Hybrids and Imaginary Creatures


Imaginary creatures, from part-human hybrids to entirely fantastic beasts, have captured the attention of artists since Greek and Roman antiquity. Classical mythology and literature, filled with tales of centaurs, satyrs, and countless other mythic creatures, have inspired artists ever since, from Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo to Auguste Rodin. While relatively few imaginary creatures appear in biblical narratives, artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Matthias Grünewald, and Albrecht Dürer invented some of art’s most fantastic monsters as metaphors for earthly temptation and the terrors of hell. In a secular context, imaginary creatures, both friendly and devious, were key to the worlds created by Surrealist artists such as Max Ernst, Victor Brauner, and Wifredo Lam. Contemporary artists such as Marcel Dzama and Raqib Shaw continue to invent worlds inhabited by these beasts and hybrids, while street artist Invader borrows 8-bit extraterrestrials from 1970s arcade games and covertly sticks them onto city surfaces.