Fantastic realism is an art style that emerged in Austria in the middle of the 20th century. Fantastic realism depicts images that can’t really be explained, but drawn in the style of traditional realism, combining abstract art with incredible realism technique. It is described as ” dreamlike visions from the subconscious painted in a realistic manner”. Coming in the wake of World War II, It often has themes of birth and vitality, combined with brutal themes of death and war. The pieces are often very chaotic and highly detailed, but difficult to interpret exactly what you are looking at. What makes this style intriguing to me is that it feels like its depicting a scene or place that actually exists, but you know that it doesn’t. It feels both human and non-human at the same time.
In 1946, the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism was founded by Ernest Fuchs, among others. Fuchs Below are two of his works, entitled “The triumph of Christ” and “The Anti-Laokoon”.
One artist whos work I really enjoy is H.R. Giger. Giger studied under Fuchs, adding his own twist on fantastic realism by incorporating “biomechanical” elements into his designs. The style of Fuchs can be seen in Giger’s art, but with the added mechanical and alien aesthetic and his signature airbrush style. His art directly inspired the visual direction of the movie “Alien”, which he also did design work on first hand. Below is a piece by Giger called “Necronom IV” – 1979 , which directly inspired Ridley Scott to reach out to Giger for help on the film. The second image is a piece called “Biomechanical Landscape” – 1979. As a mechanical engineer, the meshing of organic and mechanical elements is really interesting.
Works by De Es Schwertberger, who was a contemporary of Giger who also studied at the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism under Ernest Fuchs. His work captures dreamlike landscapes in a realistic style.
Fantastic realism also influenced other styles such as visionary art, which incorporates more spiritual and mystical elements.
Fantastic Realism is still evolving today. Below is an image from the 2022 game entitled “Scorn”, that is a direct ode to the work of H.R. Giger.