Hardcover book, with jacket.
140 pages with 130 full-color reproductions.
While it is clear that artist Robert Bissell (American, b. England 1952) derives his inspiration from the animal world, his paintings are not simply portraits of bears, rabbits, and other creatures. They are allegories for the challenges and discoveries all living beings encounter on life’s journey.
Bissell’s work is largely informed by the writings of the mythologist Joseph Campbell (American, 1904–1987), who held that myths from disparate cultures and eras all share fundamental structures. Bissell’s reading of Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces initiated his own journey as artist to portray “the callings we have, the quests we undertake, difficulties we share, helping hands that appear out of nowhere (it seems), and finally the elations and conclusions we all have in common.”
Hero: The Paintings of Robert Bissell is organized according to the construct of Campbell’s hero’s journey. Each of the 10 chapters—from “Genesis” and “Vision” through “Crossing” and “Initiation” to “Return” and “Elixir”—presents paintings that interpret these archetypal experiences. Bissell’s grand and detailed landscapes provide Edenic stages for each scene in the journey.
Carl Little’s introduction offers biographical background and explores Bissell’s process, motivations, and revelations, and the artist has supplied brief stories for many of the paintings. The path of human experience is joyfully recounted in Hero, illuminated by Bissell’s animals, who invite our contemplation as they mirror our own quests, conundrums, and resolutions.