Steamboat Museum Surrealism Collections
by Dave Thomson, page 1



Surrealist art by Dave Thomson

The Knight, Death and the Devil
by Dave Thomson

At Chouinard Art Institute 1964-68 I made a photo collage inspired by Albrecht Durer's engraving called The Knight, Death and the Devil. This is a self-portrait and portrait of the world as I perceived it at the time. I'm the Knight, a still fresh and naive kid (on the left), and since I was preoccupied with horror movies and such at the time, I had a heightened awareness of danger from Death and the Devil all around me so pictured it both as horror, temptation and a fixed system over which I was powerless but could only maintain a sort of rigid virtuousness which was more of a torment than a comfort. - Dave Thomson

Dave is an animation cinematographer, technical director, Mark Twain collector, and researcher. He has donated more than a thousand images to the online Steamboat museum.


The attached is a mirror image of a detail from a still of Will Rogers from STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND where he was selling his "Pocahantas Remedy" to passengers aboard the PRIDE OF PADUCAH. I put Barry's face where Will's was and substituted Barry's painting of a skeleton for the graphic and "Wizard Oil" lettering from an old patent medicine ad.


The Hannibal, Missouri "ghost tour trolley" stops in front of this house and the guide tells tourists about that ghost of the little girl who is supposed to have been glimpsed in one of the third floor dormer windows.

I took a photo of the third floor while I was a guest there and after returning home I darkened the photo (attached), added storm clouds outside the windows and double exposed the "ghost" of Dakota Fanning who attended a Halloween party in the make up and costume of a girl vampire when she was a little kid.



Gals 'n Pups of the Midwest

Georgia took a photo in 2016 of grand daughters Elizabeth & Abby with the Schnauzers Radar and Roy in front of "Groomingdale's" in Hannibal. For variety I placed the girls and pups over a photo I took of Ziegler Chute, a backwater of the Mississippi at Scipio in 2005. Georgia uses a circular vignette of the composite as a logo for her Pinterest page.


Turning Isabella into Alice

Dutch artist Peter Paul Rubens painted himself and his first wife, Isabella Brant in 1609 shortly after their wedding in a dual portrait entitled "In the Honeysuckle Bower." Isabella was the daughter of humanist and lawyer, Jan Brant, one of the secretaries of Antwerp.

Using the detail of Isabella from her husband's dual portrait I composited the face Alice Chaupis of Lyon, France into the costume and hat worn by Isabella as a Photoshop portrait.

Alice is the daughter of Marie-Anne Durand Chapuis who translated a book that French author and critic Henry Gauthier-Villars (1839-1931) wrote and published in the 1880's in Paris praising the humor of Mark Twain. Gauthier-Villars is best remembered as the first husband of the French novelist Colette.

I edited Marie-Anne's translation from the French and she put our work online under the banner "Classic Translating." It is not currently online.


My film version of Edgar Allan Poe's FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER

In 1967 I wrote and directed a 15 minute black & white silent film adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER

We filmed the Gothic tale in the catacombs under the Mission Inn, in Riverside, California with Sylvia Dees as Madeline Usher & Steve Tolliver as Roderick Usher. This was the first project I made during my Junior year as a film major at Chouinard Art Institute in L.A. around the time that the schools name was changed to "Cal Arts." My dialogue cards titles were white on black as and I scored the film with excerpts from classical music and motion picture soundtracks. My end titles employed the Poe illustrations created by Irish artist Harry Clarke (1889-1931).

After Roderick's sister Madeline seems to have died, she is placed in a crypt under the House of Usher where she later regains consciousness and makes her way to the dining room where her hyper sensitive brother Roderick has been hearing the sounds his sister made during her struggle to get out of the sarcophagus. When she enters the room where Roderick sits, Madeline attacks her brother and both of them die.


Barry Messer as a mad scientist From a CREEPYPASTA wikia tutorial borrowed the gloved hands holding electrifying zappers trained on a brain. The b ackground with gauge and other gadgets came from a photo of the DELTA QUEEN's engine room.


"We have always lived in the Castle"

Hannibal photographer Georgia's nine year old grand daughter Elizabeth was sulking at her "big sister" Abby's twelfth birthday last year so when Grandma tried to take her picture, Elizabeth exaggerated her frown by pulling down the corners of her mouth. Later Elizabeth relented and smiled for Georgia in another photo.

In my Gothic horror composite I used 'Lizbeth's sulky pose and as a back drop I used the silhouette of a derelict castle from the magic4walls' wallpaper site.

Upon completion this looked like promotional art for a movie or a cover for a novel. The name of Shirley Jackson's very last novel (1962) came to mind so I super-imposed "We have always lived in the Castle," across the top in a font that approximates hand-writing.

Georgia responded:
"Love the composite. It is quite funny! Elizabeth is a master at making faces and so is Abby. Girls have a flare for being drama queens and our girls have mastered the trend."

Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel "The Haunting of Hill House" was made into two chilling movies, both entitled "The Haunting." My favorite was the first one in 1963 that was filmed in black and white by director Robert Wise. A color version in 1999 was much more "over the top" and far less subtle than the first version.


The attached I made from combining parts of several paintings by Barry Messer.

The triangular sections on the left and right sides are from one very large abstract of Barry's. I took photos of most of his paintings years ago with my old medium format Mamiya before I ever got a digital camera.

The center portions came from a little painting that I bought from Barry, the skeleton at the bottom was painted on one of the 4 sides of the same painting where the canvas overlaps the stretcher bars.

Olga San Juan was a Puerto Rican singer/dancer/actress who appeared in American movie musicals. Her "Bunny of the Tropics" costume and pose was perfectly suited to the "Tiki" sacrificial themed Primitive Gods behind her that Barry dreamed up.


I harvested Dali's tormented face from the attached and placed it above Cory and Barry, their balloons coordinate with it nicely. Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

I made a mirror image from a photo of Cory speaking at some gathering with his skeleton t-shirt and put Barry's head on the reflection on the right.

Cory responded: "What a fabulous and weird mash up, David!"

Barry's response: "Doctorow looks way more natural in this than I do but hey, I'm hanging with Dali so who cares. I'm getting a big kick from your photomontage. I made a copy of it and hanging it on my studio wall for inspiration. Thanks, Dave, its ingenious."


a robust Valentine starring the stars of the Thai action film Ong Bak 2: Mr. Tony Jaa & Miss Primorata Det-Udom


Salvador Dali's Le Visage de la Guerre at center, on the left Canadian/British Science Fiction author Cory Doctorow and on the right my artist friend Barry Messer of Hannibal, MO.


With the exception of images credited to public institutions,
everything on this page is from a private collection.
Please contact for permission for commercial use.*

All captions provided by Dave Thomson, primary contributor and historian.