Arcimboldo Redux – Klaus Enrique Gerdes Photography

Four years ago when photographer Klaus Enrique Gerdes was working on a series depicting different parts of human anatomy, he was shooting an eye surrounded by thousands of dried leaves. As he observed the scene, he noticed one of the leaves looked like it could be a nose belonging to the eye. It sparked an idea of creating a face of dried leaves and, as he does with any new project, Gerdes began to research similar work done by other artists. He soon discovered Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the 16th century Italian painter best known for creating portraits of heads made entirely of fruits, vegetables, flowers etc. such as his famous Vertumnus below.

Initially disappointed that someone else had conceived of and executed the idea so magnificently, Gerdes continued to pursue the concept. He discovered that Arcimboldo was not the first to create composite heads nor the last, as he went on to influence 20th century Modernists and Surrealists such Pablo Picasso, George Grosz, Rene Magritte and especially Salvador Dalí.

Klaus Enrique Gerdes photography - Arcimboldo

 This history somehow gave Gerdes the freedom he needed to create his own series, inspired by his initial “aha” moment and which, in homage, he named “Arcimboldo”.

Klaus Enrique Gerdes photography - ArcimboldoWhile Arcimboldo’s painted works created a fantasy, Gerdes’ photography creates a picture of reality, bringing the fantasy back to life. He explains,  “A pear, an apple and a berry come together in synergy creating a portrait in my mind. Magritte famously said ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’, equally I could say ‘This is not a face’, yet our powers of abstraction, a power that is uniquely human, allow us to see that face.”

Klaus Enrique Gerdes photography - ArcimboldoGerdes comes to his work with a unique perspective. With a honors degree in genetics from University of Nottingham and an MBA from Columbia, he clearly has an analytical mind and one which sees unusual connections, not to mention an incredible visual acuity. The amazingly detailed planning and beautiful artistic interpretations result in this remarkable series.

Klaus Enrique Gerdes photography - ArcimboldoHe has since also studied photography at Parsons and the School of Visual Arts.

Klaus Enrique Gerdes photography - ArcimboldoGerdes recently showed at the Verge Art Fair during Art Basel Miami

Klaus Enrique Gerdes photography - ArcimboldoKlaus Enrique Gerdes photography - ArcimboldoAnd will be showing at the prestigious Aipad photography show at the Armory in NYC at the end of March 2012. I know I will be looking forward to seeing these stunning photographs in person then.

Klaus Enrique Gerdes photography - Arcimboldo

“I can imagine one day in the future, distant or not, when an artist will use genetic engineering to create a living plant that looks exactly like Arcimboldo’s Vertumnus. It will be an arresting sight. Would that be the perfect Arcimboldo? Perfection does not exist. There is always room for improvement.”

Klaus Enrique Gerdes photography - ArcimboldoGerdes may think so but I can’t imagine much improvement in these incredibly creative and intricately constructed pieces of art!!

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22 Responses to Arcimboldo Redux – Klaus Enrique Gerdes Photography

  1. I love the photographs so much more than the original paintings. So vibrant. Thanks for sharing these, Stacey!

  2. I’m continually in awe of the creative forces of the human imagination. Thank you. Mary

  3. This is a wow. Stopped dead in my tracks.

  4. How fabulous and it reminds us to really look at what’s in front of us.

  5. I never was quite a fan of Giuseppe Arcimboldo paintings – I always found them a little spooky, but I will go to New York in March to see Gerdes’ photographs of this amazing work. Just incredible!! I adore the casual placement of artichoke, flower, and persimmon as brooches! Fabulous. ox

  6. pretty pink tulips says:

    Absolutely incredible! I am always in awe of those who can create something where nothing existed before. And to see it in this creative medium – it’s off the charts!

    xoxo e

  7. Simply amazing – I’m awestruck by the creativity!

  8. Carla Aston says:

    These really are amazing. I love the profiles especially. They compel you to study them for awhile. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Wow, quite arresting. Arcimboldo always seemed so ahead of his time — I’m loving seeing how his influence continues to ripple through contemporary art and how Gerdes has made it new again.

  10. isn’t it amazing how some minds tick? what an imagination and what a feat keeping all those vegetables and delicate flowers fresh.

  11. Stitchfork says:

    Yes, you can play with your food!
    xo Cathy

  12. I agree, how could they get better? Though, it seems whenever I say that, something always does. The comment about it not being a face reminds me of how I felt when I first saw a Vermeer. I thought there is no way that isn’t real cloth and so forth. This vegetarian did scroll by the meat one quickly but enjoyed the others very much. :)

  13. so cool! I can only imagine how hard it was to set up the collage and then photograph it. So creative.

  14. Mary Jo says:

    These are so cool, just love them! Esp the flower petal ones.

    xo Mary Jo

  15. q-
    This is amazing! He has certainly separated himself from the rest. I really love his work. Talented is an understatement.
    Thank you for sharing.

  16. Kyle Hoepner says:

    In a similar, but but admittedly less elaborate, vein, you might be amused by Brooklyn photographer Sharon Core’s photographic recreations of paintings by Wayne Thiebaud. A few can be seen on the Bellwether Gallery Web site at

  17. Hamptontoes says:

    AMAZING! Wow, I’m blown away. That is what you call art! I’m truly in awe. Thanks for opening my eyes to something so wonderful.

  18. Jessica says:

    Oh my goodness…I love these!!! I’m thinking this would make for a great summer camp project with the kids!! ;)
    xo J~

  19. So great- I have been fascinated by Arcomboldo since I studied the paintings at the Ecole du Louvre. Good to know someone has modernized this art form.

  20. Thank you very much for writing about my work. Your article is the best one out there! Thanks again! Klaus

  21. Wow, these photos are great, they really bring his work back to life. I just wonder how you kept all the foodstuffs fresh! In my latest blog post, I compare Arcimboldo’s work and a fashion shoot from T Magazine, check out where food meets fashion on

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