John Baldessari (B. 1931)
John Baldessari (B. 1931)

Grimm's Fairy Tales: The Frog King

John Baldessari (B. 1931)
Grimm's Fairy Tales: The Frog King
thirteen elements--eleven black and white photographs, one color photograh, one text panel (acrylic on board)
overall: 84 x 72 in. (213.3 x 182.8 cm.)
Executed in 1982. (13)
The Collection of the Artist
Sonnabend Gallery, New York
Charles and Barbara Wright, Seattle
Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by the present owner
"Baldessari" Spazio Umano, 1989, p. 31 (illustrated).
R. Dean and P. Pardo, eds., John Baldessari Catalogue Raisonné Volume Two: 1975-1986, New Haven, 2014, p. 246, no. 1982.3 (illustrated).

Other works from the series are in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Glenstone collection and the Sonnabend collection.
Kassel, dOCUMENTA 7, June-September 1982.
Bloomfield Hills, Cranbrook Art Museum, John Baldessari, 1983.
Seattle Art Museum, John Baldessari, 1986.
Köln, Museum Ludwig, Iconoclastic Controversy, Contradiction, Unity and Fragment in the Arts since 1960, 1989, p. 315 (illustrated).
Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art and Mus©e d'Art Contemporain de Montr©eal, John Baldessari, March 1990-February 1992, pp.218-220 (illustrated).
Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, John Baldessari: A Different Kind of Order, March-July 2005, p. 287 (illustrated).


Joshua Friedman
Joshua Friedman


The Frog King is one of a series of six works created in 1982 for dOCUMENTA 7 in which John Baldessari parses out fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. In this tale, a princess reluctantly promises her companionship to a frog in an attempt to retrieve something lost; a precious golden ball, accidentally dropped into a well. Maddened by her decision, the princess flings the frog against a wall at which time the creature transforms into a fetching young prince.

In a concise and brilliant pictorial rendition, Baldessari employs a mix of found imagery from Hollywood films to illustrate the various motifs from the story. He explains that: I had always wanted to work with Grimms fairy tales and since the brothers lived in Kassel, I decided that dOCUMENTA would be the occasion for doing these works. It is not a literal, linear narrative or retelling of the tale but an attempt to engender the psychological tone of the story. The black and white photos are cropped versions of various movie stills available in Los Angeles. Since I believe movies are mythmaking, I decided to transform the tale from one form to another. It originally was an oral tradition anyway and movie stills may reinvigorate the old anxieties these tales addressed. The color shot is by me and is intended to be a synopsis of the tale. My aim is to say the most with the least means. I am more interested in content than form (J. Baldessari, quoted in American Art Since 1970: Painting, Sculpture, and Drawings from the Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1984).

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