Magic realism

The stories and poems in my Sundance and Butch writing (on this blog, the story “Vergissmeinnicht”, here; some history of the project, plus the poems, in “Sundance is an angel when he flies”, here; other stories gradually accumulating on my X blog, with some links here) have been characterized by some readers as “magic realism”, alluding to a modernist literary style most famously associated with Jorge Luis Borges and characterized by (among other things) fantastical content, a baroque layering of elements, multiple planes of reality, metadiscourse, and withholding of explanations about the disconcerting fictional world (Wikipedia entry here). (This characterization isn’t always complimentary, since many people feel that magic realism is passé. Nevertheless, I embrace it.)

Then there’s magic realism in visual art — the use of fantastical or surreal elements to depict realistic scenes — which is where I came across it first, in the work of American painter Jack Frankfurter, though Edward Hopper is a much more familiar artist in this vein, and Paul Cadmus also fits to some extent.

Cadmus’s fantastical-realistic (and frankly homoerotic) The Fleet’s In! of 1934:

Frankfurter, whose work, situated mostly in Baroque Rome (where he has lived and worked since the ’50s), also has a strong homoerotic undercurrent, was born in Vienna in 1929 but grew up and was educated in the United States (website, with tons of paintings reproduced but little other information, here). I got to know his work through Ann Daingerfield Zwicky, who in turn got to know him in Rome during her junior year (1957-58) in France. For some years, Jack sent us announcements, gorgeously illustrated, of his exhibitions.

Three samples of his work — utterly different in tone from Cadmus’s, full of mystical elements, heavy in symbolic and sculptural phallicity, with figures of boys and young men that are suggestive but not openly carnal.

He’s still painting.

5 Responses to “Magic realism”

  1. George Tooker « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] chance, just after I posted on magic realism (in literature and art), there came the news of George Tooker’s death […]

  2. James Vickrey « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] long after the death of magic realist painter George Tooker comes the death of another major painter in this school. From the NYT […]

  3. Two deaths in the arts « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] postings in this blog: in literature and in Edward Hopper, Paul Cadmus, and Jack Frankfurter, here; in George Tooker, here; and in Robert Vickrey, […]

  4. Realism plus « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] realism on this blog: a posting on  Jack Frankfurter, Edward Hopper, and Paul Cadmus; one on George Tooker, with mention of Cadmus […]

  5. Surrealists | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] the connection to Paul Cadmus, who comes up on this blog every so often — notably in my posting on magic realism (with an example of his work), which combines realist composition allied to […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: