My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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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