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Surrealism Circa 1921 – 1940. " Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissection table.“ - Lautréamont Les chants de Maldoror.

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surrealism circa 1921 1940

Surrealism Circa 1921 – 1940

"Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella

on a dissection table.“

- Lautréamont

Les chants de Maldoror


The Surrealist Revolution (left)Photomontage for LaRévolution Surréaliste, nº 12, 1929by René Magritte (Belgian, 1898-1967), Enquête sur l\'amour’ (Inquiry on Love)(bottom right) Surrealist group, Paris, 1930, L-R: Tristan Tzara, Paul Eluard, André Breton, Hans Arp, Salvador Dali, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, René Crevel, Man Ray


(left) The World in the Time of the Surrealists, Brussels, 1929"We are determined to make a Revolution." "We have joined the word surrealism to the word revolution solely to show the disinterested, detached and even entirely desperate character of this revolution." - André Breton

(right) Easter Island, Polynesia, ceremonial dance paddle (rapa) from André Breton’s collection of Oceanic art. It represents a highly stylized male figure with Janus-face head and phallic finial showing retracted foreskin.


Precursors to Surrealism: 19th Century Romanticism and Symbolism (left) Arnold Bocklin, The Isle of the Dead, 1880, oil on canvas, Symbolism (right) Francisco Goya, Saturn c. 1821-1823, Oil on plaster remounted on canvas, Romanticism


“Naturalist” or “Hand Painted Dream” SurrealismRené Magritte (Belgian, 1898-1967) The Treachery of Images, 1928-29, oil on canvas, 23 x 31”, LACMA, Deconstruction

magritte les valeurs personnelles personal values 1952 31 1 2 in x 39 3 8 in oil on canvas sfmoma
Magritte, Les Valeurs personnelles (Personal Values), 1952, 31 1/2 in. x 39 3/8 in., oil on canvas, SFMOMA

John Baldessari at 2007 exhibition he

designed: Treachery of Images: René

Magritte and Contemporary Art. LACMA


(left) Charles Ray (American, b. 1953), Fall \'91, 1992, mixed media, 96 in. H(right) Robert Gober (American, b.1954), Untitled, 1989-92, mixed media

(left) Robert Gober, Untitled, 1990, beeswax, human hair, pigment(right) Magritte, The Rape, 1935, oil on canvas
"The eye exists in its savage state. The marvels of the earth ... have as their sole witness the wild eye that traces all its colors back to the rainbow."

- André Breton


Surrealist magazine, La Révolution Surréaliste [The Surrealist Revolution, 12 issues,1924-1929] was modeled on the conservative scientific magazine, La Nature. In a mock scientific manner, specimens of automatic writing and records of dreams were illustrated with photographs, mostly by the “machine-poet” Man Ray (American,1890-1976). The review succeeded in shocking everyone.


Man Ray, Minotaur, 1933, for the Surrealist magazine, Minotaur. Collapses human and animal into a single (border) “impossible” category: bull-human, like the Greek mythical monster.


Man Ray, Minotaur, 1933

Surrealist “formlessness”:

erasing categories of sexuality

Brassai, Nudes, 1933

Phallus-female torso

Brancusi, Torso, 1924 & 1926

man ray anatomies c 1930 phallus neck double entendre
Man Ray, Anatomies, c. 1930 phallus-neck (double entendre)

“The frame announces the camera’s ability to find and isolate what we could call the world’s constant writing of erotic symbols, its ceaseless automatism.”

(left) Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977), Nude Bent Forward, Paris, 1931(right) Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997), Le Pere Ubu, 1936

Surrealist defamiliarization becomes “Formless (Informe)” of the subconscious

and the dream


AUTOMATONS and mannequins: Hans Bellmer (Polish, 1902-75), La Poupée (Doll), 1935-49, hand colored gelatin silver print(right) Bellmer, La Poupée, 1935-36: (center) La Poupée), 1934; gelatin silver prints“Dolls” are made of wood, metal, papier-mâché and dressed with wigs, clothing, etc. or not

The art object is not the sculpture; it is the photograph.


SURREALIST PHOTOGRAPHY: MANNIQUINS AND “DISTORTIONS”Eugène Atget (French 1857-1927), Boulevard de Strasbourg, Corsets, 1912, albumen silver printAndré Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985), Distortion #4, 1933, gelatin silver print


Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali, frames from Un Chien Andalou (France) An Andalusian Dog, Surrealist film, 1928. Eyes, insects, metamorphosis, erotics, madness of the dream & subconscious


METAMOPHOSIS OF FORMSalvador Dali (Spanish, 1904-89) interpreted photograph, Paranoic Face, 1931 from Le Surrealisme au Service de la Revolution, no.3. “voluntary hallucination" = the "critical paranoic method"(right) Dali, Apparition of a face and a Fruit Dish, 1930

I think the time is rapidly coming when it will be possible…to systematize confusion thanks to a paranoiac and active process of thought, and so assist in discrediting completely the world of reality.”

- Dali

salvador dali the lugubrious game 1929 oil on canvas
Salvador Dali, The Lugubrious Game, 1929, oil on canvas

"Repugnance is the sentry standing right near the door to those things

that we desire most.” - Salvador Dali

salvador dali the persistence of memory 1931 oil on canvas 9 x 13 moma nyc
Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, 1931oil on canvas, 9 x 13,” MoMA NYC

“The transcription of reveries.” Hand-painted dream photographs. Dali’s morphological aesthetics of the soft and hard and the search for form: “un-form” (Informe)

Cape Creus, Catalonia


ANXIOUS VISIONS for Anxious Times – social contexts of Surrealist imagery(left) SalvadorDali, Soft Construction with Boiled Beans: Premonitions of Civil War, 1936, oil on canvas, 39 x 39” (Spanish Civil War), Surrealism (right) compare FranciscoGoya, 1821 (Napoleonic wars in Spain), Romanticism


AUTOMATISM: Surrealist “exquisite corpse” drawings (left) by Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, Max Morise, Joan Miró, c. 1926.(right) “exquisite corpse” by Victor Brauner, André Breton, Jacques Hérold and Yves Tanguy, 1935.


AUTOMATISM and abstract biomorphic SurrealismAndré Masson (French, 1896-1987) Quare de vulva exuxiste me (Why dids’t thou bring me forth from the womb?), 1923, pen & ink on paper(right) Battle of Fishes, 1926, sand, gesso, oil, pencil, and charcoal on canvas, 14 x 28,


Joan Miró (Spanish,1893-1983), Carnival of Harlequin, 1924-5, oil on canvas, 26 x 36” Response to Cubism: "I will break their guitar."


BIOMORPHISM + POPULAR CULTUREJoan Mirò, Painting, 1933, oil on canvas, 5’8” x 6’5” MoMA, NYC (right) source collage of clippings from equipment catalogues


DISJUNCTION / READYMADE /UNCANNY OBJECT(left) Joan Miró, Object, assemblage: stuffed parrot on wood perch, stuffed silk stocking with velvet garter and doll’s paper shoe suspended in hollow wood frame, derby hat, hanging cork ball, celluloid fish, and engraved map, 32 x 12 x 10,” 1936(right) Joseph Cornell (American, 1903-1972] ) Medici Boy, 1942-52. mixed media assemblage


(left) Exhibition of Surrealist Objects, Paris, 1936, mock-scientific display(right) Marcel Duchamp, Surrealist Exhibition / Installation, 16 Miles of String, Peggy Guggenheim Gallery, NYC, 1942 – the labyrinth of the Minotaur


SURREALISM . DIASPORIC INDIGENISM / “MAGIC REALISM”Wilfredo Lam (Cuban, 1902-82), The Jungle, 1943, gouache on paper mounted on canvas, 7’10” x 7’6”, MoMA NYCSanterìa: blend of African and Catholic religious practices(left) Wilfredo Lam in his Havana studio, 1947

matta roberto matta echaurren chilean 1911 2002 disasters of mysticism 1942 oil on canvas 38 x 51
Matta (Roberto Matta Echaurren, Chilean, 1911-2002), Disasters of Mysticism, 1942oil on canvas, 38 x 51”
frida kahlo mexican 1907 1954 right what the water yields me oil on canvas 1938
Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 1907-1954) (right) What the Water Yields Me, oil on canvas,1938

Imogen Cunningham, Frida

Kahlo in San Francisco, 1931

Kahlo, Henry Ford Hospital, 1932, oil on metal, 12 x 15.5 in. (compare left) Mexican ex-voto (retablo), oil on tin, 1878, 14" x 10"

Aztec goddess Tlazolteotl in

the act of giving birth to a man.

Kahlo, My Birth, 1932, painted after a miscarriage

coinciding with the death of the artist’s mother

“How I imagined I was born.” (a double death?)


Leonora Carrington (British-born Mexican Surrealist Painter and Writer, born in 1917) Self-Portrait (The White Horse Inn), 1936-7, oil on canvas, 25 x 32”


Dorothea Tanning (American, 1910 - ) (left) Ein klein nachtmusik "A little night music," 1946(right) Birthday, 1942, oil on canvas, 40.25 x 25.5 inches (center, below) with husband Max Ernst, Sedona, Arizona, 1948

Dorothea Tanning, Hôtel du Pavot, cloth and mixed materials, permanent installation, “life” size, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2000

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-66), Suspended Ball, 1930-31 (1965 reconstruction), plaster and metal, 24 x 14 x 13”(right) Constantin Brancusi, Torse (wood 1922; bronze 1926)

Sexual “nudes” undoing

categories of “masculine”

and “feminine” desire

alberto giacometti woman with her throat cut femme gorg e bronze 8 x 34 x 25 moma nyc
Alberto Giacometti, Woman with Her Throat Cut (Femme égorgée), bronze, 8 x 34 x 25”, MoMA, NYC
alberto giacometti woman with her throat cut femme gorg e bronze 8x34 x 25 moma nyc
Alberto Giacometti, Woman with Her Throat Cut (Femme égorgée), bronze, 8x34 x 25”, MoMA, NYC
Giacometti, The Palace at 4 a.m., 1932-3, construction in wood, glass, wire, and string, 25 x 28 x 16”, MoMA NYC (top right)

1932 sketch indicates



THE END OF THE AGE OF EUROPE AND EMERGENCE OF NEW YORK SCHOOL(left) Hitler occupies Paris, 1940Artists in the Artists in Exile show at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, March, 1942. Left to right, first row: Matta, Ossip Zadkine, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger; second row: André Breton, Piet Mondrian, André Masson, Amédée Ozenfant, Jacques Lipchitz, Pavel Tchelitchew, Kurt Seligmann, Eugene Berman


END OF THE AGE OF EUROPE AND EMERGENCE OF NEW YORK SCHOOLMax Ernst, Europe After the Rain, 1940-42, oil on canvas, 21 x 58,” automatist technique of decalcomania, which involves pressing paint between two surfaces