During a photo shooting of a human eye that was peeking out amongst hundreds of leaves, it occurred to photographer Klaus Enrique Gerdes that he could actually utilize leaves to construct portraits or masks. He researched what other artists had created along these lines and discovered Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who made paintings with this concept in mind over 400 years ago. The more he thought about it, and the more research he did, the more convinced he became of creating his own series. However, Arcimboldo was certainly not the first person to create composite heads from different objects. In his research Klaus Enrique Gerdes found interesting work by Francesco Urbini, Pietro Aretino, Leonardo da Vinci and Hieronymus Bosch. More recently, Salvador Dali paid homage to Arcimboldo’s “Winter” in his “Portrait of Frau Isabel Styler-Tas”.
Klaus Enrique Gerdes decided to recreate Arcimboldo’s work, and eventually to create his own images with the paintings as inspiration.
Arcimboldo used painting as his medium. Philip Haas has used sculpture to recreate one of his works (Winter). Bernard Pras has worked with photography. Even before I was aware of Arcimboldo’s work I thought that photography was the right medium for this series. Painting has the inalienable ability to create a fantasy completely removed from reality. Photography arguably lacks that trait, but in return it provides a picture of reality that the most consummate photorealist can hardly match. This series brings a fantasy back to life.
Making each sculpture takes about three days, and is a bit of an emotional roller coaster. In the beginning, I start to see everything take shape, and it is very encouraging. However, once the work gets further along and start comparing it to the original painting, I’ll notice some inconsistencies. Much has been said about how the subjects in Arcimboldo’s paintings are proportionally correct; but every single one of those items is imaginary, and I think he stretched them beyond reality in some instances.
I can imagine one day in the future, distant or not, when an artist will use genetic engineering to create a living plant that looks exactly like Arcimboldo’s Vertumnus. It will be an arresting sight. Would that be the perfect Arcimboldo? Perfection does not exist. There is always room for improvement.