A grotesque and unsavory gathering of creatures is assembled in this inventive signed work which is disguised as a children’s fairy tale – in this mixed medium drawing from the German expressionist artist Heinrich Kley. Here two nude nymphs shower yellow flowers upon the body of an upright champion in the heroic mold, while an ogre figure shows his jealousy with a grasping, over-sized palm. The hero becomes haughty in Kley’s imagining, while the beast appears sympathetic in this technically brilliant, whimsical yet evocative Heinrich Kley artwork.
Heinrich Kley is best remembered today for satirical, despairing, and often obscene images which evinced a maniacal distrust of the industrial revolution and its automatized society. In 1907, a series of remarkable pen & ink drawings appeared in the Munich German Expressionist literary art magazine Die Jugend that captured the growing disillusionment of fin-de-siecle German counter-culture. Kley’s scathing and deftly rendered creations resonated with audiences and Kley became a leading interpreter of the follies and vices that beset mankind. Kley’s art appeared in the United States in 1937 and caught the eye of Walt Disney & Sketch Artists at the Disney studio, including Albert Hurter, Joe Grant, and James Bodrero. Hurter introduced Kley’s work to the Disney Studio and Walt Disney accumulated a collection of the artist’s work. The images in Kley’s art inspired a number of animated sequences and characters, including Night on Bald Mountain and the dancing animals of Dance of the Hours in Fantasia.
In 1947 the “Drawings of Heinrich Kley” was published with a forward by George Grosz. Of Kley, Grosz wrote: “Kley used the pen like the lariat of a temperamental cowboy [and] is a great draftsman of animals. Like Walt Disney he humanizes the beasts […] I am sure that the drawings of Heinrich Kley will be remembered and enjoyed as long as human beings retain the ability to laugh at themselves.”