Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Trippiest Thing Around: Victorian Photocollage

Tim Burton’s hyper-stylized version of Alice in Wonderland is all the talk this weekend (if you don’t count the gay man’s Super Bowl, the Oscars). And those bold, crazed color schemes favored by Burton reminds me of these tantalizing, century-old photocollages on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As noted in this slideshow on Slate, the fad had its origins in the detailed, startling drawings of human forms in works like Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859):

English ladies started cutting up photos of their friends and relations and pasting bits and pieces of them (particularly their heads) into alien landscapes and onto foreign bodies. Was it just a new pastime, like staging parties or playing the piano–yet another way for Victorian women to show off their class and their wits? Or was it more?

My favorite is a blue-hued collage of a butterfly with the faces of old white guys in the wings. It’s entitled “Untitled Page From the Madame B Album,” by Marie-Blanche-Hennelle Fournier, and created sometime in the 1870s.

The imagination of these everyday Victorian folks–oftentimes hampered by the stuffy privilege of the period–makes for an interesting study in contrasts. The predecessor/inspiration to great outsider artists like Henry Darger in the 70’s?

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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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