blasphemy, fertility, demons, etc. But the latter portion of the book features some new sources of bizarre art, including hoaxes, forgeries, and AI art.

If you’re interested in art history, and particularly the weird side of the subject, I’d highly recommend you read this book.

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DAILY PHOTO: Mahanavami Platform, Hampi

Taken in November of 2013 at Hampi

DAILY PHOTO: The Erotic Artwork of Khajuraho

Title: "A kiss so good his head exploded"  Taken at Khajuraho on October 22, 2015

Title: “A kiss so good his head exploded” Taken at Khajuraho on October 22, 2015


If it’s not apparent from the title, this post features sculptures of a graphic nature. If you tend toward the puritanical, turn back now or be introduced to the wild side of ancient Indian sexual positions.

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I love the theme of covering one’s eyes–just not all that carefully.

DAILY PHOTO: A Horde in Short Shorts

Taken on June 26, 2015 at Nek Chand Rock Garden in Chandigarh

Taken on June 26, 2015 at Nek Chand Rock Garden in Chandigarh

What’s interesting about this batch of statues at Nek Chand is that nobody wears shorts in India (let alone short shorts.) If you see someone in shorts, you can be certain they’re either a tourist or part of a very specific demographic (i.e. 20 to 25 year olds of middle / upper-middle class backgrounds whose all-time favorite television show is either “Big Bang Theory” or “How I Met Your Mother.”)

Incidentally, the Nek Chand Rock Garden is the highlight of a trip to Chandigarh, and shouldn’t be missed. It’s a labyrinthine park made out of recycled materials. A lot of these materials–particularly for the early phases of the project–came from the villages that had been torn down to make room for the new city. On the order of fifty villages were razed so that India’s premier planned city could come to fruition.