When we think of the Brothers Grimm, we often think of their fairy tales as children’s stories — and, to be fair, the stories were labeled as such early and often. But the original narratives, the unsanitized versions of the tales, featured explicit representations of violence and sexuality. It was only in the later editions that the stories were fumigated in the suffocating gas of morality.
Enter artist Natalie Frank, whose illustrations re-fang the Grimm’s fairy tales with their original violence and sexuality. As a part of this process, too, Frank has gone to great lengths to restore the Grimm’s complex representation of female characters. As Frank explains it, the women in these tales “seem modern and revolutionary in that they allowed women to play complex and contradictory roles, both evil and divine.”
The result of Frank’s labor is the largest collection of Grimm’s fairy tales ever illustrated by a fine artist. Featured here are twelve of seventy-five gouache and chalk pastel writings that have been collected in the wonderful and terrifying Tales of the Grimm Brothers, which is introduced by the foremost Grimm scholar, Jack Zipes. If you thought you knew the Grimm’s before, you didn’t. Not with this much intimacy, violence, sexuality, and care. And if you’re in New York City, don’t hesitate to visit The Drawing Center, where Frank’s illustrations are on display until June 28, 2015.