Monster Movement

ID_NC_MEIS_FROG_AP_001 Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

I came across the frog rabbit in the basement of the Petit Palais in Paris. A medium-sized plaster sculpture, the frog rabbit is a hairless beast with a pointy reptilian nose, rabbit ears, long talon-like toes, and a stubby rabbit tail with no fur. He is a monster, though it is unclear whether he bodes something evil or merely something strange.

Jean Carriès sculpted “The Frog with Rabbit Ears” in 1891, a couple of years before he met an early death at the hands of an obscure lung ailment the likes of which regularly robbed the world of starving young artists in those days. It was, after all, the fashion: a little art and then a terrible death. It is particularly unfortunate that Carriès wasn't given a few more years. He was hard at work on his unfinished masterpiece, “Monumental Door.” When finished, it would have been a giant door sculpted with endless grotesque faces and misshapen figures. Looking at the fragments Carriès completed before his death, we can be sure that the door would have been magnificent, a testament to Jean Carriès' dark vision and extraordinary craftsmanship.

Instead, Jean Carriès died and his art was largely forgotten. Looking back at the art of Carriès today is a reminder that the movement we now call Art Nouveau (Jugendstil in the German world) was diverse. Art Nouveau is often described, and not unjustly, as a movement that tried to bring organic form back to the plastic arts. This was most obvious and startling, perhaps, in architecture and design, where the hard lines and sharp angles of building materials such as iron and concrete were made to bend and flow like plants.