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Hilarity, Melancholy, and Conceit

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Hilarity, Melancholy, and Conceit are a series of three silkscreen prints created by Jim Henson while attending the University of Maryland between 1957 and 1958. The pieces represent three aspects of the human psyche as depicted in silhouetted figures against an abstract backdrop.

Jimhenson-hilarity Jimhenson-melancholy

The most lively of the pieces is Hilarity with orange figures on shades of yellow and green. In her 2001 book, Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles, author Alison Inches described the figures as full of "spirit and vitality," with "their arms stretch[ed] upward, reaching to embrace even more laughter and exuberance."[1]

The bleakest of the three is Melancholy, consisting of a dark blue gradient behind two different types of figures. Inches describes the dark characters as "imprisoned by their own troubles" to the point of being unable to "see the legs of the living [represented by the figures in green], shining all around them like rays of hope."[1]

Conceit features figures in magenta standing on columns in a display of self-importance. One figure chips away at the pedestal of an adjacent character, while another uses a pick-axe to whittle away its own precipice. Each figure is elevated far above an unseen terrain, three of which are high enough to appear as if their heads are in the clouds.

In 2015, The Jim Henson Company had the pieces replicated as lithographs to commemorate the opening of two major exhibits featuring Jim Henson's work at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta and the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. The recreations were devised by Andrew Mockler, and limited to a run of 100 units available to donors contributing $10,000 or more to the museums.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles, page 21
  2. "Celebrate Jim Henson's unique sense of humor and style with this limited edition set of three original lithographs"

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