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SURREALISM  1 - 2 - 3 - 4

Man Ray, Jean Arp, Yves Tanguy, Andre Breton.
Tristan Tzara, Salvador Dali, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst, Rene Clevel

Across the world

From 1935 to 1938 Andre Breton and Paul Eluard led a vigorous propaganda campaign aimed at 'the internationalization of surrealist ideas'. Their lectures and their contacts with the leaders of the avant-garde in many countries showed that the Paris group was looking for a universal audience, and trying to ensure the widest possible availability of precise information about the ideology of surrealism. But world-wide interest in surrealism had been aroused long before this, and the movement had attracted supporters throughout the world.

At the urging of the poet Marko Ristic, Yugoslav surrealism was born as early as 1924, the year in which the first Manifeste du surrealisme was published. The Yugoslav surrealists set out their principles in the Belgrade Declaration of 1930, a document whose signatories could hardly have suspected that fifteen years later they would be holding high office in public life : Kosta Popovic was to become Foreign Minister, and Marko Ristic ambassador in Paris. In 1931 their review Nadrealizam danas i ovde ('Surrealism here and now') presented experiments similar to those which were being conducted by their Parisian friends. For example, there was an 'essay in the simulation of paranoiac delirium' in which six painters and poets each gave their interpretation of an old wall. They carried out a survey on the question 'Is humour a moral attitude?' Among the painters in the Yugoslav surrealist group were Zivanovic-Noe and Vane Bor, who wrote an open letter to Dali explaining that he chose his colours for their smell, their name, and the shape of the tube.

Paul Eluard

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)


Paul Eluard

born Dec. 14, 1895, Saint-Denis, Paris, Fr.
died Nov. 18, 1952, Charenton-le-Pont

pseudonym of Eugène Grindel French poet, one of the founders of the Surrealist movement and one of the important lyrical poets of the 20th century.

In 1919 Éluard made the acquaintance of the Surrealist poets André Breton, PhilippeSoupault, and Louis Aragon, with whom he remained in close association until 1938. Experiments with new verbal techniques, theories on the relation between dream and reality, and the free expression of thought processes produced Capitale de la douleur (1926; “Capital ofSorrow ”), his first important work, which was followed by La Rose publique (1934; “The Public Rose”) and Les Yeux fertiles (1936; “The Fertile Eyes”). The poems in these volumes are generally considered the best to have come outof the Surrealist movement. At this time Éluard also explored, with André Breton, the paths of mental disorders inL'Immaculée Conception (1930).

After the Spanish Civil War Éluard abandoned Surrealist experimentations. His late work reflects his political militance and a deepening of his underlying attitudes: the rejection of tyranny, the search for happiness. In 1942 he joined the Communist Party. His poems dealing with the sufferings and brotherhood of man, Poésie et vérité (1942; “Poetry and Truth”), Au rendez-vous allemand (1944; “To the German Rendezvous”), and Dignes de vivre (1944; “Worthy of Living”), were circulated clandestinely during World War II and served to strengthen the morale of the Resistance. After the war his Tout dire (1951; “Say Everything”) and Le Phénix (1951) added, in simple language and vivid imagery, to the great body of French popular lyrical poetry.

In Belgium too, surrealism found an immediate echo. A group was formed in 1926 by the poets E.L.T. Mesens and Marcel Lecomte, the theoretician Paul Nouge, the dealer Camille Goemans, and the painter Rene Magritte. They founded a review, Varietes, in 1928, in which they set out their position vis a vis the 'Modern Spirit'.

The man who dominated Belgian surrealism from the start was the incomparable Rene Magritte, who created the most astounding visual dialectic of our time. Magritte had been a reluctant student at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, and in 1922, the year in which he married, he became a designer in a wallpaper factory. Magritte spent some time doing abstract painting in association with Victor Servranckx. But by chance he came across a magazine reproduction of The Lope Song by Chirico, which showed him the way he was to follow. In 1924 he painted the picture which he considered to be his point of departure. This showed a window seen from inside a room, with, outside the window, a hand trying to catch a bird in flight. Another picture which he did shortly afterwards showed a woman with a rose in place of her heart.

In 1926, the support which Magritte got from the Galerie 'Le Centaure' enabled him to take up painting full time. He lived in France from 1927 to 1930, first in Paris, where he contributed to La Revolution Surrealiste, and later in Perreux, north-west of Lyons. During this period he produced a great many pictures, some of them of enormous size. He outgrew the influence of Chirico, which is still apparent in The Difficult Crossing (1926) and The Flying Statue (1927). In Threatening Weather (London, Roland Penrose collection), which has a female torso, a tuba, and a chair suspended over the horizon, Magritte tried to explain the 'why' - or rather the 'why not' - of the exterior world. His shapes were still crude, and his colours of a mineral hardness.

In The Passer-by (1929), a cloud-flecked sky-blue silhouette outlined against a wall, he began to use a kind of contrast which he always valued. He invented a repertory of 'problems', which implied 'object lessons', and used telling combinations to make the familiar strange. He based himself in this on the following principles : enlargement of a detail (an immense apple or rose filling up all the space in a room), the association of complementaries (the leaf-bird or the leaf-tree, the mountain-eagle, etc.), the animation of the inanimate (the shoe with toes, the dress with breasts), the mysterious opening (the door swinging open on to an unexpected view), material transformation of creatures (a person made of cut-out paper, or a stone bird flying above the rocks of the seashore), and anatomical surprises (the hand whose wrist is a woman's face).

Andre Breton wrote later in Les Vases communicants: 'The highest endeavour to which poetry can aspire is to compare two objects as remote as possible from one another, or, by any method whatsoever, to bring them into confrontation in an abrupt and striking way'. Magritte was totally committed to this task, and constantly varied its possibilities. He was also able to bring two closely related objects together and to bring out the differences between them, or to put an object at odds with the name used to describe it. This confrontation between the word and the object, between the drawing and the writing, enabled him to give the spectator the kind of revelatory shock which can be seen in Vertigo (1943), where he painted a female nude with the word 'Tree' written across her stomach.

Magritte was often moved by brief flashes of illumination. One day he saw his wife eating a chocolate bird, and immediately produced an image of a young woman eating a live bird, with its blood flowing over her hands. On another occasion a glimpse of the lathe-turned feet of a table inspired him to paint the huge wood-turnings of the landscape in Annunciation (1928, Brussels, E.L.T. Mesens collection).

Magritte is a painter of revelations. His painting excludes symbols and myths, and he is not a prospector of the invisible. He transmits faithfully what is revealed to him by his attentive contemplation of reality. Even when he changes its meaning, he bases himself on the object which inspires him. In 1934 he wrote in the Belgian periodical Documents: 'We must never, at any price, depart from the reality of the element which has delivered up its secret to us. This is a point of reference.'

In The Human Condition (1934, Paris, Claude Spaak collection), a painting on an easel allows us to see, by its apparent transparence, the landscape exactly behind it. This picture is the essence of Magritte. He paints transparent enigmas, and his mysteries are always crystal clear, livery one of his paintings is an act of poetic reflection on the nature of the world. He does not try to find new solutions to old problems, but sets new problems which bring back into play all the solutions which have already been found. Perpetual motion (1934), The Rаре (1934) and The Amorous Perspective (1935, Brussels, Robert Giron collection) were the first masterpieces of this wholly committed style. Like Dali, Magritte needed a scrupulously academic technique to give maximum precision to the extraordinary content of his paintings. From 1940 to 1946, the period which his friend Scutenaire described as 'full sunlight', Magritte tried to paint like the impressionists, playing with the efflorescences of colour. Fortunately he reverted to his normal style, where technique is the servant of the idea. Towards the end of his life Magritte experimented with the transposition of the idea from one medium to another. (La folie des grandeurs, 1961-6).

Rene Magritte

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Nov. 21, 1898, Lessines, Belg.
died Aug. 15, 1967, Brussels

Belgian artist, one of the most prominent Surrealist painters whose bizarre flights of fancy blended horror, peril, comedy, and mystery. His works were characterized by particular symbols—the female torso, the bourgeois “little man,” the bowler hat, the castle, the rock, the window, and others.

After studying at the Brussels Academy of Fine Arts (1916–18), Magritte became a designer for a wallpaper factory and then did sketches for advertisements. In 1922 hesaw a reproduction of Giorgio de Chirico's painting “The Song of Love” (1914), an evocative and haunting juxtaposition of odd elements (a classical bust and a rubber glove among them) in a dreamlike architectural space; it had a great influence on Magritte's mature style. For the next fewyears he was active in the Belgian Surrealist movement. With the support of a Brussels art gallery, he became a full-time painter in 1926.

His first solo show was held in 1927. It was not well received by the art critics of the day. That same year he and his wife moved to a suburb of Paris. There he met and befriended several of the Paris Surrealists, including poets André Bretonand Paul Éluard, and he became familiar with the collages of Max Ernst. In 1930 Magritte returned to Brussels, where (except for the occasional journey) he remained for the rest of his life. During the 1940s he experimented with a variety of styles, sometimes, for example, incorporating elements of impressionism, but the paintings he produced in this period were not successful by most accounts, and he eventually abandoned the experimental. For the rest of his life he continued to produce his enigmatic and illogical images in a readily identifiable style. In his last year he supervised the construction of eight bronze sculptures derived from images in his paintings.

The sea and wide skies, which were enthusiasms of his childhood, figure strongly in his paintings. In “Threatening Weather” (1928) the clouds have the shapes of a torso, a tuba, and a chair. In “The Castle of the Pyrenees” (1959) a huge stone topped by a small castle floats above the sea. Other representative fancies were a fish with human legs, a man with a bird cage for a torso, and a gentleman leaning over a wall beside his pet lion. Dislocations of space, time, and scale were common elements. In “Time Transfixed” (1939), for example, a steaming locomotive is suspended from the centre of a mantelpiece in a middle-class sitting room, looking as if it had just emerged from a tunnel. In “Golconda” (1953) bourgeois, bowler-hatted men fall like rain toward a street lined with houses.

Rene Magritte

Paul Delvaux came across surrealism in 1936. Before this, he had studied architecture at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, and had then painted in a naturalistic impressionistic style. He showed paintings in this style in his first exhibition at the Galerie Manteau in 1926. But at a group exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, he was deeply impressed by works by Chirico and Magritte. He set off on a parallel road, and first broached the style which was to become his own in Procession in Lace (1936, Brussels, Jean Giron collection), clothed women moving towards a triumphal arch, and in Woman with a rose (1936), who bends down to pluck a flower in a corridor, and in The Sleeping Town (1938, Brussels, Robert Giron collection), a weird night scene observed by a man from the threshold of his house.

Delvaux visited Italy, where his study of the painters of the Quattrocento confirmed him in his taste for linear perspective, for architecture, and for women of ideal proportions. In Nocturne (1939) and The Visit (1939), he showed flesh as a function of enchantment; his naked women are materializations of moonbeams. In Dawn over the town (1940) and Entry into the town (1940, Brussels, Robert Giron collection), he produces an astounding contrast by introducing into a crowd of naked women and youths an austerely dressed man who remains totally indifferent to his surroundings. When he brings skeletons into scenes of this kind, they seem to be tamed and vanquished by the splendour of the nudes.

The war inspired him to paint The Anxious Town (1941, Brussels, Dr Demol collection), where almost a hundred characters in a city are in a state of panic, as if a storm were approaching the Earthly Paradise. So many of Delvaux' pictures - The Hands (1941), in which one of the clothed figures is the painter himself, The Echo (1943, Paris, Claude Spaak collection), Iron Age (1951, Ostend) - show him to be a painter who has best succeeded in combining modern beauty and the beauty of antiquity, and in giving all his anxieties and all his hopes the radiant appearance of the women of his dreams.

Paul Delvaux

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Sept. 23, 1897, Antheit, Liège, Belg.
died July 20, 1994, Veurne

Belgian Surrealist painter, whose canvases portray transfixed humans in a mysterious time and place.

Delvaux studied first architecture, then painting at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. His early work, in the 1920s, was influenced by Postimpressionism and Expressionism. Impressed by the Spaniard Salvador Dalí, theItalian Giorgio de Chirico, and later his fellow Belgian René Magritte, he joined their Surrealist ranks in the mid-1930s. When touring Italy before World War II, he was influenced by its classic architecture (as de Chirico had been) and by the early-16th-century Mannerist paintings, which took liberties with form and space.

A representative Delvaux painting is “The Echo” (1943), in which three somnambulistic nudes walk in tandem past dead temples, as if walking through time. In “Entombment” (1951),skeletons bury fellow skeletons. Major exhibitions of his work have been held in North and South America and Africa as well as at many places in Europe; important awards have come to him from Italy and Belgium. From 1950 to 1962 he was a professor of painting in Brussels.

Paul Delvaux
The Iron Age


Belgian surrealists also included Raoul Ubac, who published an album called L'Invention collective with Magritte in 1935, and who from about this period composed 'photo-reliefs', in which a relief effect is produced by printing from positive and negative transparencies superimposed and slightly out of register. In these photographs nudes and statues seem to be completely fossilized. He later tried to transfer this kind of effect into his burin engraving. Subsequently he went on to sculptures in slate which have only a remote connection with his surrealist period.

Raoul Ubac
Group III

In Sweden, the Manifeste du surre'alisme had inspired the poets Lundkvist, Ekelof, Vennberg and Asklund and an anthology of surrealist poetry, Spektrum, was published in 1933. Work on the visual aspects of surrealism was carried on by the Halmstadgruppen (a group from Halmstad, a Swedish Baltic coast town), which was led by G.A. Nilson, and included the painters Stellan Morner, Erik Olson, Esaias Thoren, Sven Jonson, Waldemar Lorentzon and Axel Olson. These painters, after having originally defined their position as orthodox, took up an eclectic imagery full of romantic reminiscences. These artists stayed together, and in 1954 produced a collective set design for the Halmstad theatre.

Stellan Morner

Stellan Morner
Kandelabrarna och mormorsvasen

Erik Olson

Erik Olson
Stormen. Luften. Vattnet. Elden. Jorden

Erik Olson


Esaias Thoren

Esaias Thoren
Huvudet med stensystrarna

Sven Jonson

Sven Jonson

Waldemar Lorentzon

Waldemar Lorentzon
Kosmisk Moder

Waldemar Lorentzon


Axel Olson

Axel Olson
Poeten har vaknat

Axel Olson

In Denmark there was a group whose views were contained in the review Konkretion, which first appeared in 1935. The group, which took part in the 'Cubist Surrealist Exhibition' in Copenhagen, included the painters Henry Carlsson, Elsa Thoresen and Rita Kernn-Larsen, and the sculptor Heerup.

Rita Kernn-Larsen
Handelse i fremtiden

But the two outstanding members were Wilhelm Bjerke-Petersen, who organized various surrealist exhibitions, and who often wrote about the movement, and the greatest of Danish surrealists, Wilhelm Freddie.

In 1930, when he was twenty-one, Freddie showed his picture Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite at the Copenhagen Autumn Salon. This was the signal for the scandal which was aroused by the introduction of surrealism into Denmark. Freddie was a follower of Dali in his use of aggressive phantoms; but, unlike Dali, he was not able to develop a personality eccentric enough to allow him to carry off his artistic audacity. The English customs refused to admit Monument to war and other pictures he sent to the London Surrealist Exhibition in 1936. In 1937 there were angry scenes at his Copenhagen exhibition 'Sex-Surreal', which included 'sado-masochistic interiors' and 'sensual objects'. One protester was so infuriated that he hurled himself on Freddie on the day of the opening and tried to strangle him. The gallery was closed by the police, who confiscated the works on show, some of which, including Monument to war, went to their 'black museum', from which Freddie was not able to retrieve them until much later.

Freddie began to impose his personality in 1940. His new exhibition in Copenhagen drew an enormous public, and his ballet, The Triumph of Lore, staged at hlsinore, established his reputation. But the Nazi occupation of Denmark brought him more troubles. He was wanted by the SS because of the attack he had made on Hitler in his large picture Meditation on anti-Nazi love, and was forced first into hiding and then to flee to Sweden. Not until after the war was Freddie able to work without restrictions and to be judged at his true worth.

Wilhelm Freddie


Czechoslovak surrealism, which grew out of the "Devetsil" group which combined all avant-garde tendencies, was formulated in 1933 at the instance of the theoretician Karel Teige and the poets Vitezslav Nezval and Konstantin Biebl. Breton and Eluard had an enthusiastic reception at the international surrealist exhibition in Prague in 1935. The Czechoslovak group included the sculptor Makovsky, who used all sorts of materials - stone, canvas, card - in his reliefs, and the painters Jindrich Styrsky and his wife Toyen. Styrsky, born at Cermna in 1899, began his career by illustrating the 'poetist' trend in Czechoslovak painting. But in 1934 he began an extraordinary series of collages, The Removal Office. Later he showed a series of paintings - Roofs - but returned to collage during the war, working on violently anti-clerical themes. He died in 1942, and a retrospective exhibition of his work was held in Prague in 1946.

Styrsky's wife Toyen was initially an abstract painter, but rapidly developed towards a form of figurative painting which recalled folk imagery. A major work in this style is The Dancers (1925), immense figures in transparent veils, who parade before minutes pectators who are holding bouquets and turning their backs on the dancers. Toyen played an active part in the foundation of Czechoslovak surrealism, and she became the country's greatest surrealist painter. In one period or her work she showed a cracked and fissured universe : the human silhouette in The Red Spectre (1934) and the night bird in The Voice of the Forest (1934) are both covered in a network of cracks as if they were about to disintegrate. Her first major exhibition in Prague in 1938 was accompanied by the publication of monographs about her work and about that of Styrsky. Her paintings are held together by her outstanding draughtsmanship, which shows brilliantly in her series of drawings The Spectres of the Desert (1937), The Shoot (1940) and Hide, War (1944).
Her painting, with its subtle dreamlike quality, creates an outlandish atmosphere by the use of sober means; a dress lifted at the window of a house, showing on the wall the impression of a woman's body ; the sky forms an angle from which a bird's nest is suspended ; lips and hair form a stifling erotic dream-world; she makes any number of discoveries which bring the surreal into action. Her self-effacing attitude may have resulted in her name being left off the lists of the great surrealists, but there is no doubt that she is an artist of the first rank, who brought to painting something of what Kafka gave to literature.

Jindrich Styrsky
Vitezslav Nezval "Sexualni nocturno"

Toyen (Marie Cerminova)
Shooting Range I


There was no real surrealist group in Italy. The review Suirealismo, published by the writer Curzio Malaparte, was not the mouthpiece of a group, but merely a selection of various international writings about the movement. But some Italian painters were inspired by the trend. Alberto Martini, a painter born in 1876, had illustrated the works of Mallarme, Рое and Rimbaud as early as 1911; his extraordinary paintings, his albums of lithographs (Mysteries and bantasies bham and cruel), his designs for sets and costumes for a 'theatre on whom rumour had it that he had smashed pianos by the enthusiasm and vigour of his performance. He gave a concert in Paris in 1914, organized by Les Soirees de Paris with the support of Apollinaire, who announced to the audience : 'You will see him play his piano. He sits there in shirtsleeves, his monocle in his eye, and screams and yells while the instrument does what it can to reach the musician's enthusiastic range.'

Alberto Martini
Il conte Ugolino e l'arcivescovo


Alberto Savinio wrote music for operas and ballets, including The Death of Niobe, produced in Rome in 1925. He also wrote a poem-cycle, Chants de la Mi-Mort (1914), and astonishing stories, including the Introduction a une vie de Mercure. He returned to Paris, and lived there from 1926 to 1934; during this time he began to paint, holding his first exhibition at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in November 1927. His pictures were always perfect irrational images, and there is much in Henri Parisot's opinion that he was 'the Fuseli of the twentieth century'.

Alberto Savinio

The appearance of English surrealism was marked by the opening in June 1936 of the 'International Surrealist Exhibition' at the New Burlington Galleries in London. This had been organized by Roland Penrose, the painter and collector, who himself made collages and objects. More than sixty artists took part. The star of the English section was Paul Nash, who might have been the best English surrealist painter, had not his versatility led him to try every genre. Another leading exhibitor was Humphrey Jennings, painter and film-maker, who painted oddly sophisticated pictures. Henry Moore showed sculptures which stood at the frontiers of dream and reality. Some of the others who stood out were Eileen Agar, with her poetic objects, and the caricaturist Edward Burra, whose paintings were derivative of those of Max Ernst.

On the evening of the private view the guests were joined by a 'woman with a head of flowers', whose head was entirely hidden in a bouquet of roses. Salvador Dali turned up to lecture wearing a diving suit and holding two white greyhounds on a leash. The success and influence of this exhibition were remarkable. In 1938, E.L.T. Mesens moved to London and took on the direction of the London Gallery. Until June 1940 he published the London Bulletin and used his expertise to support English surrealism.

Henry Moore

Roland Penrose Paul Nash Eileen Agar Edward Burra

A surrealist group was founded in Romania in 1933, but showed no original, individual development until much later, when it adopted an attitude to life and art which was, systematically, delirious. The moving spirit of this group was the poet Gherasim Luca, who invented a new form of collage which he called 'cubomania'. This consisted of cutting squares from illustrations and joining them up in an arbitrary pattern. He got unexpected results from this, and brought together a selection of these strange puzzles in his album Les Orgies des Quanta (1946). He exhibited cubomanias in Bucharest and in Paris, where he went to live.

In Japan, surrealism developed almost immediately, thanks to the tireless proselytizing of the poet Shuzo Takiguchi, who began to spread surrealist ideas, through his articles and publications, as early as 1927. At first he disseminated the ideas of surrealist poetry, but from 1930 on, he contributed to the rapid development of the visual side of the movement, particularly by his translation of what Andre Breton and Aragon had written about painting. A group of artists formed around the review Mizue, in which Takiguchi published an essay on 'Art and Surrealism'. From 1934 to 1936, the movement won a large following among the Japanese public, and influenced painters and sculptors through the formation of the Shin-Zokei ('New Plastic') association. In June 1937, an International Surrealist Exhibition in Tokyo was a huge success, and was put on in three other Japanese cities. A 'Surrealist Album', with many reproductions, was put together for the occasion by Takiguchi and Yamanaka. Takiguchi published a book called The Metamorphoses of Modern Art in 1938, and monographs on Dali (1939) and Miro (1940). After an eclipse due to the war, he resumed work and in 1958 set up a Centre of Surrealist Studies in Tokyo. The best known Japanese surrealist painters are Fukuzawa, Otsuka, Shimozato, Ayako Suzuki, Shigeru Imai and Taro Okamoto.

Okamoto, who was in close touch with the Paris group, is an especially representative figure. His father, Ippei, was a satirical draughtsman, and his mother, Kanoko Okamoto, was a novelist. He was born in Tokyo in 1911, and moved to Paris in 1929; in 1932 he exhibited at the 'Salon des Surindependants'. His work developed in two directions, that of non-figurative art (he belonged at first to the Abstraction-Creation movement) and that of fantastic imagery. He painted numerous pictures, heavy with tragic irony, on the theme of ribbons entwining bodies and holding them captive in enormous knots, as if to show humanity imprisoned in the silken bonds of frivolity : examples are The Dolorous Hand (1935) and The Woman Beribboned (1936). On his return to Japan in 1940, Okamoto continued to work in his half-abstract, halt-visionary style. Of all Japanese painters, he is among those who have most thoroughly assimilated the message of the Western avant-garde.

In other countries, including Egypt, Turkey, and (after the war) Spain and Portugal, there were groups which claimed to be surrealist, and which published periodicals, but all of them concentrated more on verbal work than on visual creation. This spread of surrealist activity throughout the world is a sufficiently convincing proof that surrealism was tar from being the concern of a closed circle, but was a response to a profound hope which had a universal place in man's sensibilities.

Taro Okamoto

Taro Okamoto
Tower of the Sun

Taro Okamoto
Sculptures in Omotessando
Taro Okamoto
Sculptures in Omotessando



Breton, Desnos, Delteil, Simonne Breton, Paul and Gala Eluard, Baron, Ernst

The object

The object is an even more typically surrealist creation than the collage. Surrealism imposed the object on modern art, and brought it into competition with sculpture, which was thus forced to redefine itself on the basis of the object. Connoisseurs of objects had existed in the past, but their choice was limited to curios and antiquities. The writer C.C. Lichtenberg was the first to set out - in the 'pocket almanach' of Gottingen, 1798 - a list of a collection of absurd instruments, including 'a double children's spoon for twins', 'a mobile bed for moving around the bedroom in, during the night', and, most famous of all, 'a bladeless knife with the handle missing'. The aim of this list was to pour scorn on the ignorant collectors of the day, who were prepared to buy anything. Following his example, the surrealists at first pursued a satirical aim. They wanted to question the utility of domestic objects, and the worth of objets d'art, by comparing them with products of pure fantasy.

It was only later that they renewed the psychology of the object by giving it a deeper significance and increasing its extension to human life, and by making it indispensable to the development of thought. To understand the cult of the object, which came about without any aesthetic intention, one must first know of its multiple variations, which tall into clearly defined categories. In 1936 the first group exhibition of objects was held at the Galerie Charles Ratton in Paris, and an attempt was made on this occasion to present the works in some form of classification. This classification today seems inadequate, and needs corrections in the light of the whole range of surrealist inventions. I shall therefore analyse point by point the different genres of objects which have been used or invented since the start of the movement.

The found object (objef trouve).

Surrealism has often urged the intrinsic worth of the found object, and the only purpose of those frequent forays down to the Flea Market which Breton extolled at the time of Nadja (1928) was the discovery of such objects. The tound object is one which when seen among a large number of other objects possesses an attraction - the art or the jamais vu, the 'never before seen'. It is usually an old-fashioned manufactured object, whose practical function is not evident and about whose origins nothing is known. There is an element of passion in the impulse to acquire it or to stop in front of it. Surrealist commentaries showed that the found object was capable of providing a surprise solution to a problem which one had been trying in vain to solve. In this way an old fencing-mask, which Giacometti found, enabled him to resume work on a sculpture which he had left unfinished.

Andre Breton

The natural object.

This may be a root or a seashell, but the surrealists always preferred stones. Breton organized group walks to look for stones, sometimes on the banks of the Seine; he saw in the mineral kingdom 'the domain of signs and indications'. The interpretation of the stones which one finds is considered to satisfy and develop the poetic sense, which needs to be educated in man. In La Langue des pierres, Breton stated the methods of the cult : 'Stones - particularly hard stones - go on talking to those who wish to hear them. They speak to each listener according to his capabilities; through what each listener knows, they instruct him in what he aspires to know.' The discovery of a bed of stones on a drizzly day in the country gave Breton 'the perfect illusion of treading the ground of the Earthly Paradise'. The divinatory nature of stones, and the 'second state' which they induce in the connoisseur, are found only where the stones have been discovered as the result of a special expedition. Breton said that an unusual stone found by chance is of less value than one which has been sought for and longed for.

The interpreted found object.

This is most frequently an ornament or a utensil which has been converted by sleight of hand into a bizarre object. Dominguez was particularly gifted in this way : Arrival of the Belle Epoque (1936) is a statuette of a woman cut in two, with the hips separated from the body by a picture frame. Never (1938) is an old phonograph, painted white, with a woman's legs emerging from the horn. The Surrealist Elephant is Dali's transformation of a little coral elephant by the addition of bird's feet, lobster's antennae and the shell of a sea-snail ridden by a wax mahout.

Oscar Dominguez
Caja con Piano y Toro

The interpreted natural object.

In this case, a poetic camouflage either entirely conceals the characteristics of the root or the stone on which it is based, or on the other hand faithfully follows its suggestions. The Garden of Giacometti after Max Ernsf's Visit is the best example. At Majola in 1934, Max Ernst took chunks of granite from a stream close to Giacometti's house, and turned them into objects by colouring them or slightly hollowing them out. These were among the origins of his first major sculptures.

The readymade.

This term can be applied only to an industrially mass-produced object whose function is altered, and which is dragged from its context of automatic reproduction in the most ingenious way possible. In 1916 Marcel Duchamp took a grey steel comb and wrote on it : '3 or 4 drops of height have nothing to do with savagery'. With this addition, there would be a reluctance to use this comb for combing one's hair. It has become to a certain degree untouchable, because the artist has made it into the receptacle of his thought. This is the readymade, the art of turning the most material thing into a thing of the mind. Duchamp refined this idea, and designed the 'mythological readymade', such as Why not sneeze (1921, Philadelphia, Museum of Art), a bird-cage containing imitation sugar lumps made of marble, a thermometer and a cuttlefish bone. Marcel Duchamp, the inventor of the genre, was followed by other creators of readymades : Man Ray's Gift (1921), a flat-iron with its ironing surface bristling with nails, was a remarkable example.

Marcel Duchamp
Why Not Sneeze Rose Selavy?

The assemblage.

This is made up of natural objects or found objects arranged to form a sculpture. In 1939 Andre Masson made some handsome assemblages - Bottom of the Sea, Caryatid and The Great Lady - from material he found washed up on the beaches of Brittany. Max Ernst's best assemblage, Are You Niniche? (1956), was made by using two yokes and a printing plate.

The incorporated object.

This is an object associated with a painting or a sculpture in such a way that it cannot be removed without depriving the work of its raison d'etre. Miro has made a number of famous picture-objects, such as The Spanish Dancer (1928, Chicago, private collection), where a hatpin and a feather are fastened to the virgin canvas. This kind of use of the object is close to collage.

The phantom object.

Described by Andre Breton in Les Vases communicants (1932) on the basis of the 'envelope-silence' which he had designed with one side bordered with eyelashes and a handle to hold it by, the phantom object is an object which might be made, but which is instead merely suggested by a verbal or graphic description. The oddest phantom object is Luis Bunuel's Giraffe. He imagined the construction of a wooden effigy of the animal with the spots on the body mounted on hinges so that they could be opened, each revealing a different spectacle similar to the dreamlike sequences of his films. The phantom object can also be an object which does not exist, but whose existence, by some subterfuge, is made to be felt and its absence regretted. For example, The Invisible Object (1934-5), by Giacometti, is a woman whose hands clutch at empty space, holding something which does not exist but to which the sculptor seems to have given volume, although it cannot be seen. Another example is Man Ray's Destroyed object, which he burnt, photographing all the stages of its destruction.

Man Ray
Indestructible Object


The dreamt object.

According to Breton, this corresponds to 'the need, inherent in the dream, to magnify and to dramatize'. It is a humble, familiar object, which by some caprice of desire is given a sumptuous appearance. The most remarkable is Meret Oppenheim's Cup, saucer and spoon in fur (1936, New York, Museum of Modern Art). The Wheelbarrow (1937) decked out in red satin by Dominguez, and Kurt Seligmann's winged soup tureen are also dreamt objects. By extension this term can also be applied to any object in which a fantastic mise en scene is used.

Meret Oppenheim
My Nurse

The box.

This object comprises the arrangement of various elements brought together in a box. Joseph Cornell was the greatest creator of boxes; although he always wanted to stay independent of surrealism, he remained associated with it by his creative experience and by his friendships. In 1930 Cornell began to make collages, inspired by Ernst's La Femme 100 Tetes, and his first box, shown in 1936 in the exhibition of 'Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism', was followed by many others which he showed in New York in 1939. Cornell's glazed boxes, whose bottoms are lined with newspapers or astronomical prints, contain flasks, glasses, crystal cubes, balls, feathers, all set out in a striking arrangement. Some of his boxes evoke imaginary streets or hotels, others are bird cages or jewel caskets containing coloured sand on which various pieces of debris rest.

Joseph Cornell
Eclipsing binary, algol, with magnitude changes

Joseph Cornell

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born December 24, 1903, Nyack,New York, U.S.
died December 29, 1972, New York, New York

U.S. artist, one of the originators of the form of sculpture called assemblage, in which unlikely objects are joined together in an unorthodox unity.

Cornell was self-taught, and in the 1930s and 1940s he associated with Surrealist artists and writers, concerned with expressing the subconscious, his works being presented in the first U.S. exhibition of Surrealists (New York City, 1932).

Many of Cornell's works take the form of glass-fronted boxes containing objects and collage elements arranged in enigmatic, often poetic juxtaposition. Recurrent themes and motifs include astronomy, music, commedia dell'arte, birds, seashells, broken crystal, and souvenirs of travel. Chocolat Menier (1950), for example, is a spare yet fancifulboxed collage of tattered labels and worn surfaces.

The optical machine.

In 1920 Marcel Duchamp worked in New York on his first optical machine (New Haven, Yale University), whose motor turned five glass plates on which white and black lines created an optical illusion. The second optical machine, Rotary hemisphere, commissioned and financed by the couturier Jacques Doucet, was made in 1925. This was a glass globe surrounded by a copper disc which bore an inscription. The Rotoreliefs which Duchamp showed at the Concours Lepine in 1935 were a series of six cardboard discs whose front and rear surfaces bore twelve spiral-based designs. When these discs were spun on a gramophone turntable, they gave the impression of expanding forms, like flowers coming to life and dancing.

Marcel Duchamp
Rotary Hemisphere (Precision Optics)

Jacques Doucet
(1924 – 1994)
French surrealist painter

Jacques Doucet
Les Petites Alpilles

Jacques Doucet
Sans titre

The poem-object.

Invented by Andre Breton, who was in fact the only person to provide valid examples, this is a kind of relief which incorporates objects in the words of a poetic declaration so as to form a homogeneous whole. For example, in Communication relative to objective chance (1929), a text written at the top of the panel has numbered references, each of which is represented below by an object.

The mobile and mute object.

When he made The Hour of Traces (1930), Giacometti launched the idea of a 'mobile and mute object'. A wooden ball with a notch was suspended by a violin string over a crescent. The spectator was tempted to slide the notch in the ball along the edge of the crescent, but the length of the string allowed him to slide it only part of the way. So we have an irritating, disconcerting object, one element of which moves although the necessity for the movement is not clearly perceptible. Giacometti designed several 'mobile and mute objects' for Le Surrealisme аu service de la Revolution, no. 3, and accompanied them by commentaries in which he associated them with childhood memories. Giacometti soon lost interest in this kind of object, but the genre continued to exist. It is recalled by Calder's Mobiles, which are likewise objects whose movement teases and intrigues the spectator.

Alexander Calder

The symbolically functioning object.

This was invented by Dali, inspired by Giacometti. Dali has defined it as an object produced by an 'objective perversion', which expresses a repressed desire or allows a compensatory satisfaction of the libido. He made one consisting of a woman's shoe inside which was placed a glass of milk. The 'symbolic function' took the form of putting into the milk a sugar lump on which the picture of a shoe had been painted. The object was complemented by various accessories, including a box of spare sugar lumps. Dali also made The Aphrodisiac Jacket (1936), to which were attached fifty glasses of peppermint, The Atmospheric Chair, whose seat was replaced by bars of chocolate, and one of whose feet rested on a door handle so as to make the chair unstable, and The Hypnagogic Clock, which consisted of twelve inkwells baked into a loaf of bread, each of them containing a quill pen of a different colour. He proposed subdivisions of symbolically functioning objects : transubstantiated objects (straw watches), objects for throwing (made to be hurled violently against a 'pedestal wall'), wrapped objects (which could not be seen), etc. 'Museums will become full of objects whose uselessness, size and cumber-someness will make it necessary to build special towers to house them in the deserts', he said ironically. Valentine Hugo made a symbolically functioning object which included two hands - one white, and holding a dice, and the other red, placed together on a green roulette cloth, and caught in a network of white threads.

The objectively offered object.

This was the term used by Gherasim Luca in his book Le Vampire passif (1945) - a document which illustrates the psychology or the object in the surrealist movement - to denote a kind of object made while thinking of the person for whom it was intended. In this way the object can be used as a vehicle for sentimental or intellectual exchanges, and becomes a qualitative description which can be interpreted like a rebus.

Gherasim Luca
Vierge a la Colonne

The being-object.

This too was invented by Dali, who describes it in one of his articles in Minotaure ('Being-objects are strange bodies of space'), and cites as a model a statue of Marshal Ney in a fog. In this article he shows how to give a person the various characteristics of a symbolically functioning object. Although Dali donned masks to produce in the spectator 'the mysterious vertigo of strange bodies', the 'being-object' would have remained only a mental conception had not Dali's ideas been carried through and corroborated by his successors. Jean Benoit created being-objects in the shape of bizarre ceremonial costumes. On 2 December 1959, for the 'Execution of the Will of the Marquis de Sade', performed in Paris specially for the surrealists, Jean Benoit donned once again the costume he had made in 1950. This consisted of a jumper, a medallion, a mask, wings, 'anti-eurythmic' shoes, and crutches, and enabled him to incarnate a 'totem of man-liberty'. Benoit explained : 'All the items of the costume interlock, fit to one another, or superimpose themselves one on another. They can both 'unfold' themselves for the wall, and form a vast panoply'. By extension, any object of human appearance, such as Bellmer's Doll, can be described as a 'being-object'.

Salvador Dali
Surrealist Object Functioning Symbolically


Jean Benoit

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Jean Benoit is an artist called "The Enchanter of Serpents," best known for his surrealist sculptures. He was born in Quebec, Canada, and studied art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts de Montréal where he met Mimi Parent whom he married in 1948. He met Andre Breton in 1959, joined the Surrealist group that same year. In 1959 he also performed Exécution Du Testament Du Marquis De Sade for which he made costumes. The dark, grotesque characters wear sharp, seemingly-mechanical pieces mixed biomorphic, anamilistic shapes that make the humans look like torture devices. Breton mentioned Benoit in Surrealism and Painting: "STAND ASIDE to let the Marquis de Sade pass 'in his own likeness' and reinvented by Jean Benoît with all his powers." One sculpture called "Book Cover for Magnetic Fields" features demonic figures ripping an egg from a book. Magnetic Fields was the name of the book Breton wrote with Philippe Soupault which Breton called the first surrealist book. Many of his works include demonic figures, brutal sexual images, exaggerated phalluses, and so on.

Jean Benoit
The Eagle, Miss..

Jean Benoit
The same Way

Jean Benoit
Fad in head

This list does not include 'mathematical objects', which were dear to Man Ray and Max Ernst, who singled them out at the Institut Henri Poincare : these are only a variety of found object. Nor does it include primitive objects, which belong to a different category of interest. I have excluded jewel objects (Meret Oppenheim and Alexander Calder produced some examples), for they can clearly be included among dreamt objects. Many non-surrealist painters have added new elements to the tradition of the object which the surrealists established. Rauschenberg's 'combine painting' and Arman's 'accumulations' prove that the most original results are still attributable to the ideas mentioned above. There would not have been such a vast range of possibilities in this field had it not been for surrealist action. We would not have passed beyond the Dada object, which was limited to one variety, and which, in order to provoke the idea of destruction, set out to be horrible, whereas the surrealist object set out to be sumptuous while using the simplest means, and to exalt the nuances of analogical thought.

Violon cubiste


Elsa Schiaparelli
Monkey Fur Shoes


'International Surrealist Exhibition', New Burlington Galleries, London, 1936.
Standing left to right: Rupert Lee, Ruthven Todd, Salvador Dali, Paul Eluard, Roland Penrose, Herbert Read, E.L.T. Mesens, George Reavey and Hugh Sykes Williams.
Seated left to right: Diana Brinton Lee, Nusch Eluard, Eileen Agar, Sheila Legge and an unidentified friend of Dali


The surrealist artists did not confine their originality to their works : it was also evident in their methods of presentation. They always took the view that one-man and group shows should be something more than a series of paintings displayed on a gallery wall; each of their shows was embellished and given individuality, at least in the catalogue, by some new poetic discovery. They could imagine nothing more boring than the usual long line of visitors to a museum walking slowly and impassively past a collection of works of art.

For them, an exhibition was an opportunity to invite the public to a festival of the imaginary which would excite and confuse them, so that all taking part would be torn between amusement and anger, enthusiasm and indignation. It was a matter of creating a stimulating environment, an atmosphere which would enhance the spectator's receptiveness and arouse in him at the same time laughter, revulsion and desire, so that he was bound to approach the painting and sculpture in a state of emotional disturbance.

When he opened the Galerie Gradiva in the Rue de Seine in 1937, Breton had already hopes of making it 'a place from which it may be possible to overcome the retrospective viewpoint that people are accustomed to adopting with regard to true creativity in the arts', in other words, 'a timeless place, no matter where, so long as it is outside the world of reason'. It would also contain books, but 'the shelves to hold them must really be rays of sunlight' (the French word rayon means both 'shelf and 'ray'). All the painters in his circle helped Breton to do up the building : Duchamp designed a door in the shape of a double human silhouette, while Tanguy, Paalen and others decorated the mouldings with emblems.

The 'Exposition Internationale du Surrealisme' which was held at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris in January 1938 provided an opportunity for the movement to make a collective statement which outdid anything that it had hitherto undertaken. The visitor's first surprise was in the courtyard, where he encountered Dali's Kainy Taxi, a ramshackle vehicle inside which rain poured down on two dummies'a blonde covered with snails and a chauffeur with a shark's head. Next the visitor entered the Rue Surrealiste, a long corridor with street signs marking out the different sections; these were given either the names of actual streets of historical significance - the Rue de la Vieille-Lanterne, where Nerval committed suicide, the Rue Yivienne where Lautreamont lived - or names which were purely imaginary : Rue de Tous-les-Diables (All Devils' Street), Rue Faible (Weak Street), Rue de la Transfusion-du-Sang (Blood Transfusion Street), Rue Cerise (Cherry Street), etc.

'Exposition Internationale du Surrealisme',
Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Paris 1938 : the pool ; one of the four beds ;
The Horoscope, an object by Marcel Jean ; paintings by Paalen, Penrose and Masson

At intervals along this corridor, visitors were received by shop window dummies of women - mannequins - each one created and clothed by one of the painters. Max Ernst's mannequin was dressed in black veils and trampled the figure of a man underfoot; the one designed by Paalen was covered in moss and fungi and had a bat on her head; Man Ray's wept crystal tears, and wore a headdress of pipes with glass bubbles emerging from them; Duchamp's figure wore a man's jacket with a red electric light bulb in the breast pocket in place of a folded handkerchief. The most spectacular of all was Masson's Girl in a black, gag with a pansy mouth ; she had her head in a wicker cage and wore a cache-sexe covered with glass eyes.

Girl in a black, gag with a pansy mouth

Then the visitor reached the central hall, which had been designed with masterly success by Marcel Duchamp, the 'generator-arbiter' of the exhibition; Breton and Eluard were the 'organizers', with Man Ray as 'master of the lights', Paalen in charge of 'water and brushwood', and Dali and Max Ernst as technical advisers. The hall was arranged to resemble a grotto - the floor was covered with a carpet of dead leaves; 1,200 sacks of coal hung from the ceiling. In the middle stood an iron brazier, symbolizing the gathering of friends round a hearth, and in each of the four corners an enormous bed offered an invitation to dreams and love. Part of the area was cut off from the rest by a pool with water-lilies and reeds. A number of astonishing objects, such as Seligmann's Ultra-furniture (a stool made of four female legs) contributed to the spectacular effect.

On the opening day, after a speech made by Paul Eluard wearing a frock coat, a dancer gave a performance entitled The Unconsummated Act, which she interpreted first on the edge of the pool, and then in it. The atmosphere was pervaded with 'scents of Brazil': the smell of roasting coffee. It was announced that the automaton Enigmarelle would walk across the Gallery 'in false flesh and false bones', but this was only a hoax designed to arouse a sense of anticipation. A 'concise dictionary of surrealism' (Dictionnaire abrege du surrealisme), which appeared at the time of the exhibition, contained some strange definitions (lie - a parasol on a muddy road; Moon - a marvellous glazier; Rape - a love of speed), and a curious comment on himself by Breton : 'His dearest wish was to belong to the family of the great undesirables'. It caused a great sensation, but the remarks of the press showed that the underlying reason behind this behaviour was sometimes misunderstood. It was less that the surrealists were set on originality for its own sake than that they wished to introduce a sense of adventure into the confrontation between the spectator and the work of art.

At about this period, a number of newcomers joined the ranks of the originators of surrealism. Max Ernst had met Leonora Carrington, a young upper-class Englishwoman, in London, and from 1937 until 1940 she lived with him at Saint-Martin-d'Ardeche, in a house which he decorated himself with frescoes and bas-reliefs. The black humour and strange inventiveness of her fantastic stories, such as La Maison de la Peur (1938), is echoed in her paintings, among them Lord Candlestick's repast (1938) and What shall we do tomorrow, Aunt Amelia ? (1938). Whimsically confused memories of her own early life, such as the scenes in which she depicts herself as a white horse, lend particular charm to her painting.

Leonora Carrington
Big Badger Meets the Domino Boys

Richard Oelze, a German painter who had studied at the Bauhaus in Weimar, came to Paris in 1932 and threw in his lot with the surrealists. In his paintings he managed to create unexpected effects from day-to-day realities, as in Expectation (1935) and The Dangerous Desire (1936). He made use of 'frottage' in a very individual way, and although he was obliged to give up his work for ten years, he took up his experiments after the war along exactly the same lines.

Richard Oelze

Valentine Hugo began her career with a series of twenty-four wood engravings (1926) for an edition of Romeo and Juliet designed by Jean Hugo. She then attracted attention with a number of lithographic portraits, of Raymond Radiguet, Princess Bibesco, Georges Auric, and others. She took part in the surrealist movement from 1930, and was noted particularly for her illustrations, in which she created an intangible world with pastels and gouaches, as in the illustrations for Les Chants de Maldoror (1932-3) and Achim von Arnim's Contes bizarres (1933). For Paul Eluard's Les Animaux et leurs bomines (1937) she used drypoint. She also produced a series of allegorical paintings based on the Rimbaud legend.

Valentine Hugo
(French Painter, 1887-1968)

Valentine Hugo
Premier tirage des "manière noire"


Dora Maar was a painter and photographer of Yugoslav origin; she was for some time Picasso's 'muse', and then joined the surrealists from 1935 to 1937, but later turned her attention towards mysticism. Maurice Henry came into the movement in 1932 and produced humorous drawings, mainly on the theme of ghost stories, which foreshadowed the graphic experiments of his later albums Les Metamorphoses du Vide and Les 32 positions de l'Androgyne. Esteban Frances was a Spanish painter whose use of the technique of 'grattage' resulted in a pure automatism which was much admired. Gordon Onslow-Ford, an English painter who had spent some time in the Royal Navy, became interested in surrealism in 1937; his subsequent development soon led him towards abstraction.

Dora Maar
29. rue d'Astorg

Esteban Frances
El lago

Gordon Onslow-Ford
Future of the Falcon


Kurt Seligmann was born in Switzerland, where he had made a collection of documents concerning witchcraft and had written a history of magic. He exhibited at Basle and Berne, and then published a series of fifteen etchings entitled Cardiac Protuberances (1934). While working with the surrealists, he was particularly interested in creating objects, and many of his drawings were inspired by heraldic emblems. In some of his paintings he gives a highly mannerist interpretation of classical mythology, using automaton-like figures.

Kurt Seligmann
The Riddle, pl. 4 from the series "Oedipus"

Kurt Seligmann

Kay Sage was American and had studied painting in Milan, where she held an exhibition of abstract works in 1926. She arrived in Paris in 1937, and concentrated on creating representations of the fantastic; she attracted the attention of Yves Tanguy, whom she married, and with whom she returned to live in the United States in 1939. Her treatment of imaginary towns was particularly striking, as in Tomorrow is never (1955, New York, Metropolitan Museum).

Minotaure, founded by Albert Skira, had become surrealism's official publication. The 'review with a beast's head' first appeared in May, 1933, the month which saw the last issue of Le Surrealisme аu service de la Revolution. On account of its luxurious format and its wit, Minotaure provided an opportunity for the beauty of surrealism to be defined more clearly than ever before. At first, under Teriade's editorship, it dealt with classical and modern art in an eclectic manner, but Breton soon imposed on it his own particular line.

Kay Sage
Tomorrow is never


Minotaure set out to stimulate interest in the unexpected in art, the study of rare documents, anything off the beaten track. In their photographs, Brassai, Man Ray, Raoul Ubac and Dora Maar succeeded in using reality as a trap in which to capture the marvellous. The first signs of surrealism in the past were outlined in articles on the baroque, Gericault, Botticelli, Urs Graf, Uccello and Piero di Cosimo. Maurice Heine, the defender and exponent of the ideas of the Marquis de Sade, contributed items on the illustrations of the English Gothic novels and those of the works of Sade's contemporary Restif de la Bretonne, in which the engraver Binet depicted an idealized 'Sylphide' type of woman; on Jean Duvet's Apocalypses; and on the Tibetan gods.

The 'united front of poetry and art' which the surrealists sought to establish was given support in Paul Eluard's article 'Physique de la poesie', a study of painters who illustrated the works of poets. By means of his collection of postcards, 'those treasures of nothingness', Eluard also helped to draw attention to minor art forms which throw unexpected light on the meaning of beauty. Breton showed a collection of mediums' drawings, while Peret contributed poems singing the praises of armour, ruins and automatons.



(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born September 9, 1899, Brassó,Transylvania, Austria-Hungary [now Romania]
died July 8, 1984, Eze, near Nice,France

Original name Gyula Halász , French Jules Halasz Hungarian-born French photographer, poet, draughtsman, and sculptor, known primarily for his dramatic photographs of Paris at night.His pseudonym, Brassaï, is derived from his native city.

Brassaï trained as an artist and settled in Paris in 1924. There he worked as a sculptor, painter, and journalist and associated with such artists as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, and the writer Henry Miller. Although he disliked photography at the time, he found it necessary to use it in his journalistic assignments and soon came to appreciate the medium's unique aesthetic qualities.

Brassaï's early photographs concentrated on the nighttime world of Montparnasse, a district of Paris then noted for its artists, streetwalkers, and petty criminals. His pictures were published in a successful book, Paris de nuit (1933; Paris After Dark, also published as Paris at Night), which caused a stir because of its sometimes scandalous subject matter. Hisnext book, Voluptés de Paris (1935; “Pleasures of Paris”), made him internationally famous.

When the German army occupied Paris in 1940, Brassaï escaped southward to the French Riviera, but he returned to Paris to rescue the negatives he had hidden there. Photography on the streets was forbidden during the occupation of Paris, so Brassaï resumed drawing and sculpture and began writing poetry. After World War II, his drawings were published in book form as Trente dessins (1946; “Thirty Drawings”), with a poem by the French poet Jacques Prévert . Brassaï turned again to photography in 1945, and two years later a number of his photographs of dimly lit Paris streets were greatly enlarged to serve as the backdrop for Prévert's ballet Le Rendez-vous. Many of Brassaï's postwar pictures continued the themes and techniques of his early work. In these photographs Brassaï preferred static over active subjects, but he imbued even themost inanimate images with a warm sense of human life.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City held a retrospective exhibition of Brassaï's work in 1968. His Henry Miller, grandeur nature (Henry Miller: The Paris Years) was published in 1975, and a book of his photographs entitled The Secret Paris of the 30's in 1976. Artists of My Life, a collection of his photographic and verbal portraits of well-known artists, art dealers, and friends, was published in 1982.

Transmutation NO. VIII "Tentation de Saint Antoine"

Finally, Minotaure decided to demonstrate that even fashion was a subject worthy of the attention of poets and painters, and it published some extracts from La Derniere Mode, the women's magazine founded by Mallarme. Crevel discussed the connection between fashion and fantasy, while Tzara, who had made his peace with Breton after the Second Manifests and now supported surrealism with the same zeal with which he had launched dadaism, wrote an unusual article on the unconscious mechanisms governing a woman's choice of a hat : 'D'un certain automatisme du gout'. Dali expounded a theory of the 'new colours of spectral sex-appeal'.

In the spring of 1938, before leaving for a trip to Mexico, Breton addressed the readers of his review as follows : 'Follow Minotaure, and in addition : beware of imitations, rubbish from the second-hand market, hot-air balloons.'

In Mexico he met Leon Trotsky and the painter Diego Rivera, who had designed the impressive frescoes on the Palacio Nacional and many other public buildings. With them he wrote the manifesto 'For an independent revolutionary art' (Pour un art revolutionnaire independent), which set out in eloquent terms all the ideas he had fought for over the years. In the face of the current threats of war and oppression, Breton demanded an 'artistic opposition' to be manned by all the available artists in the world. But he emphasized that such an opposition would be effective only if the powers of imagination were allowed free rein : 'To those who would persuade us, now or in the future, that art should submit to a discipline which we consider totally incompatible with its methods, we reply with an unconditional refusal, and our determination to adhere to the principle : all freedom in art.'

With this in mind, Breton created, on his return to Paris in July, 1938, the International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Art (F.I.A.R.I.), whose short-lived publication Cle had as its editorial secretary Maurice Nadeau, who was later to write a Histoire du surre'alisme.

The Second World War brought this spiritual quest to a temporary halt, and gave the surrealists an opportunity to define clearly the role of art in such circumstances. At the end of 1940 they gathered at the Chateau Air-Bel, near Marseilles, under the auspices of the American Committee for Aid to Intellectuals; there, despite the uncertainty and disturbance they all felt, they set about inventing a new set of playing-cards.

Breton had stated : 'Historians of the playing-card all agree that throughout the ages the changes it has undergone have always been at times of great military defeats'. They therefore evolved a system in which the four suits were replaced by symbols representing their chief preoccupations : Love (Flame), Dream (Black Star), Revolution (Wheel and blood), and Knowledge (Keyhole). The cards consisted of Ace, Genius, Siren, Magus, Ten, etc., and portrayed some of the intellectual heroes of the surrealists : Hegel, Sade, Baudelaire, Freud, Novalis, Lautreamont, Helene Smith (the medium), etc. These cards were made by Frederic Delanglade from designs by Jacqueline Lamba, Andre Breton, Andre Masson, Victor Brauner, Wifredo Lam, Jacques Herold and Oscar Dominguez. They illustrate the desire constantly proclaimed by the surrealists to preserve, in the face of everything, even in the most tragic circumstances, the delicate flower of inspiration which is the chief adornment of life.

Jacqueline Lamba
(1910 - 1993)

Andre Breton, his wife, Jacqueline Lamba,
and Max Ernst

Studied decorative arts in Paris. Married Andre Breton in 1934 and was the subject of many of his poems of those years including "La Nuit de Tournesol' which anticipated their meeting.

Began exhibiting objects and drawings with the Surrealists. Arriving in New York, she developed automatism into a series of intense prismatic paintings close in spirit to the abstract work of Matta and Masson.
Separated from Breton in 1943 and later married the American sculptor and photographer David Hare.

First one-woman exhibition at the Norlyst Gallery, New York, in 1944. Also exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1946) and Galerie Pierre, Paris (1947).

In her later years, lived as a recluse in her Paris studio. Developed Alzheimer's Disease in the last five years of her life.

Jacqueline Lamba
In Spite of Everything

Jacqueline Lamba
Behind the sun

Surrealism in the United States

Surrealism burst on the United States between 1941 and 1946. In America the surrealists redefined their course of action and established a climate of opinion which had an influence on a number of native American artists. The American public had in fact an opportunity of becoming aware of the surrealist experience before this, when a touring exhibition - 'Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism' - was organized in 1936 by the New York Museum of Modern Art. This eclectic collection of almost seven hundred works went beyond its chosen theme by including work by many abstract or constructivist painters, such as Malevich and Moholy-Nagy; the show was essentially an evocation of avant-garde art in general. But, at all events, it was the first exhibition in which any attempt was made to form a section devoted to the 'Forerunners of Surrealism'. This was a rather random selection ranging from the Grotesques by Wenzel Jamnitzer (1563-1618) to the fantasies by Grandville (1803-47), from architectural drawings by Oronce Fine (1494-1555) to costumes by Larmessin (who died in 1694), and which included allegories, rebuses, and paintings of anamorphoses.

Despite the merits of the range of 'Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism', which gave an important place to Picasso, Chirico, Duchamp and other major pioneers, it could be no substitute for an exhibition arranged by the surrealists themselves. Salvador Dali had indeed come to the United States as a surrealist ambassador, but his only influence had been on publicity. He was asked to arrange one show-window for a store, and in 1939 at the New York World's Fair he was allowed to stage only a part of The Dream of Venus, an underwater ballet performed in an aquarium with girl swimmers incarnating symbols of pre-natal life. So it was only the presence in America during the war of artists in exile, among them Max Ernst, Andre Masson, Matta, Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Seligmann, Leonora Carrington and Yves Tanguy, which allowed surrealist art to establish a firm foothold.

Man Ray, Juliet and Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning

Andre Breton arrived in New York in August 1941, and two months later the magazine View, run by the poet Charles Henry Ford, brought out a special number on surrealism. This was followed by several instalments which were evidence of the movement's newsworthiness. The surrealist review VVV was founded in 1942. The three Vs of the title represented the triple Victory, 'over everything which stands in the way of the emancipation of the spirit, for which the first precondition is the liberation of man', the triple View, which results from a synthesis of the view of the inner world with the view of the outer world to create a 'total view' which should interpret all the reactions of the eternal on the actual, of the psychic on the physical, and take into account the 'myth' which is being formed under the veil of events. The chief editor of VVV was David Hare, who made strange photographs using a technique which consisted of warming up negatives after development so that the gelatine melted. When he later became a sculptor, Hare moved from the fantastic to abstraction.

The New York Surrealist Exhibition, in October and November 1942, held under the sponsorship of the Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies, was designed by Marcel Duchamp. Throughout the exhibition halls he stretched a network of white cord covering the works on show, which could only be glimpsed through the meshes. This also formed a kind of labyrinth which constantly obliged the visitor to stop and retrace his steps, passing work which he had already seen.

The front cover of the catalogue, First Papers of Surrealism, showed a wall with five bullet holes, and the back a piece of gruyere cheese. Breton wrote in the catalogue : 'Today more than ever to speak abstractly in the name of freedom or to praise it in empty terms is to serve it ill. To light the world, freedom must become flesh and to this end must always be reflected and recreated in the word.' Breton outlined the repertory of myths which he believed to be significant, and illustrated them by associating each of them with a surrealist painter : the Philosopher's Stone with Matta : the Artificial Alan with Seligmann; the Soul-Sister with Leonora Carrington; The Regicide with Masson, etc. The difficulty of getting hold of photographs of some of the exhibitors inspired the idea of 'compensation portraits', in which the names of painters were placed under anonymous photographs chosen for a real or imagined likeness to their nominal subjects.

The activity of the surrealists brought to light the work of some painters who would probably otherwise never have been discovered. The most outstanding of these was Morris Hirshfield, a naive painter who had started life as a shoemaker in New York. Then in 1902 he had established a shoe factory, the E.Z. Walk Manufacturing Company, which eventually had almost three hundred employees. Ill health forced Hirshfield to retire from business in 1917, and in 1937, at the age of 65, he took up painting; from then on until his death in 1946 he painted naked women surrounded by flowers or animals. Less often, he did landscapes from picture postcards. Hirshfield was adopted by the surrealists because of the extreme ingenuousness of his inspiration, and the luxuriant imagination with which he embroidered exterior reality.

Morris Hirshfield

(b Russian Poland, 10 April 1872; d New York, 26 July 1946).

American painter of Russian–Polish origin. He claimed to have carved wooden ceremonial objects as a young boy, but ceased to create until he retired from his clothing manufacturing concern and began to paint. When Sidney Janis was arranging an exhibition of American folk art for MOMA in 1939, he saw Hirshfield’s naive works in a gallery in New York. He exhibited two in the show and organized a one-man show for the artist in 1943; he also purchased two works, including Beach Girl (1937). In such paintings Hirshfield based large areas of the overall design on the fabrics with which he worked during his years in business, and his outlined forms on the art of patternmaking. In this and slightly later works, such as Inseparable Friends (1941), an ambiguous treatment of young female sexuality is played off against the patterns and the repetition of forms.

Morris Hirshfield
Dog and Pups

Morris Hirshfield
Girl with dog

Max Ernst, who had arrived in New York in July 1941, now began to make paintings by using the 'decalcomania' technique; then he invented 'oscillation', which consisted of swinging a pierced can of liquid paint on the end of a string over a canvas laid on the ground, and interpreting the trace of the paint marks so obtained. He showed this process to Jackson Pollock, who turned it into the 'drip' technique.

In 1942 Ernst met Dorothea Tanning, whose artistic personality was to blossom as a result of her contact with him. Dorothea Tanning had come to New York from Chicago in 1935, set on making a career as a painter. She had been deeply moved by an exegesis of Picasso's Guernica which she had heard Arshile Gorky deliver in a New York gallery. The influence of Max Ernst hastened her development towards surrealism. She held her first one-man show in New York in 1944, and in 1945 designed the sets and costumes for Night Shadow, a ballet by Balanchine to music by Rieti. Ernst and Dorothea Tanning were married in 1946, and went off to live in Sedona, a small township in Arizona. Initially her painting showed a universe of little girls in revolt against a puritanical education, a prey to nocturnal fears, or unleashed in wild games.

Max Ernst
A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil,
New York: George Braziller 1982

Her memories of her own childhood with her two sisters in Illinois helped her to give these scenes a feeling of authenticity. Her perverse little heroines tear drapes off a wall, while the inanimate body of a companion lies nearby (Children's Games, 1942); they watch a giant sunflower creeping towards them in a corridor (Eine Kleine Nachfmusik, 1946, London, Roland Penrose collection); and yet again they form themselves into a human pyramid by climbing on one another's shoulders right up to the ceiling (Palaestra, 1947, New York, William N. Copley collection). Always they move in an atmosphere of anguish and pleasure. Max Ernst acquired a bitch, Katchina, who soon became the main character in Dorothea Tanning's paintings. She made it into the Beast which has become divine, and who embraces Beauty for a symbolic Waltz (The Blue Waltz, 1954). The surreal power of animals is exploited also in the perverse 'Annunciation' of 1951.

It was only on his arrival in the United States that the painting of Matta came to its full brilliance, and burst like a storm into a world which he constantly thereafter explored. Matta had first joined the surrealists in 1937, when he arrived in Paris from his native Chile to study architecture with Le Corbusier. He showed some work to Breton at the Galerie Gradiva; Breton bought two drawings from him and invited him to take part in illustrating Les Chants de Maldoror, published by Editions G.L.M. In 1938 Matta painted six big canvases, Psychological Morphologies, which were the point of departure for his whole development. These spaces choked with matter in fusion show the interior of the conscious mind as a vitreous mass, full of glaucous glows and sparkling brilliance. As a result of his stay in the United States from 1939, with the added advantage of some travelling, particularly a visit to Mexico in 1941, Matta was able to broaden his experience, and to bring it up to the scale of the civilization which he found before his eyes. He unfolded huge galactic panoramas, and studied the life of the psyche as if he were prospecting the surface of a planet, in The Earth is a Man (1941, New York, William Rubin collection), The Disasters of Mysticism (1942), Elinonde (1943), The I'ertigo of Eros (1944, New York, Museum of Modern Art), Space and the I (1944). His paintings became screens on which he projected his mental film. Monstrous, tentacled, clawed figures, like giant anthropomorphic insects soon moved into his crackling universes. In The Players of Heart (1945), The Pilgrim of Doubt (1946) and To be with (1946), a mythical, cruel and anxiety-ridden people engages in panic brawls and scuffles.

In New York Matta became a disciple of Marcel Duchamp, whose imperturbability was the opposite of Matta's effervescence. Like Duchamp, Matta formed an intellectual attitude based on word-plays. As he believed that the reconstruction or disintegration of the world was connected with a reconstruction or disintegration of language, Matta invented a vocabulary of neologisms to stimulate his pictorial inspiration. He claimed to be engaged in 'Conscienture' (the painting of the consciousness), and said, in his own idiom : 'I am going to make a tour of the I, from the South to the Rmis'. To show that some of his pictures were explorations of the depths of the ego he entitled them Je m'honte and Je m'arche (punning titles, turning je monte, 'I ascend', or je marche, 'I walk', into reflexive verbs). There is a temptation to see his pictures in terms of science fiction, with extraterrestrial battles and galactic flights, but this is too simple an interpretation. There was a period in which Matta launched into fantastic epic; in his Paris exhibition in May 1949 he showed a mythology which included Ermala the Scepticide, Marzana the Llium of envy, the Oigu of peace, Atyarth insolent, Icrogy fecundated, Rghuin monstrous triumphs, episodes of a chronicle worthy of the novels of H.P. Lovecraft.

Matta had another aim : the destruction of what Duchamp had called 'retinal painting'. At this time, Matta said to me, in a private conversation, 'I want to make pictures which leap to the eye'. And with his hands raised like a tiger's claws, he made as if to seize an invisible spectator. The figures in his paintings are not necessarily inhabitants of a parallel universe; they are men, or rather the distorted reflections of men in the mirror of a disturbed, frightened or aggressive unconscious mind. Matta is a cosmic painter, who tries to interpret the human condition face to face with infinity, and not as it nestles in the bosom of day to day reality.


In 1942 and 1944, Wifredo Lam had two exhibitions at Pierre Matisse's gallery in New York, exhibitions which definitively established his personality. Lam, a Cuban, had worked for a long time in Spain, where he had painted tragic Mother with Child groups. In
Paris in 1938, Picasso gave his pictures a warm, enthusiastic reception. Lam can indeed be regarded as the only true continucr of Picasso's work; he was not an imitator, for he was able to re-create the Spanish master's freedom of form for his own use. Lam left France in 1941, on board the ship which was taking Breton to Martinique, and returned to Cuba. The mastery of technique which he had acquired enabled him to confront the world of nature which he found there without any fear that his hand would betray him.

Lam painted totemic landscapes, where amid the luxuriant bush, trees uproot themselves, plants come to life, lianas stretch or contract, and divinities of light or shade come and go.
In Melembo (1943, New York, Pierre Matisse collection), The Jungle (1943, New York, Museum of Modern Art), Song of the Osmoses (1944, Indiana, J. Cantor collection), and The Watching Spirit (1946), he formed the obsessive style to which he was thereafter to remain faithful. His art is a visual incantation; he acclaimed the jungle as if it were a person, giving plants the appearance of animals, and animals a lapidary form. In his painting, plants have breasts like women, fruit is a round head with horns, bamboo has feet which look like hands, the insect blossoms, the wild beast has roots, and man is hewn from wood or from the rock of the earth which gave him birth. During a stay in Haiti, Lam studied the Voodoo cult, drew inspiration from the vevers, the symbolic patterns drawn in flour around the central pillar where the rites take place, and began to make allusions to deities such as Ogoun Ferraille, the god of war, or Papa Legba, master of the crossroads. Yet there is no exoticism in Lam, no geographical limitation. Although he was a passionate observer of the jungle and the rituals which he evokes in his paintings, they do not remain in their aboriginal form. The primitive earth as a whole, the primeval world, with its virgin forests, arises in his paintings like a challenge to the civilization of the cities.

Wifredo Lam
The Jungle

Wifredo Lam

The retrospective show of the work of Alexander Calder at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1943 established his role and his importance in modern art. Since 1933 Calder had lived on a farm at Roxbury in Connecticut. In 1938, he built, next door to the house, a huge studio where he tamed metal into geometric shapes, doing it all by kindness. Like Arp, Calder belongs to abstract art as much as to surrealism, and he is attached by bonds of friendship to both schools. His wit, which always retained a child-like freshness, his humour, and his longing to give life and movement to the inert and non-figurative, assured him a place of honour among the surrealists. It is easier to understand what Calder was about if one knows that as a young man, after he had got his engineering diploma, he spent every evening for a year at Barnum's circus, making sketches of the show. He was enchanted by the animals, and the quality of his observation of them is proved by his collection of drawings Animal Sketching (1926) and his illustrations for Aesop's Fables (1931). Calder conceived the idea of making a circus in miniature from pieces of wire, corks and scraps of wood. His dual talents as engineer and artist enabled him to create a miniature world of acrobats, jugglers and tightrope-walkers, who ran, jumped, and performed tricks. In Paris in 1926-7, he gave highly successful private shows of his circus to audiences of writers and artists.

Subsequently Calder moved on to geometrical sculptures - the 'stabiles' - made of discs and spheres painted black, white, blue and red in the spirit of neo-plasticism. Next he did animated sculpture; in his 'mobiles', which in their initial form were put into motion by hand or by a motor, several elements are set moving in a burlesque way, almost like an animated cartoon. His first wind mobile dates from 1932-3. From this time on, contraptions with metal leaves, trembling and spinning at the slightest breath of air, flowed from him like joyful songs. 'My dear old Sandy, the tough guy with the soul of a nightingale', was Miro's affectionate description of him. He was always to be a man of the circus, but on the scale of the Universe, reproducing abstract circus turns with lyrical toys. Calder returned to the stabiles in 1942 with Morning Star, and gave them the lightness of his mobiles. Then he did Constellations, stabiles fixed to the wall or ceiling. These were arrangements of elements of different materials, colour and shape. Thus, during this period in his Roxbury studio, Calder established all the factors in the evolution which he was to pursue after the war in France, in his studio in Touraine.

Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born July 22, 1898, Lawnton, Pa.,U.S.
died Nov. 11, 1976, New York City

U.S. sculptor best known as the originator of the mobile, a type of kinetic sculpture, the delicately balanced or suspended components of which move in response to motor power or air currents; by contrast, Calder's stationary sculptures are called stabiles. He also produced numerous wire figures, notably for a vast miniature circus.

Calder was the son and grandson of sculptors, and his mother was an accomplished painter. Despite growing up in an atmosphere of American academic art, he seems to have had little inclination to become an artist himself. Aside from an unusual amount of travelling and moving around, necessitated in part by his father's health, Calder's youth and interests were typical of middle-class American boys growing up in the early years of the century. His reminiscences of his early activities—which are remarkable for their completeness—have to do largely with family affairs, sports, and relations with his classmates. Perhaps the only indication of his subsequent career lay in his facility for making things and his enjoyment of gadgets.

After study at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., he was graduated in 1919 with a degree in mechanical engineering. For a time he travelled widely and held various engineering jobs. In 1922 he took drawing lessons at a night school in New York City and in 1923 entered the Art Students League, where he was influenced by painters of the New York scene, the so-called Ashcan School, of which the painters John Sloan and George Luks were among the leaders. At this point, his aspirations, like those of many American artists of the time, did not extend much beyond securing a well-paying job in illustration or commercial art. In 1924 he began doing illustrations for the National Police Gazette, for which he covered prize fights and the circus.

After several other routine commercial illustrating jobs, Calder decided in 1926 to go to Paris, the world centre for modern art. In Paris, while working on sculpture, he began, for his own amusement, to make toy like animals of wood and wire. Out of these he developed a miniature circus (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City), performances of which were attended by many of the leading artists and literary figures in Paris. The little circus figures, as well as his interest in continuous line drawings, led Calder to the creation of wire sculptures, such as the figure of a woman seven feet high, entitled “Spring,” and “Romulus and Remus,” a group that included a she-wolf 11 feet long.

Among the artists he met in Paris through his circus exhibitions, perhaps the most crucial for his subsequent career was the Spanish Surrealist painter Joan Miró. AlthoughSurrealism was reaching its first major peak in the late 1920s, Calder does not seem to have been conscious of the movement; in fact throughout his career he isolated himself from the “art world.” With Miró, however, he established an immediate rapport, and a lasting friendship was formed.

In 1930 Calder met the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian and visited his studio, an event that made him suddenly aware of the modern movement in painting and that influenced his work in the direction of the abstract. In the winter of 1931–32 he began to make motor-driven sculptures, consisting of various geometrical shapes. The name mobile was given to them by Marcel Duchamp. Aesthetically, movement, because of the changing relationships among the various elements, gave the sculpture a continually changing composition. The following year, when Calder exhibited similar works that did not move, Jean Arp described them as stabiles, a term that Calder continued to use. Beginning in 1932 most of his mobiles were given their movement by air currents.

In 1931, while fashioning a wedding ring for his marriage, Calder formed an interest in making jewelry. Also in 1931 he produced illustrations for an edition of the Fables of Aesop. Illustrations for a number of other books followed in the 1940s.

During the 1930s Calder further developed the concept of the mobile. The first major manifestation of his work was at the Paris World's Fair of 1937, where he created his so-called mercury fountain for the Spanish pavilion. In this sculpture, movement was introduced by a stream of mercury striking a plate that was attached to a swivelling rod. From this point, Calder's reputation expanded continually through annual exhibitions in Europe and America, climaxed by a showing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1943.

Although Calder's early mobiles and stabiles were on a relatively small scale, he increasingly moved toward monumentality in his later works. One very large stabile organization was an acoustical ceiling, which he designed in 1952 for the auditorium of the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas. In 1961 an exhibition on motion in art, which originated at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, emphasized the work of Calder and his followers. During the1960s his accomplishments were recognized through major exhibitions in Kassel, W.Ger.; at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City; and at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

In 1931 Calder was married to Louisa Cushing James, and after their marriage the Calders travelled continually, not only between France and the United States but also to South America and Asia. In 1955 and 1956 they visited India, where Calder created 11 mobiles.

In the 1970s Calder's studio was at Saché, near Tours. Therehe designed his major stabiles and experimented with free-form drawings and paintings. His normal method with large-scale works was to create a small model, the enlargement of which he supervised at a foundry in Tours. Although Calder lived most of the time in France, he maintained a home and studio in Roxbury, Conn.

H. Harvard Arnason

Alexander Calder

The painter who profited most from the presence of the surrealists in the United States was Arshile Gorky. When he came into contact with them, ail his genius, which had already passed through a number of successive phases, was unleashed in a lyrical explosion. Gorky was born by Lake Van in Turkish Armenia, and he had spent his childhood in a landscape of mountain and forest. At the outbreak of war in 1914 his mother died, and the family lost its wealth. He went to Georgia and became a student at the Polytechnic Institute in Tiflis. In 1920 he emigrated to America, and completed his education by his own efforts. He spent long hours in museums and galleries, and attended evening classes in various schools. In 1926 he became a teacher in New York, mainly at the Grand Central School of Art. After a figurative period, represented by The Artist and his Mother (1926), he was gripped by a passion for cubism, and in 1931 he said : 'The twentieth century - what intensity, what activity, what restless nervous energy! Has there in six centuries been better art than Cubism? No. Centuries will go past - artists of gigantic stature will draw positive elements from Cubism.' Later Gorky went through an abstract period under the influence of Kandinsky. He carried out huge frescoes for airports in New York and New Jersey, and for the Aviation Pavilion at the New York Exhibition in 1939.
When he had assimilated the experiences which modern art had to offer, Gorky received from Masson, from Matta and from Breton, whom he worshipped, the stimulus he needed to get him really launched into flight. In 1943 he came back into contact with nature. He worked in the open air in the Virginia countryside, and did a number of drawings of leaves and flowers, but in a transfigured form.
In The Liver is the Cock's Comb (1944, Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Gorky, with sweeping gestures which seemed to embrace the universe, launched into the feverish monologue which he was to continue from painting to painting until his death by suicide in 1948. Gorky was able to adapt an abstract language to the most subtle sensations, to the most confused psychic states, as in Agony (1947, New York, Museum of Modern Art). The interplay of lines and signs, punctuated by brilliant splashes of colour, on a carefully worked background, expresses the outpouring of the unconscious, the unfathomable mystery of nature. Gorky's freedom of expression, which is close to automatism, was never mere improvisation; he never reached the definitive version of a painting until it had passed through a number of successive preliminary versions. He was to become the master of the New York school, to which he transmitted surrealism in a personal translation which had retained the essence of the movement.

Arshile Gorky