The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes

Fairy tales are fascinating. Ostensibly for children, they offer up stories of obsession, revenge, betrayal, and death. The Red Shoes is a prime example.

In Hans Christian Andersen’s story, a little girl is adopted by a rich old woman after the death of the girl’s mother. The girl grows up vain and spoiled, and tricks the nearsighted old woman into buying red shoes for her confirmation. In church she thinks of nothing but her beautiful red shoes. Shortly thereafter, the old woman falls ill, but rather than attend to her, the girl goes to a party, wearing the red shoes, of course. As she returns home, an old soldier tells her she has beautiful shoes for dancing. She begins to dance, and dance, and can neither stop dancing nor take the shoes off. She dances day and night, winter and summer, rain and sun, without stop. She begs for mercy when she meets an angel, but is told:

“Dance you shall! …Dance in your red shoes until you are pale and cold, and your flesh shrivels down to the skeleton. Dance you shall from door to door, and wherever there are children proud and vain you must knock at the door till they hear you, and are afraid of you. Dance you shall. Dance always.”

I wanted to show the girl dancing uncontrollably, her movements like those of a marionette. She is trapped in the frame of the print, just as she is trapped in the shoes.

This is the second in my series of fairy tale prints, all of which will be black and white with a red detail.

The Red Shoes
Linoleum block print, 2009
Daniel Smith water-soluble inks on Rives Heavyweight paper with hand coloring

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