The Terrible Elephant

In this In Profile, we look at The Terrible Elephant, an early work Joseph Baes. Although today Baes is widely considered one of the influential figures in 20th century art, when The Terrible Elephant was first exhibited in 1949 he was but an 18 year old unknown.

Baes’ debut work was met with shock and outrage by the public while critics dismissed it as, “completely lacking artistic merit.” However Baes seemed to relish the spotlight he found himself thrust into and even began to flame the controversy with ever more outlandish statements and actions, much to the media’s delight. Soon people from across the city began flocking to see the, “elephant that ate Paris” and perhaps even glimpse the eccentric young rebel behind it.

Today, while The Terrible Elephant may no longer shock us as it once did, the painting is widely considered one of the most influential pieces of the 20th century, and the irreverent, rebellious drive of the young Baes feels just as fresh now as ever.