The Queen of the Lesser Lands

Marie Von Bruenchenhein-Eugene Von Bruenchenhein circa 1945
Marie Von Bruenchenhein-Eugene Von Bruenchenhein circa 1945

The self taught artist Eugene Von Bruenchenhein worked in a variety of mediums including painting, drawing, sculpture (using chicken bones) and photography, all of which adorned the modest house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that he lived in for forty years with his wife and muse, Marie.

Eugene’s marriage to Evelyn Kalka in 1943 (he re-named her Marie) seemed to have ignited a creative spark. Over the next two decades he would photograph Marie thousand of times, as a pin-up girl, tropical tourist, vixen, Madonna. Bedecked with pearls, clunky fetish heels, lurid leopard prints against florid wall coverings, Marie looks wistfully upwards, awkward and gauche. The photographs are simultaneously curiously innocent and charged with an subterranean current of obsessional eroticism. Marie at times seems like a  harbinger of Cindy Sherman, assuming and thereby questioning a number of manufactured female roles.

Eugene was convinced that he was descended from royalty and was the self-styled King of the Lesser Lands. Undoubtedly he saw Marie as his Queen in the fantasy world they had created, she is frequently wearing a crown that he fashioned out of tin cans.

26 thoughts on “The Queen of the Lesser Lands

  1. You find the most fascinating characters. Would love to get a look at the chicken bone sculptures (what?!?) And Marie must have been a wonderful muse. Very interesting stuff Monsieur Gateau 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much Lily. I find the couple and the photos and art completely fascinating. They turned their home into a fantasy world despite being of very limited means. The photographs ask questions, she has a slightly deer in headlights look, yet that adds to her contribution and makes them unique. The chicken bone sculptures are quite strange and ethereal. The paintings have an apocalyptic, fantastical aura. Another Art Brut artist who translated his whole life into their work.

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  2. So the art never brought an income. Or maybe he kept it private? The montages definitely have fantastical feel. And the color photos in general are quite beautifully whimsical. Lovely!

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    1. He was always contacting galleries and even applied for a NEA grant but always rejected. It was only after they had passed did a friendly neighbour discover the true extant of the creativity. He contacted a gallery who in turn contacted a museum specializing in art brut/folk/outsider/visionary whatever you like to call it art who snapped it up. Now the photos are auctioned at Christie’s.

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      1. Wow, what a shame they never saw some of that appreciation. Nevertheless a true artist keeps creating anyway. And the quality of art should not be based on commercial success.

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  3. Dear Mr. Cake, I love Eugene and his “Marie”! Oh, I would love a crown fashioned from tin cans! Then I could be Queen of the Cats! Lovely post! Wishing you and yours a very Happy and Healthy New Year. Enjoy the transition from 2018 to 2019, be weary of cracks! ~ Miss Cranes, ah ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Miss Cranes I have missed you! Glad you are back…you know I like my unusual (to put mildly) artists. I hope you check out my recent spate of poetry, I was on fire for about a week. You too Miss Cranes.

      Liked by 1 person

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