Art Nouveau jewellery

 

Crafted by French master horn-carver Georges Pierre (1873–1943), Cicada pendant necklace c.1910 (illustrated), and three other delicate examples of Art Nouveau jewellery already in the Collection, greatly enhances the Gallery’s holdings from this significant period.

Georges Pierre ‘Cicada pendant necklace’ c.1910

Georges Pierre, France 1873–1943 / Cicada pendant necklace c.1910 / Buffalo horn, blue glass, silk chord / 11.5 x 8cm / Purchased 2023 with funds from the Henry and Amanda Bartlett Trust through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

The shapes and rhythms of nature inspired the style now recognised as Art Nouveau. Less of a unified movement than an aesthetic zeitgeist, Art Nouveau spanned many forms, including architecture, graphic art, luxury objects, fashion and jewellery. This wave of creative output was fruitful but brief, beginning in the 1890s and receding by the 1910s to make way for the more industrialised style of Art Deco.

In 1896, designer and architect August Endell wrote:

. . . he who has never been delighted by the exquisite bendings of the blade of grass, by the wonderful inflexibility of the thistle, the austere youthfulness of the sprouting leaf buds . . . and stirred to the depths of his soul, he still knows nothing about the beauty of forms.1

QAGOMA’s growing collection of Art Nouveau objects features several delicately frosted plant, animal and even insect-adorned glass vases by renowned designer and jeweller René Lalique (1860–1945) (Illustrated). These vases are complemented by several pieces of horn jewellery that take the form of an orchid pendant (illustrated), a translucent comb featuring a deciduous leaf (illustrated), and a dragonfly brooch (illustrated). Horn jewellery, in particular, reveals the close attention paid by Art Nouveau artists to shapes found in nature, as well as the period’s fascination with Japanese design and new, inexpensive materials.

Cicada pendant necklace (details) c.1910

Cicada pendant necklace c.1910 was crafted by French master horn-carver Georges Pierre, who settled in Oyonnax in the French Alps, which was plentiful in all the necessary materials for artists working in carved horn: buffalo, goat, and fresh water. Here, he shared a studio with Elisabeth Bonté; originally rivals, they ultimately formed a close relationship and worked alongside each other until 1936. By the early twentieth century, their designs were almost indistinguishable, though each retained a separate artistic identity and practice. Pierre had at least three workshops in Paris and appears in several business directories and public records from the time, which also show a factory in Bonneuil and a shop, at 78 rue des Archives, Paris, where he sold bijoux d’art.

Pierre’s Cicada pendant necklace features three of the winged insects. A central cicada is framed by a delicate mandala of ivy leaves, while two further cicadas adorn the cord above. The blue droplet at the base of the pendent suggests the symbolic element of water, completing the overall tableaux vivant by creating a harmony of flora, fauna and base element. Their finely carved detail and delicate colouration demonstrate the deftness with which Pierre worked, and his skill in manipulating horn’s complex material structure.

‘Libellule brooch’ early 20th century

Unknown, possibly France / Libellule brooch early 20th century / Horn / 11.5cm (length) / Purchased 2021 with funds from the Henry and Amanda Bartlett Trust through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Lucien Gaillard ‘Comb (decorated with chestnut or maple leaf and ladybird)’ c.1900

Lucien Gaillard, France 1861–1942 / Comb (decorated with chestnut or maple leaf and ladybird) c.1900 / Horn and gold enamel / 12.5 x 7cm / Purchased 2021 with funds from the Henry and Amanda Bartlett Trust through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

‘Orchid pendant necklace’ c.1900

attrib. to Georges Pierre, France 1873–1943 (or Elisabeth Bonté, France dates unknown) / Orchid pendant necklace c.1900 / Horn, yellow glass, silk chord / 50cm (length); 10.5 x 5.5cm (pendant) / Purchased 2021 with funds from the Henry and Amanda Bartlett Trust through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Horn became a favourite medium, particularly for designers of hairpieces and pendants. Lalique is cited as the first jeweller in Paris to use buffalo horn and praised the material for its modelling ability; this new generation of designers cared less about the distinction between joaillerie (jewellery with precious gems) and bijouterie (which included cheaper materials) — Art Nouveau often dismissed the previously held hierarchies of mediums. More importantly, the relatively inexpensive horn created a new market of middle-class female buyers. In the first decade of the 1900s, French Vogue often celebrated horn for its translucence and adaptability. Many female art students soon took up carving horn and a significant collection of horn jewellery was presented at the Salon in 1908. Amateurs also tried their hand at carving horn and instruction manuals were available for the interested public.2 Carved jewellery and hair adornments were artworks for everyone; in this way, horn encapsulated the loosening of European class relations as the world moved into the twentieth century.

As QAGOMA continues to tell a global history of art and represent the diversity of artists working today, these delicate Art Nouveau objects remind us of an earlier time of cultural exchange: the way Asian art inspired European culture, particularly at the dawn of a new century.

Ineke Dane is Associate Curator, International Art, and Sophie Rose is former Assistant Curator, International Art. QAGOMA
This text is adapted from an essay first published in QAGOMA’s Members’ magazine, Artlines.

Endnotes
1 Quoted in Jeremy Howard, Art Nouveau: International and National Styles in Europe, Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York, 1996, p.5.
2 Emiel Aardewerk and Esther Aardewerk, Horn Pendants: A Private Collection, trans. Lynne Richards, A. Aardewerk Publishers, The Hague, 2016, p.10.

Delve deeper into the Collection

René Lalique ‘Sauterelles (Grasshopper) vase’ 1912

René Lalique, France 1860-1945 / Sauterelles (Grasshopper) vase designed 1912 / Mould blown frosted and clear glass with grey patina / 27 x 25.2 x 25.2cm / Purchased 2018 with funds from the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

René Lalique ‘Perruches (Parakeet) vase’ 1919

René Lalique, France 1860-1945 / Perruches (Parakeet) vase designed 1919 / Mould blown blue opalescent and frosted glass with grey patina / 25 x 24 x 24cm / Purchased 2018. QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

René Lalique ‘Gui (Mistletoe) vase’ 1920

René Lalique, France 1860–1945 / Gui (Mistletoe) vase designed 1920 / Mould blown opalescent glass with pale grey patina / 16.8 x 17.3 x 17.3cm / Purchased 2018. QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

René Lalique ‘Druide vase’ 1924

René Lalique, France 1860–1945 / Druide vase designed 1924 / Mould blown frosted and opalescent glass / 18 x 19 x 19cm / Purchased 2018. QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

#QAGOMA

Fairy Tales: Curiouser & curiouser!

 

Just as the woods are a recurrent setting in classic fairy tales, gardens are important to many stories told since the nineteenth century. Expectations of gardens as picturesque and orderly are often subverted in these tales. Following the White Rabbit into Wonderland, Alice remarks ‘curiouser and curiouser!’ at her strange surroundings; and Dorothy passes through fields of poppies on her journey through Oz. These gardens’ surreal and fantastic properties are navigated with the help of extraordinary guides.

Production still from Alice in Wonderland 2010 / Director: Tim Burton / Image courtesy: The Walt Disney Company (Australia)
Production still from The Wizard of Oz 1939 / Director: Victor Fleming / Image courtesy: Roadshow Films

In these uncanny landscapes, the perceived divide between the social and the natural world is porous. We are encouraged to rethink our understanding of sentience (the ability to experience feelings), and to marvel at the ecologies of our world. Here, science, psychedelia and the supernatural combine to present new possibilities for discovering unseen realms and encountering wonder in the everyday.

Buy Tickets to ‘Fairy Tales’
Until 28 April 2024
Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition unfolds across three themed chapters. ‘Into the Woods’ explores the conventions and characters of traditional fairy tales alongside their contemporary retellings. ‘Through the Looking Glass’ presents newer tales of parallel worlds that are filled with unexpected ideas and paths. ‘Ever After’ brings together classic and current tales to celebrate aspirations, challenge convention and forge new directions.

The film program ‘Fairy Tales Cinema: Truth, Power and Enchantment‘ is presented in conjunction with the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition

Travel with us in our weekly series through each room and theme of the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) as we delve into some of the works on display.

DELVE DEEPER: Journey through the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition with our weekly series

EXHIBITION THEME: 9 Through the Looking Glass

Patricia Piccinini ‘Enchanted Field’ 2023

Patricia Piccinini, Australia b.1965 / Enchanted Field 2023 installed in ‘Fairy Tales’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane 2023, featuring Shoeform (Tresses) 2019, Sapling 2020, Celestial Field 2021, Mushroom Ring 2021, La Brava 2021, Clutch 2022, and Strand 2023 / Selected sculptural works / Collection: Patricia Piccinini / © Patricia Piccinini / Photograph: J Ruckli © QAGOMA

Patricia Piccinini’s magical installation Enchanted Field 2023 (illustrated) presents a collection of fragile, otherworldly creatures sheltered beneath another of her works, Celestial Field 2021 (illustrated) — a canopy of nearly 3000 ‘genetically modified’ blooms, forming an inverted garden in the sky. Piccinini’s vision is an invitation to a world of secrets, joys, sorrows and, above all, the possibility of meaningful relationships between humans, plants and animals. In this surreal landscape, the viewer also encounters two iterations of Piccinini’s Mushroom Ring 2021 (illustrated), with its central rotating forms, along with the suspended revolving sculpture Strand 2023; and Shoeform (Tresses) 2019 (illustrated), the brightly coloured mushroom caps of which unfurl to release a new wave of life.

Patricia Piccinini, Australia b.1965 / Enchanted Field 2023 installed in ‘Fairy Tales’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane 2023, featuring (top left to right) Celestial Field 2021, Mushroom Ring 2021 and Shoeform (Tresses) 2019 / Selected sculptural works / Collection: Patricia Piccinini / © Patricia Piccinini / Photograph: J Ruckli © QAGOMA
Patricia Piccinini, Australia b.1965 / Enchanted Field 2023 installed in ‘Fairy Tales’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane 2023 featuring (left to right) La Brava 2021 Mushroom Ring 2021 and Sapling 2020 / Collection: Patricia Piccinini / © Patricia Piccinini / Photograph: C Callistemon © QAGOMA

Piccinini’s landscape of curiosity, beauty and unconventional encounters traverses the width of the gallery space. Viewers are welcomed by the feline‑esque creature La Brava 2021 (illustrated) and farewelled by a pelican-like creature nuzzling its tiny offspring, Clutch 2022. Both are gentle allegorical sculptures of bodies that appear to have been genetically modified to mimic the shape and texture of footwear. Creatures of biology and mass production, these works explore Piccinini’s interest in the increasingly porous subjects of science, technology and nature. In the tender sculpture at the centre of the installation, Sapling 2020 (illustrated), a son — who is a childlike plant — rides high on his human father’s shoulders, their heads resting together in connection and contentment. This work, which was inspired by a report on an ancient tree surviving on a busy intersection surrounded by petrol stations, considers the complex organic connections, relationships and biological intelligence of plants, and the possibility of them having agency.

Yayoi Kusama ‘Flowers that bloom at midnight’ 2011 

Size often plays a significant role in fairy tales, be it through transformation, tests of character, moral lessons, or simply quirks of the magic realm. Yayoi Kusama’s exuberantly colourful Flowers that bloom at midnight 2011 (illustrated) that greets you at the entrance to the ‘Fairy tale’ exhibition is an especially large-scale blossom. With its gazing eye, it considers us at our own level, seeming to follow our movement around the space. You may well imagine Thumbelina, the fairy tale girl born of a magic flower, emerging from Kusama’s work, with its polka-dotted petals and highly polished surface of otherworldly pop allure.

Yayoi Kusama, Japan b.1929 / Flowers that bloom at midnight 2011 / Fibreglass-reinforced plastic, urethane paint, metal frame / 181 x 181 x 268cm / Purchased 2012 with funds from the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Yayoi Kusama / Photographs: J Ruckli © QAGOMA

TheFairy Talesexhibition is at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Australia from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

Fairy Tales Cinema: Truth, Power and Enchantment‘ presented in conjunction with GOMA’s blockbuster summer exhibition screens at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

The major publication Fairy Tales in Art and Film’ available at the QAGOMA Store and online explores how fairy tales have held our fascination for centuries through art and culture.

From gift ideas, treats just for you or the exhibition publication, visit the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition shop at GOMA or online.

‘Fairy Tales’ merchandise available at the GOMA exhibition shop or online.

Featured image: Patricia Piccinini, Australia b.1965 / Shoeform (Tresses) 2019 installed in ‘Fairy Tales’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane 2023 / Resin and automotive paint / 58 x 35 x 52cm / Collection: Patricia Piccinini / © Patricia Piccinini / Photograph: C Baxter © QAGOMA

#QAGOMA

Private Collectors, Public Benefactors: Ian & Judeen Airey

 

Benefactors of the Gallery for 25 years, Ian and Judeen Airey recently raised the Collection’s holdings created by Japan-based French artist Paul Jacoulet from one work to 28. Here, the Aireys share something of themselves and their approach to collecting, and giving, with the wider Gallery community.

Paul Jacoulet ‘Une belle de Palaos’ 1935

Paul Jacoulet, France 1896-1960 / Une belle de Palaos (A beauty of Palao), [Palau Islands] 1935 / Colour woodblock print on PJ watermarked paper / 41.1 x 32.1cm / Purchased 2021 with funds from the Airey Family through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Paul Jacoulet/Copyright Agency

Paul Jacoulet ‘Femme tatouée de Falalap. Ouest Carolines’ 1935

Paul Jacoulet, France 1896-1960 / Femme tatouée de Falalap. Ouest Carolines (Tattooed woman of Falalap. West Carolines) 1935 / Colour woodblock print on PJ watermarked paper / 46 x 36.2cm / Purchased 2022 with funds from the Airey Family through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Paul Jacoulet/Copyright Agency

Our personal collection is very small, but it brings a warmth to our home that is unique to us. The first work of art we acquired was George Washington Lambert’s Head of a Woman, a pencil drawing created in 1912, in which he captures a nuanced expression of the human face. We were familiar with Lambert through our association with the Queensland Art Gallery; his paintings Portrait group (The mother) 1907 and Kitty Powell 1909 are Collection works we greatly appreciate. The influence of these earlier works is palpable in Head of a Woman, as Lambert’s style permeates every stroke of the pencil. In a strange way, the drawing created a link between our home and the Gallery. Head of a Woman is a key work in our collection; we display it in a central location and admire it regularly at mealtimes.

Our motivation to donate stems from the core values of our Christian culture, which emphasises the virtue of giving. We consider individuals to be intertwined with a collective spirit, which makes people members of a community — and we recognise that we are beneficiaries of the community into which we were born. Being truly privileged to have lived in Brisbane for so long, we feel a profound responsibility to contribute to its wellbeing. QAGOMA is the avenue along which we have chosen to express our appreciation.

We have discovered there is a genuine joy in philanthropy. Giving generates influences that transcend the act of contributing material resources: it’s about having a positive and meaningful effect on the lives of others. In the context of QAGOMA, giving is about building bridges between people; creating opportunities for people to understand the commonality that exists between us and enriches us all. Visual art is a powerful non-verbal medium to communicate this.

Paul Jacoulet ‘Chagrins d’Amour, Kusaie, Est Carolines’ 1940 

Paul Jacoulet, France 1896-1960 / Chagrins d’Amour, Kusaie, Est Carolines (Sorrows of love, Kusaie, East Carolines) 1940 / Colour woodblock print on PJ watermarked paper / 47 x 36.2cm / Purchased 2021 with funds from the Airey Family through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Paul Jacoulet/Copyright Agency

Paul Jacoulet ‘Souvenirs d’autrefois, Japon’ 1941 

Paul Jacoulet, France 1896-1960 / Souvenirs d’autrefois, Japon (Memories of the past, Japan) 1941 / Colour woodblock print on PJ watermarked paper / 47.6 x 36.6cm / Purchased 2023 with funds from the Airey Family through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Paul Jacoulet/Copyright Agency

Art serves as a unifying force through which we can identify shared experiences and transcend diverse backgrounds. Art sparks conversations, fosters empathy and becomes a shared language, expressing emotions that resonate universally. These are powerful motivators for us to contribute to QAGOMA’s success.

When we decided to fund four of the twelve panels of Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Apocalypse’ series, we were unaware that QAGOMA’s existing holdings had been initiated by the family of R Godfrey Rivers, who painted Under the jacaranda 1905 and was such an important influence in the establishment of the Queensland Art Gallery. What a wonderful privilege it is to have this juxtaposition with the Rivers family. The prints bring us pleasure and a quiet sense of satisfaction.

Of course, Dürer is a giant in art history and was influential in the Renaissance. We had the opportunity to visit the artist’s house in Nuremberg, and our Queensland Art Gallery connection with the Dürer works brought a special dimension to that visit. While there, we gained a broader appreciation of his extraordinary talent. His skillful mastery of various media, including painting, printmaking and engraving, distinguished him as a versatile and groundbreaking artist. Displays of his work attached to his house included images of his works which had been enlarged to many times their actual size. Even in these enlargement images, the quality of his craftmanship could not be faulted. Indeed, the works in the Collection reflect this. We have a growing sense of connection with the artist.

In the ‘Apocalypse’ series, Dürer is illustrating episodes from the Book of Revelations, the final book of the New Testament. His decision to tackle this esoteric subject matter demonstrates his intellectual ambition and spiritual depth. When one is close to the works, the artist’s mastery is unmistakable; and when one stands back, one is impressed by magnificent imagery, which is unforgettable.

Paul Jacoulet ‘Les joueurs, Chinois’ 1941 

Paul Jacoulet, France 1896-1960 / Les joueurs, Chinois (The gamblers. Chinese) 1941 / Colour woodcut on Japanese paper / 34 x 42cm / Purchased 2023 with funds from the Airey Family through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Paul Jacoulet/Copyright Agency

Paul Jacoulet ‘La fille du chef, Mogomog’ 1953 

Paul Jacoulet, France 1896-1960 / La fille du chef, Mogomog (The chief’s daughter, Mogomog) 1953 / Colour woodblock print on paper, ed. 23/350 / 39.1 x 29.9cm / Purchased 2022 with funds from the Airey Family through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Paul Jacoulet/Copyright Agency

When we first began to engage with the Gallery, our focus was on paintings. Initially, we contributed to the Foundation Appeal to acquire Grace Cossington Smith’s Church interior c.1941–42. Then, through dialogue with the Gallery, we began to look at works on paper. First, our attention was drawn to the Dürer woodcuts. We were astounded by the quality of these works and our interest in prints on paper grew. The next opportunity was to fund two drypoint etchings by Picasso, from his ‘Le Saltimbanque’ phase. We never imagined we could afford a Picasso! Not that we needed any persuasion, but the deal was sealed when we learned that the works would be installed beside the Gallery’s iconic Picasso, La Belle Hollandaise 1905. This was special. Having developed an appreciation for prints on paper, we jumped at the opportunity when the Gallery became interested in developing a collection of works by Paul Jacoulet.

A French-born artist who lived much of his life in Asia, Jacoulet’s body of work, largely created during the first half of the twentieth century, is characterised by a unique fusion of Japanese and European artistic traditions. His unique cross-cultural appreciation complements the Gallery’s focus on the art and artists of the Asia Pacific region. Jacoulet created his works using a woodblock printing technique, not dissimilar to Dürer. Unlike the German master, however, Jacoulet introduced vibrant colour to his prints. To achieve this, he needed one woodblock for each colour in each work. The precision required to overlay each woodblock accurately was very demanding, but he achieved it with aplomb. We hope the viewing public appreciates the Jacoulet prints as much as we do.

Paul Jacoulet ‘Les paradisiers, Menado, Célébes’ 1937 

Paul Jacoulet, France 1896-1960 / Les paradisiers, Menado, Célébes (Birds of paradise, Menado, Celebes), [Sulawesi, Indonesia] 1937 / Colour woodblock print on PJ watermarked paper / 36.1 x 47.4cm / Purchased 2021 with funds from the Airey Family through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Paul Jacoulet/Copyright Agency
Ian and Judeen Airey spoke with Lucy Whyte, then Bequest and Communications Officer, in November 2023.
This text is adapted from an essay first published in QAGOMA’s Members’ magazine, Artlines.

The first rotation of ‘Birds of Passage: Ian Fairweather and Paul Jacoulet’ is in Galleries 7 and 9 of the Philip Bacon Galleries, Queensland Art Gallery, from 24 February 2024 until 27 January 2025, with a second rotation opening in early February 2025 until late January 2026.

#QAGOMA

Fairy Tales: Through the Looking Glass

 

Fairy tales transport us to faraway lands that exist out of time. In much-loved and endlessly retold stories overflowing with kings and queens, castles and carriages, feasts and riches, we find adventure, community, happiness and love.

Celebrating classic tales of enchantment, transformation and caution, together with contemporary retellings by creative storytellers, the exhibition explores how these stories have held our collective fascination for centuries, and how, in the hands of artists, designers and filmmakers, they offer insights into our contemporary world.

Buy Tickets to ‘Fairy Tales’
Until 28 April 2024
Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition unfolds across three themed chapters. ‘Into the Woods’ explores the conventions and characters of traditional fairy tales alongside their contemporary retellings. ‘Through the Looking Glass’ presents newer tales of parallel worlds that are filled with unexpected ideas and paths. ‘Ever After’ brings together classic and current tales to celebrate aspirations, challenge convention and forge new directions.

Travel with us in our weekly series through each room and theme of the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) as we place a spotlight on some of the works on display.

DELVE DEEPER: Journey through the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition with our weekly series

EXHIBITION THEME: 8 Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass

‘Through the Looking Glass’ — the second major theme of the exhibition — brings together art, film and design that embrace exploratory stories of fantastical parallel worlds. Social change in the nineteenth century saw the emergence of children’s literature as a distinct genre. Industrialisation and print technologies, education reform and a growing leisured middle class contributed to the development of the concept of ‘childhood’ as an important stage in life. Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 1865 and L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 1900 are examples of tales that changed society’s views of children by emphasising their enchanted perspective on life.

Drawing on the wonder of the childlike imagination, the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition presents works that straddle the divide between everyday reality and extraordinary realms, where wonder, empathy, curiosity and compassion are often imperative for survival. These ideas play out in images of puppets, toys, snow globes and clocks; twirling mushrooms and flying houses; and immersive, otherworldly gardens full of unusual creatures and magical pathways.

Maurice Sendak Original prints from ‘Where the Wild Things Are’

Maurice Sendak, United States 1928–2012 / Original prints from (from the portfolio ‘Pictures by Maurice Sendak’, reproducing images from the book Where the Wild Things Are, published by Harper and Row, New York, 1963) 1971 / Offset lithographs / pp.65–7 / Collection: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane / © 1963 by Maurice Sendak, copyright renewed 1991 by Maurice Sendak / Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers / Photograph: C Baxter © QAGOMA

A wonderful example of the rich and playful world of childhood imagination is the beloved classic Where the Wild Things Are (1963) by illustrator and author Maurice Sendak. First conceived as a picture book, it is a story that has left an indelible mark on children’s literature over the past 60 years. A mischievous boy, Max, imagines a far-off land where he can be king. Sent to bed for misbehaving, Max’s vivid imagination transforms his bedroom into an exquisite forest, inhabited by fierce beasts promising wild adventures. Upon its release, the book caused concern among some adults, who questioned its depiction of childhood resentments and rebellion. However, the story’s focus on a child’s enchanted perspective as a means of processing tumultuous emotions has since been embraced, and Where the Wild Things Are has moved beyond the page — first to the stage then to the screen.

Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (designer) ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ 2009

Spike Jonze (director), United States b.1969; Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (designer), United States est. 1979 / Costumes from Where the Wild Things Are 2009, installation view ‘Fairy Tales’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Brisbane 2023 / ‘Douglas’ animatronic costume: Synthetic fur, synthetic hide, synthetic feathers, acrylic, cotton, latex, foam, polystyrene, nylon, fibreglass, lycra, polyvinyl chloride, speakers, animatronic power cables, plugs, fans, gyrostabiliser, cameras, video monitor; 260 x 96.5 x 96.5cm / ‘Max’ costume: Synthetic fur, resin, plastic, metal, wire; 170 x 45.7 x 45.7cm / ‘Carol’ animatronic costume: Synthetic fur, synthetic hide, synthetic feathers, acrylic, cotton, latex, foam, polystyrene, nylon, lycra, polyvinyl chloride, speakers, animatronic power cables, plugs, fans, gyrostabiliser, cameras, video monitor; 267 x 119.5 x 99cm / Collection: Warner Brothers Archives, Los Angeles / © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved / Photograph: C Callistemon © QAGOMA

Directed by Spike Jonze, Where the Wild Things Are (2009) develops Maurice Sendak’s original story’s themes of childhood turmoil and frustration. In Jonze’s live-action telling, Max’s anguish is grounded in the ordeal of his parents’ divorce and the prospect of a new step-parent, and his inability to articulate grief, fear and fury at the world changing around him. The film is filled with an array of endearingly fearsome creatures, with their sharp teeth and claws reflecting Max’s inner psychological experience. The film is represented in the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition through the wolf-suit costume, with crown and sceptre, worn by the actor playing Max on screen, alongside the captivating animatronic puppet costumes of ‘Wild Things’ Carol and Douglas (illustrated), created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

Brian Froud (costume designer) ‘Labyrinth’ 1986

Jim Henson (director), United States 1936–90; Brian Froud (designer), England b.1947; Installation view ‘Fairy Tales’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Brisbane, 2023 featuring ‘Jareth’ costume worn by the actor playing the Goblin King, designed by Brian Froud for Jim Henson’s Labyrinth 1986; Leather, velvet, resin, synthetic; Collection: Museum of the Moving Image, Queens, New York / Jim Henson Company (designer); 13-hour clock from Labyrinth 1986; Fibreglass and wood; 203 x 111.8 x 24.2cm; Jim Henson Company (designer); Crystal orbs from Labyrinth 1986; Plastic; Two orbs: 8.9 x 8.9 x 8.9cm (each); Collection: Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta / © The Jim Henson Company. JIM HENSON’S mark & logo, LABYRINTH mark & logo, characters and elements are trademarks of The Jim Henson Company. Motion Picture © 1986 Labyrinth Enterprises. All Rights Reserved / Photograph: N Umek © QAGOMA

Props from ‘Labyrinth’ 1986

Installation view of props from Labyrinth 1986, ‘Fairy Tales’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Brisbane, 2023 / © The Jim Henson Company. JIM HENSON’S mark & logo, LABYRINTH mark & logo, characters and elements are trademarks of The Jim Henson Company. Motion Picture © 1986 Labyrinth Enterprises. All Rights Reserved / Photograph: C Baxter © QAGOMA
Installation view of props and Goblin King costume from Labyrinth 1986, ‘Fairy Tales’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Brisbane, 2023 / © The Jim Henson Company. JIM HENSON’S mark & logo, LABYRINTH mark & logo, characters and elements are trademarks of The Jim Henson Company. Motion Picture © 1986 Labyrinth Enterprises. All Rights Reserved / Photograph: N Umek © QAGOMA

The evolution of fairy tales on screen from the 1970s onwards was influenced by North American master craftsman, puppeteer and filmmaker Jim Henson. Like Maurice Sendak before him, Henson believed that darkness in childhood tales was an important part of processing troubles. Notable for his insightful characters and storytelling ability, Henson’s practice is represented here by his cult-classic coming-of-age film Labyrinth (1986). Told from the viewpoint of Sarah, a sulky teenager whose family dynamic has been splintered by divorce, remarriage and a new sibling, she envisions herself as a put-upon princess while babysitting her infant brother. Sarah wishes to be free of the crying child, and the wretched obligation to her (not so wicked) stepmother. Her wish is granted by the Goblin King, who takes the baby, thrusting Sarah into an adventure in a parallel world — filled with an ever-changing labyrinth, talking creatures, a peach of forgetting, and an otherworldly ballroom sequence — to retrieve him. The dreamlike logic of the film shifts between states of childhood and adulthood as Sarah realises she is not as ready as she thought to be grown up.

The film’s movement between worlds is represented in the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition by props drawn from Sarah’s pre-adventurous life — selected toys, a Labyrinth book, a bookend and a music box from her bedroom, alongside a film clip that foreshadows their impending transformation into life-size characters and locations in the world of the labyrinth. The magical realm is represented by the props of a fairy-spraying gun, a 13-hour clock and crystal orbs, and a costume worn by the actor playing the Goblin King. These elements are brought to life with a clip of the film’s iconic Escherian staircase scene.

Lewis Carroll ‘Xie Kitchin, Captive Princess, 26 June 1875’ 1875

Lewis Carroll, England 1832–98 / Xie Kitchin, Captive Princess, 26 June 1875 1875 / Hand-tinted albumen photograph from wet plate negative on paper / 15.1 x 9.3cm (comp.) / Purchased 2020 with funds from the Henry and Amanda Bartlett Trust through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Elsie Wright & Frances Griffiths ‘Cottingley Fairies’ photographic series (1917–20)

Elsie Wright (photographer), England 1901–88; Frances Griffiths (photographer), England 1907–86 / Fairy Offering Flowers to Iris 1920 / 155 mm x 114 mm (comp) / Gelatin silver chloride photograph / Collection: National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, UK / © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum, London
(left to right) Lewis Carroll, England 1832–98; Xie Kitchin, Captive Princess, 26 June 1875 1875 / Elsie Wright (photographer), England 1901–88; Frances Griffiths (photographer), England 1907–86; Alice and the Fairies 1917; Iris and the Gnome 1917; Alice and the Leaping Fairy 1920; Fairy Offering Flowers to Iris 1920; Fairy Sunbath, Elves, etc. 1920; Gelatin silver chloride photographs; Collection: National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, UK / © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum, London

The slippage between real life and a fairy tale realm was very tangible for Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1872). A lecturer in mathematics at Oxford University, Caroll was known as the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. It was under the pen name of Lewis Carroll, however, that he revealed his love of writing, theatre, puppetry, photography and magic. Carroll often photographed his friends’ children enjoying the theatrics of dress-ups and play-acting, capturing these moments in a series of hand-tinted albumen photographs. The photograph Xie Kitchin, Captive Princess, 26 June 1875 shows one of Carroll’s favourite subjects, Alexandra (‘Xie’, pronounced ‘Eck-sy’) Rhoda Kitchin, who was the daughter of his colleague, Reverend George William Kitchin. In the photograph, Xie is dressed as a sullen princess awaiting her prince. This image is one of four taken on the same morning with her three younger brothers, George, Hugh and Brook, in which the family acted out a variety of stories.

The playful ‘Cottingley Fairies’ photographic series (1917–20) by cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, captures the whimsy of their childhood imagination and their wish to bring magic into the real world. Created in the northern English village of Cottingley when they were 9 and 16 years old, respectively, the series of five photographs were reportedly taken by the girls for their parents as ‘proof’ that fairies were responsible for their dishevelled appearances after playing in the garden every day. The photographs were taken at a time when spiritualism — a religious movement that believed one remained in spirit form after death — was in fashion, and photography was widely understood to be a truthful medium. They were shown at a local meeting of the Theosophical Society in mid‑1919 by Elsie Wright’s mother, where they were met with enthusiasm. Many were convinced of the images’ authenticity over the months that followed, including Sherlock Holmes author and prominent spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Understood as scientific evidence of a ‘faerie’ realm, the photographs reflect a moment in history when advancing technology held the possibility of connecting people with the supernatural — a poignant hope in the context of World War One, when many families sought contact with fallen loved ones. It was not until more than 60 years later that Elsie and Frances admitted their photographs were created through the artful use of paper cut-outs.

TheFairy Talesexhibition is at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Australia from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

Fairy Tales Cinema: Truth, Power and Enchantment‘ presented in conjunction with GOMA’s blockbuster summer exhibition screens at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

The major publication Fairy Tales in Art and Film’ available at the QAGOMA Store and online explores how fairy tales have held our fascination for centuries through art and culture.

From gift ideas, treats just for you or the exhibition publication, visit the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition shop at GOMA or online.

‘Fairy Tales’ merchandise available at the GOMA exhibition shop or online.

#QAGOMA

Fairy Tales: Life at the margins

 

In the world of the fairy tale, witches and crones are not the only characters who generate mistrust and fear — ‘others’, outsiders and so-called misfits pushed to the margins of society, figure prominently in many tales. In these stories, people living outside the norm are branded as villains or monsters. The Beast from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a prime example. Given our social needs, stories of isolation reflect a deeply human anxiety. In stories, as in life, perceived differences inspire actions born of fear — from petty quarrelling to ostracism or vengeful retaliation.

Buy Tickets to ‘Fairy Tales’
Until 28 April 2024
Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

While retribution and revenge are ever-present elements of fairy tales, so too are questions of cruelty, injustice and the redemptive power of kindness. The darker side of fairy tales holds a mirror to our motivations and helps us navigate the ethical decisions in our everyday lives.

Fairy Tales‘ unfolds across three themed chapters. ‘Into the Woods’ which explores the conventions and characters of traditional fairy tales alongside their contemporary retellings. ‘Through the Looking Glass’ presents newer tales of parallel worlds that are filled with unexpected ideas and paths. ‘Ever After’ brings together classic and current tales to celebrate aspirations, challenge convention and forge new directions.

Travel with us in our weekly series through each room and theme of the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) as we focus on some of the works on display.

DELVE DEEPER: Journey through the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition with our weekly series

EXHIBITION THEME: 7 Into the Woods

Patricia Piccinini ‘The Couple’ 2018

Patricia Piccinini, Australia b.1965 / The Couple 2018 / Silicone, fibreglass, hair, cotton, caravan, found objects / The Taylor Family Collection. Purchased 2018 with funds from Paul, Sue and Kate Taylor through the QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Patricia Piccinini / Photographs: N Umek, C Baxter, N Harth © QAGOMA

Patricia Piccinini’s The Couple 2018 (illustrated) is haunting work that captures the isolation of those perceived as unwanted and unwelcome. Piccinini’s sculptures often touch on ideas of evolution, genetics and bioethics, seen through a lens of human empathy and curiosity. Her realistic creations are both familiar and foreign — illusions from an alternative world. The Couple presents a scene of intimacy and love in which two resting creatures lie in an embrace in a caravan, buffered from the cruel judgment of the world, if only in this moment. The characters’ uncanny otherness prompts contemplation of resilience, beauty and unconditional love.

Isobel Knowles, Van Sowerwine ‘You Were In My Dream’ 2010

Isobel Knowles, Australia b.1980 / Van Sowerwine, Australia b.1975 / You Were In My Dream 2010 / Interactive installation: live-feed webcam and single-channel video constructed from stop-motion animation, 16:9, colour, sound; wood Programming: Tarwin Stroh-Spijer; Sound: James Cecil; Engineering: Duncan Jack; An Experimenta commission / 170 x 70 x 170cm (irreg.) / The Premier of Queensland’s National New Media Art Award 2010. Purchased 2010 with funds from the Queensland Government / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Isobel Knowles and Van Sowerwine

Ideas of cloaking oneself through animal transformation pulse through the lush papercut stop‑motion animation and interactive installation You Were In My Dream 2010, by collaborating Australian artists Isobel Knowles and Van Sowerwine. Beginning with a small child sleeping on a jungle floor, the viewer wakes the child with a click of the mouse to find their face has been imposed onto the animated figure through a live video feed. Prompted to send their character on a magical journey by clicking on one of the many pulsing stars on the screen, echoes elements of the transformative chase in classic fairy tales, whereby a pursuit prompts the protagonist to shapeshift through several forms — a rabbit, monkey, wolf or bird. In a magical world that demands one to eat or be eaten, these changes are not without their own challenges.

The ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition is at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Australia from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

Fairy Tales Cinema: Truth, Power and Enchantment‘ presented in conjunction with GOMA’s blockbuster summer exhibition screens at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

The major publication ‘Fairy Tales in Art and Film’ available at the QAGOMA Store and online explores how fairy tales have held our fascination for centuries through art and culture.

From gift ideas, treats just for you or the exhibition publication, visit the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition shop at GOMA or online.

‘Fairy Tales’ merchandise available at the GOMA exhibition shop or online.

#QAGOMA

Fairy Tales: Witchiness

 

In fairy tales, women are often cast in the role of maiden, (step)mother or crone, many stories focus on the transition from girlhood to womanhood, with marriage (and motherhood) the ideal outcome. Coming-of-age journeys in classic tales, however, are often fraught. There are dangers for girls who fail to adhere to societal expectations — they can turn into the threatening figures of the disagreeable crone or the evil witch, who lives alone in the fearsome woods.

Fairy Tales‘ unfolds across three themed chapters. ‘Into the Woods’ which explores the conventions and characters of traditional fairy tales alongside their contemporary retellings. ‘Through the Looking Glass’ presents newer tales of parallel worlds that are filled with unexpected ideas and paths. ‘Ever After’ brings together classic and current tales to celebrate aspirations, challenge convention and forge new directions.

Travel with us in our weekly series through each room and theme of the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) as we highlight works on display.

Buy Tickets to ‘Fairy Tales’
Until 28 April 2024
Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

Enter the Witch House

Witches tend to be cast as unpredictable, vengeful or malevolent forces, who possess supernatural powers and secret knowledge. Often, they are women feared for their very independence. While witches’ dark motives make them the villains of many fairy tales, contemporary tellings such as Trulee Hall’s Witch House (Umbilical Coven) 2023 (illustrated) reframe them as empowering female role models. Tracing the associations in fairy tales between age, gender, fertility and influence highlights the ways our society is constantly changing. Today, many stories celebrate the redemptive powers and joys of ‘witchiness’, and powerful witches in literature, film and television are often complex characters, rather than simple stereotypes.

DELVE DEEPER: Journey through the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition with our weekly series

EXHIBITION THEME: 6 Into the Woods

Trulee Hall ‘Witch House (Umbilical Coven)’ 2023 

Trulee Hall, United States b.1976 / Witch House (Umbilical Coven) 2023, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Brisbane 2023 / Wood, papier-mache, resin, fabric, stuffing, fake fur, synthetic hair, altered sex dolls, synthetic polymer paint, spray-paint, found candle holders, cornucopia baskets, found ceramic cornucopia, found crystal balls, convex mirror, polymer clay, hardware, LED candles / 431.8 x 685.8 x 436.9cm / © Trulee Hall / Photographs: N Umek & C Callistemon © QAGOMA

Witches in fairy tales commonly live far away from towns and villages. Self-sufficient, they rarely choose to live with others. A witch’s home is often enchanted, filled with magical objects, ancient knowledge and power.

Sculptor, painter and filmmaker Trulee Hall’s wonderfully theatrical Witch House (Umbilical Coven) 2023 revels in the power of witches and the positive aspects of non-conformity. Jet-black and precariously constructed, this dwelling is at once alluring and daunting. Inside is a video work combining elements of live action with stop-motion animation, featuring images of feminine energy, fertility and a seance. A place of power, transgression and action, Witch House (Umbilical Coven) reclaims and celebrates the figure of the witch.

The ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition is at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Australia from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

Fairy Tales Cinema: Truth, Power and Enchantment‘ presented in conjunction with GOMA’s blockbuster summer exhibition screens at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

The major publication ‘Fairy Tales in Art and Film’ available at the QAGOMA Store and online explores how fairy tales have held our fascination for centuries through art and culture.

From gift ideas, treats just for you or the exhibition publication, visit the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition shop at GOMA or online.

‘Fairy Tales’ merchandise available at the GOMA exhibition shop or online.

#QAGOMA