Eros in the Mind's Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film
Book by Donald Palumbo; Greenwood Press, 1986
A companion volume to Greenwood Press's Erotic Universe: Sexuality and Fantastic Literature, this collection of eighteen scholarly essays explores the depiction of sexuality in fantastic artworks employing visual media, primarily two-dimensional art and film. The collection attempts as thorough a consideration of this subject as can be attained in a single volume. It covers the Western art of six centuries, from Medieval woodcuts to contemporary poster art, and the cinema of six decades, from horror classics of the 1930s to recent slasher films. In all, these essays discuss over 100 fantastic woodcuts, prints, paintings, drawings, and illustrations by seventy-five artists, from Hans von Aachen to Boris Vallejo, and nearly 100 science fiction, fantasy, and horror films, from Alien to Werewolf of London, as well as seventy-eight "Star Trek" television episodes. Yet, while the works considered range from high art to mass entertainment, from Medieval to postmodern, and from the celebrated to the obscure, this study reveals a surprising consistency of interests, concerns, symbols, and themes--and of interrelationship between artworks and their social contexts--that affirms an undeniable unity suffusing the interpretation of sexuality through the fantastic in visual media.
Paul Grootkerk "Occult Eroticism in Fantastic Art of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries" is an encyclopedic discussion of the Germanic and Netherlandish art of the early Renaissance that depicts sexual aspects of northern Europe's Medieval traditions of witchcraft and demon worship. Death, the Devil, and the occult world of witchcraft became primary artistic subjects in fifteenth-century northern Europe; and as sexual intercourse with demons was believed to be an important aspect of the witches' sabbat, artists of the period treated eroticism both explicitly and symbolically in their frequent depictions of occult practices and themes. A complementary study, Liana Cheney "Disguised Eroticism and Sexual Fantasy in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Art," discusses the more sublimated treatment of erotic subject matter in the depiction of mythological scenes in the art of sixteenth-century southern Europe, which grounded its tradition in its Classical rather than Medieval past, in seventeenth-century Italian religious art, and in the work of seventeenth-century Dutch realists. Due to the more repressive religious environment of southern Europe, the artists of sixteenth-century Italy, France, and Spain employed allegory as a vehicle for depicting sexual fantasy, particularly fantasies involving aberrant sexual desires, in addition to interpreting the wedding celebrations, abductions, and metamorphoses of Classical myth, especially the amorous exploits of Jupiter or Zeus, as erotic subjects. After the Counter-Reformation, disguised eroticism almost disappeared in southern European mythological paintings only to appear again in Italian religious paintings; and, while eroticism still appeared in seventeenth-century northern European mythological paintings, which offered a Puritan revision of the ancient myths, it also began to appear more frequently and explicitly in Dutch genre scenes of seventeenthcentury lower- or middle-class life, realistic art that adopted a tone of Puritan morality in portraying sexuality.
Kathleen Russo "Henry Fuseli and Erotic Art of the Eighteenth Century" traces artistic depictions of sexuality from the early 1700s, when the works of Fragonard mirrored elite society's frivolous attitudes towards sex, through a period of melancholy despair at innocence lost typified by Hogarth's paintings, to the romantic eroticism of Fuseli and Blake at century's end. As the eighteenth century progressed and sexual activity came more and more to be seen again as something immoral and forbidden, artists again turned towards fantastic subjects to express the tensions this social climate created in their consideration of the erotic. Gwendolyn Layne "Mum's the Word" explores the expression of erotic themes and subjects during Great Britain's golden age of fantasy illustration, 1860-1920. This explosion of artistic activity managed to produce illustrators who treated sexuality with both wit and shocking frankness, in addition to artists whose eroticism was more subliminal, despite the repressive Victorian values of the time. Although relatively liberated from such moral restraint, contemporary comic book artists are these illustrators' heirs, not only in their fusion of word and image, but also in their infusion of a subtle eroticism into their work.