Natalie Frank: The Brother’s Grimm is a current exhibition hosted by The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin. Located within five different rooms that are all interconnected, the gallery is adorned with dozens of gouache and pastel drawings showcasing Frank’s hypnotizing and graphic fairy tale art. Make no mistake; the Brother’s Grimm fairy tales are not reflective of the typical happily-ever-after stories that modern authors portray to our children today. Originally, these fairy tales were written for adults, not adolescents. Therefore, stand warned that Frank’s exquisite drawings are not necessarily child-friendly. Viewers with kids are advised to take a stroll before taking their children through the gallery.
“Looky, look, look at the shoe that she took. There’s blood all over, and the shoe’s too small. She’s not the bride you met at the ball,” (Grimm’s Fairy Tales).
This fairy tale exhibition is a collection of otherworldly, unforgettable stories written hundreds of years ago. Magical, dark, haunting and spellbinding. The illustrations tell the Brother’s Grimm stories of love, lust, death, tragedy and historical folklore. During an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Frank explains how she “delved deeper into the early, unsanitized editions, she saw why so many of the brothers’ story plots contained brutal violence and elements of shape-shifting magic: Their folk tales were actually being told and retold by women who had to navigate a 19th-century social and political world wherein they held almost no power over their fates. Marriages were typically arranged; death during childbirth was common. Suddenly, the princesses, hags and witches in the Grimm’s’ fairy tales felt grounded and complex to Ms. Frank, and she started making drawings that could reflect these characters’ vulnerabilities and strengths.”
Blood, castles, animals, metamorphosis, nudity, genitalia, nature and the supernatural can all be found in the artwork. The use of imagination within Natalie Frank: The Brothers Grimm is striking, unique, scary and mesmerizing. The imagery is very intense, such as Frank’s drawing “Brier Rose” depicting a woman that almost seems to be drugged or half conscious, missing clothing and unable to resist any advances. A beautiful woman whose story entails a spell-induced, one hundred sleep caused by an evil witch. A young woman whose masked and blindfolded in a blood red veil as a half-man and half-beast creature weighs down upon her as if to approach her in a sexual manner.
These are not images one can easily forget.
Entranced by the images in the artwork, walking through the gallery lures viewers to step out of modern time for a while. To think these stories were told centuries ago, it’s fascinating and a bit disturbing. Frank’s storybook illustrations are also absolutely booming with bold and powerful colors that lighten the heaviness of the stories. The colors are so playful and bright like a children’s room, and yet the symbolism is so dark and grim. The gallery includes almost 20 stories, including the following: Snow White, Brier Rose, The Frog King, Rapunzel, The Juniper Tree, Endpaper, The Devil with The Three Golden Hairs, and Six Swans.
According to The Blanton Museum of Art, “Natalie Frank: The Brothers Grimm, is an exhibition of more than 30 gouache and pastel drawings by artist Natalie Frank, a New York-based Austin native. Organized by The Drawing Center in New York, this presentation explores the nineteenth-century fairy tales of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Drawing upon the history of illustrated books, figuration, and personal and political narrative, Frank’s drawings represent the largest collection of Grimm’s fairy tales ever illustrated by a fine artist.”
The exhibition will be featured at The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin until November 15, 2015. The Blanton Museum of Art is a remarkable university museum full of natural light, tall ceilings, blue tiling, installation pieces, statues and grand stairwells that facilitate the galleries. Over 17,000 works of art have become part of their permanent collection. However, due to the fact this particular gallery in the museum has no windows and flash photography is prohibited: It is strongly advised to visit the exhibition (and Natalie Frank’s website) in order to see her drawings in all their splendor and vivacity. Be sure to also check out storyteller Tom Lee on October 15, 2015 at 6:30 PM at The Blanton Museum of Art to perform selected stories from Frank’s illustrations. For more information regarding the exhibition, the museum or the artist, please visit www.natalie-frank.com or www.blantonmuseum.org.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in this realm is the fairest of them all? … You, my queen, may have a beauty quite rare, but Snow White is a thousand times more fair,” (Grimm’s Fairy Tales).
Note: This article was originally published on in August 2015.