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Artists in flight to the sky

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Gustav Mesmer takes to the sky to be free

Gustav Mesmer was born in 1903 in a village in southern Germany. His departure from school at the age of 11 left him with a deep wound. 

He first worked as a farmhand before joining a monastery. After declaring in the middle of a service that religion was a fraud, he was diagnosed as schizophrenic and committed to a psychiatric hospital at the age of 26. He remained there until the age of 61 before entering an old people’s home where he died at 91.  

“Where school fails, all of life takes a secondary path”

in “biographie, undekannt” de Gustav Mesmer, 1962

Never get discouraged... and take to the skies!

During his 34 years in a mental institution, Gustav Mesmer created a multitude of drawings and paintings depicting, for the most part, human-powered flying bicycles. Then, in the latter part of his life, because he had a basketry workshop and relative independence, he devoted himself to the concrete creation of flying bicycles.

Gustav Mesmer never gave up trying to get out of the confinement he was forced into. He escaped many times and wrote a multitude of letters to the media, medical professionals and politicians asking for help. He also wrote numerous texts and produced thousands of creations.

dessin à l'encre d'un vélo volant
drawing from " Ikarus called from Lautertal " Edition Patrick Frey
photo en noir et blanc d'un homme agé qui pédale sur son vélo avec des ailes pour prendre son envol
Gustav Mesmer on one of his flying machines

May you fly once !
Go up a hill
Go to the peaks
Ah would it be for you so beautiful
To be as free as the birds

Gustav Mesmer, poem

Flying away is for Gustav Mesmer an escape from his places of confinement but it is also, for this deeply religious man, an ascent towards God.

Living free in the air !

In the beautiful book about Gustav Mesmer “Ikarus vom Lautertal genannt”, Patrick Frey Edition, Julianne Stiegele explains:

“The question of whether he is an artist must certainly not have occurred to him for a single minute of his life. It is quite possible that he has not even known the separation between art and life.”

He signed his letter to the head of the government of Baden-Württemberg “Aviation researcher Gust. Mesmer” and declares that he really flew :

“I prepared 9 bicycles and a flying moped. I managed to rise about 50 meters from the ground.” G. Mesmer

This statement seems to be a huge lie but is it really a lie?

couverture de l'ouvrage consacré à Gustav Mesmer représentant un avion à pédales dessiné à l'encre avec sa signature écrite à la plume
German, French and English book - Patrick Frey edition
photo du vélo de l'artiste Gustav Mesmer avec des ailes bleues exposé à la maison rouge
Vélo hélicoptère présenté à la Maison Rouge en 2018

We believe that the artist really did fly over the Swabian hills many times, he sailed through the air, he felt the sun’s rays on his skin, he got closer to God. Although he was locked up for most of his life, he managed to live free.

Gustav Mesmer’s creations are regularly exhibited in Europe.

In France, the last presentation of his works dates back to the exhibition “L’envol ou le rêve de voler” at the Maison Rouge in Paris in 2018, unfortunately the last exhibition of this institution. A book “L’envol” is still available at La maison rouge – Flammarion editions.   

Hansjörg Georgi, un envol vers une vie meilleure

photo d'un engin volant réalisé en carton gris, bleu et rouge
Hans-Jörg Georgi, avion en carton

Hans-Jörg Georgi was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany in 1949. As a child he contracted polio, which caused him to lose a lot of mobility. 

Nevertheless, he became an important sculptor who builds airplanes out of shoebox cardboard which he cuts and glues. He has to his credit several thousand flying machines.

Travel to another world

His airplanes have generous proportions because the artist pursues a goal, that of taking humans to a destination where life would be better. Hans-Jörg Georgi is fully aware of the difficulties of our present world, whose future seems to him to be compromised.

His flying machines are bumpy and their front faces resemble human faces or animal heads, thus achieving a kind of synthesis between the living and the machine. One of his works, the bombarder, is a real hybrid human – plane. Its arms are cabins that can carry many passengers and Hans-Jörg Georgi has grafted wings to its waist so that it can fly.

To fly away, an artist's dream ?

Beyond Gustav Mesmer and Hans-Jörg Georgi who dedicated their entire lives to the dream of flight, many artists today are interested in this theme.

We have chosen 18 of them who, through their drawings, paintings, photos or performances, seek to illustrate this aspiration which may have begun 4000 years ago with the legend of Icarus and his father Daedalus.