Today’s entry in the Collect Call of Cthulhu covers some of the work of Markus Bühler–in 2D and 3D, realistic and impressionistic, original and homage. In the previous entries I’ve given each piece it’s own post, but here I thought it would be interesting to compare several works by one artist. (Plus, on a purely practical note, Markus just has too much interesting stuff for me to get through one post at a time.) As always, many thanks to Markus for sharing his art and his thoughts on Cthulhu–go to the comment thread on this post to read more from him.
It turns out that I had seen Markus’s work before I even started my series of Lovecraft posts this summer. His Cthulhu bust, shown above, was featured on the Propnomicon blog, and I came across it in my mid-summer Cthulhu web safari. The original image is on DeviantART here, where Markus wrote,
I wanted to depict Lovecraft´s original description of C´thulhu as a quite grotesquely obese being covered in scales. Of course this model is still far away from being finished, especially the many scales need still a lot of time to get finished. I am also not happy with the shoulder area of the bust, and I´ll probably change it to some degree, as it reminds me too much on an armour. The whole sculpt is around 8 cm in height.
Okay, let’s set aside the artistic content for a second and focus on this: 8 cm!? Holy schamoley, that’s just a hair over 3 inches! I figured from the image that it was at least three times that big. Simply an amazing amount of detail in such a small sculpt.
Back to the artistic content: I love the scales here, and the shingled plates on the tentacles. It’s interesting that more artists are starting to play up the dragonish aspects of Cthulhu. Both Bryan Riolo’s space-dragon Cthulhu and Markus’s sculpt above significantly predate this post series, and AFAIK Bryan and Markus were not previously aware of or influenced by each others’ work. So, like I said, interesting. Lovecraft described Cthulhu as having aspects of an octopus, a human, and a dragon, and that’s pretty much the order in which those elements have influenced (or, in the case of cephalopods, dominated) Cthulhu art as long as there has been such a thing. But that privileging of cephalopod and hominid over dragon is something Lovecraft’s fans and successors have done, and not something inherent in Lovecraft’s work (although in some later stories he did refer to Cthulhu and the star-spawn as a race of intelligent octopoids). So maybe that’s past due for another look.
Markus has also sculpted a line of small Cthulhu idols or figurines.
This is his Inuit Cthulhu idol. I like the crispness and solidity of this piece, it really looks like something that might have been carved from a sperm whale tooth or walrus tusk.
In contrast, this Paleolithic cult figurine is much more crudely formed–the overall take on Cthulhu is similar, but the execution is quite different. I like that–I think one of the most interesting things about Cthulhu idols is that they have to do double duty, telling the viewer something about Cthulhu and something about the artist–and, just maybe, something about Cthulhu’s effect on the artist.
Finally, there is this small idol from an unspecified culture, which to my eye blends both of the influences above.
Now, this painting is not by Markus Bühler. It was painted in 1906 by Theodor Kittelsen, a Norwegian artist who specialized in nature and fairy tales. The title is Skogtroll (forest troll), and it is probably no mystery why it’s showing up in a post on Cthulhu depictions.
This is Markus’s Kittelsen-inspired Cthulhu-as-landform. Not only is it a nice homage to Kittelsen and an evocative piece in its own right, it’s also another example of Markus’s facility with making art on small spatial and temporal scales: the original is 6×9 cm and Markus knocked it out in half an hour. It’s really just a study for a larger work that Markus has planned. I for one am very interested to see the final piece.
Had enough? I hope not, because Markus has still more good stuff online for fans of prehistoric and fantastic creatures. His DeviantART gallery is a trove of living and fossil whales, cephalopods, cryptozoological creatures (including the Fiji mermaid!), and historical artifacts. He also blogs at Bestiarium. Go see the rest of his stuff, it will be well worth your time.
Oh, and one more thing: Markus is working on a new Cthulhu. I can’t say or show more just yet, but I’ve gotten a sneak peak and it’s going to be perfectly awful. Stay tuned!