Original Research

The grotesque as it appears in Western art history and in Ian Marley’s creative creatures

R. Swanepoel
Literator | Vol 30, No 1 | a68 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v30i1.68 | © 2009 R. Swanepoel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 July 2009 | Published: 25 July 2009

About the author(s)

R. Swanepoel, Department History of Art, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa

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This article presents a theoretical exploration and reading of the notion of the grotesque in Western history of art to serve as background to the reading of the original creatures in the “Tracking creative creatures” project.1 These creatures were drawn by Marley, based on imaginary creatures narrated by his five year-old son, Joshua. The focus in this article is on the occurrence of the grotesque in paintings and drawings. Three techniques associated with the grotesque are identified: the presence of imagined fusion figures or composite creatures, the violation and exaggeration of standing categories or concepts, and the juxtaposition of the ridiculous and the horrible. The use of these techniques is illustrated in selected artworks and Marley’s creatures are then read from the angle of these strategies.


Creative Creatures; Fusion Figures; Grotesque; Unintentional; Ian Marley; Western Art History


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