Surrealism Circa 1921 – 1940



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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

20-minute quiz essay question to write in class next week after Blake Stimson’s lecture in Mariposa 1000

  • 20-minute quiz essay question to write in class next week after Blake Stimson’s lecture in Mariposa 1000
  • Using at least four photographs from tonight’s lecture (fully identified) present the thesis and the most important “conditions” of Surrealism that Rosalind Krauss represents in her essay, “The Photographic Conditions of Surrealism.”
  • 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.

The Surrealist Revolution (left) Photomontage for La Révolution Surréaliste, nº 12, 1929 by René Magritte (Belgian, 1898-1967), Enquête sur l'amour’ (Inquiry on Love) (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) Ceremonial dance paddle, Easter Island, Polynesia, from André Breton’s collection of Oceanic art, representing a highly stylized male figure with Janus-face head and phallic finial showing retracted foreskin.

19th Century Symbolism and Romanticism – the subconscious as the subject of art. (left) Max Klinger, episode from print series, The Story of the Glove, 1881 (right) Francisco Goya, Saturn c. 1821-1823, Oil on plaster remounted on canvas

Precursors to Surrealism Giorgio de Chirico, Metaphysical School (Italian, b. Greece1888-1978) (left) The Melancholy and Mystery of a Street, 1914, oil on canvas, 34 x 28” (right) The Great Metaphysician, 1917, oil on canvas, 41 x 27” Influence on De Chirico of 19th C. painters, Arnold Böcklin (center)

  • Arnold Böcklin, Isle of the Dead, 1880

Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, 1931, oil on canvas, 9 x 13”

  • “The transcription of reveries.”
  • Academic methods used to create hand-painted dream photographs.

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

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.

19th century Spirit photography is a kind of proto-Surrealist photography: The camera represents what is not “real” but “sur” real = a higher, irrational reality Unknown Photographer, The Ghost of Milton, 3 1/2 x 7 in., Albumen silver stereograph, c. 1860

  • Since for André Breton, “It is not a question of drawing, it is simply a question of tracing,” photography assumed a privileged place over surrealist painting because it is an actual trace (imprint) of the phenomenological, optical reality, but framed and deranged by the subconscious.

Eugène Atget (French 1857 – 1927), Corsets, Boulevard de Strasbourg, 1912 From 1898 until his death, Atget made perhaps as many as 10,000 negatives in the city. He documented its historic core - buildings and monuments, ancient streets and civic spaces, public parks and gardens – everything except middle-class life, in single images and also in sequences of views, creating a cumulative portrait of a disappearing Paris.

  • Atget did not call himself a Surrealist.
  • He was appropriated as a “found” Surrealist

Eugène Atget, Shop, Avenue des Gobelins, 1925

Brassaï (b. Gyula Hlász, Romanian 1898-1984) Illustration for L’Amour fou by André Breton, 1937: “A Paris La Tour Saint-Jacques….”

  • How are the photographs in Breton’s books oneiric (relating to, experienced in, or similar to a dream or dreams)?
  • ”. . . and when will all the books that are worth anything stop being illustrated with drawings and appear only with photographs?”
  • – André Breton, 1925

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004), Andalusia, 1933 Giorgio de Chirico, The Melancholy and Mystery of a Street, 1914, oil on canvas

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Madrid, 1933. Surrealist theory. “The flickering grace of the children is perfectly foiled by the deliberate progress of a portly, middle-aged pedestrian. The formal logic cannot be dissociated from the psychological perception of the narrative.” – Mark Haworth-Booth

  • “The split second that he called the decisive moment is not the height of action, but rather that instant when the formal spatial relationships of the subjects reveal their essential meaning.” - Robert Hirsh
  • “the simultaneous recognition, in fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as a precise organization of forms which gave that event its proper expression.”
  • - Cartier-Bresson

Cartier-Bresson, The Gestapo Informer, Dessau, Germany, 1945 “Cartier-Bresson created a shallow stage for his subjects to reveal themselves within. This construct made it simpler to forecast and follow action, removed subjects from their normal environment, and transformed them into portable collage material for surrealistic theater.” - Hirsch

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) Laughing Mannequins, 1930 “found” disjunction between the “real” and the uncanny

  • When Tina Modotti was deported from Mexico in 1930 for political reasons, she turned her camera and her job Mexican Folkways over to Alvarez Bravo.

Alvarez Bravo, Wooden Horse, n.d.

Brassaï, Involuntary Sculpture, 1933 “masturbatory” bits of detritus like gum and bus tickets photographed by Brassaï for Salvador Dali

  • The cropping, the frame, signifies representation rather than “nature.”
  • The frame “is a signifier of signification” itself.

Brassaï, Involuntary Sculpture, 1933

  • Convulsive beauty – the found object that “informs the
  • recipient of his own desire. The found-object is a sign
  • of that desire.”

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.

  • Brassai, Nudes, 1933
  • Phallus-female torso
  • Man Ray, Minotaur, 1933
  • Brancusi, Torso, 1924 & 1926
  • Surrealist “formlessness”:
  • erasing categories of sexuality

(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

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.”

“…the Henri and the Man Ray share the same recourse to the definition of a photographic subject through the act of framing it, even as they share the same enframing shape.” (Krauss) In both photographs the frame has a sexual import.

  • (left) Florence Henri (US, 1893-1982), Self-Portrait, 1928. Henri studied at the Bauhaus under Lazlo Moholy-Nagy.
  • (right) Man Ray, Monument to Sade, 1933. Published in Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution, May, 1933. The Surrealists celebrated the writings of the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), who was imprisoned for much of his life because of his deviant writings about sexual cruelty.

Man Ray, (left) La Marquise Casatti, 1922; (right) Untitled, 1922. SURREALIST DOUBLING: “Repetition is…the indicator that the “wild sounds” of babbling have been made deliberate, intentional: and that what they intend is meaning. Doubling is in this sense the “signifier of signification.” – Krauss, “The Photographic Conditions of Surrealism”

Man Ray, Rayon X, 1922, Rayogram Surrealist “doubling” (hands over faces), ghosts, and automatism

Claude Cahun (French, born Lucie Schwob, 1894-1954) and Marcel Moore (French, born Suzanne Malherbe,1892-1972) (left) What Do You Want From Me? 1928 (right) Double Exposure in a Rock Pool, 1928

  • Surrealist Doubling

Salvador Dali, The Phenomenon of Ecstasy, 1933, photomontage

  • Dali’s “Paranoic” vision is a form of “doubling”: a “photographic condition of Surrealism.

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

(left) Man Ray, Rayon X, 1922, Rayogram. Surrealism (right) Hannah Höch, Cut With the Kitchen Knife, photomontage, 1919, Berlin Dada

  • How did German Dada photomontage artists like Hannah Hoch use juxtaposition or (disrupted) syntax in their works?
  • How does spacing in a Dada photomontage destroy the “simultaneous present” characteristic of a photograph? Compare these works.

André Kertész (Hungary,1894 -1987), Bathing, Dunaharaszti, Hungary, 1919 The double

  • Man Ray, Veiled Erotic, c.1930
  • (Meret Oppenheim)
  • Joan Miro, Spanish Surrealist
  • Mannequin for the 1938 Surrealist
  • exhibition in Paris, 1938
  • Freudian psychoanalytic fetish: the woman’s body objectified as robotic “Other”
  • to presumed heterosexual male viewer’s identity and desire

Manuel Alvarez Bravo, El Sistema Nerviso del Gran Simpatico, 1929 Contrast between male and female representation in advertisement and “irrational” science” of the surrealist synthesis

Alvarez Bravo, Good Reputation Sleeping (La buena fama durmiendo),1939, commissioned by André Breton for the cover of the International Surrealist Exhibition (1940). Spiked cactus, feet and hips bandaged, pubic hair exposed. Censored and not published.

(left) Brassaï, Odalisque, 1934/5, cliché-verre, Plate III from Transmutations album: “I compelled myself here to reveal the hidden figure which lay in each mental picture. . . . The dislocated parts of the photographs reorganized themselves into new combinations. . . . I cut their flesh as one carves a block to break loose the figure which it conceals. . . . At times some debris has survived: a piece of quivering breast, a foreshortened face, a leg, an arm. Enshrined in graphism this debris gives to our obsessions, to our dreams the flash of the instant, the breath of reality.” -Brassai

  • Man Ray, Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924

Hans Bellmer (German 1902-1975) Doll (La Poupee), 1935 and (right) 1936

  • The Surrealists were fascinated by automata. They were avant-garde (anti-tradition) but traditional in their use of the female body to represent suppressed sexual desire and psychological, political anxieties.

Bellmer, The Doll (La Poupee), both 1935

André Kertész (1894 -1987), Distortions series, 1930s; manipulations with mirrors

Raoul Ubac (Belgian,1910-1985) from the series, Battle of Pentheseua/Amazons, 1938-39, brûlage (applying heat to melt the emulsion). Collage created from created from photographs of a single woman, collaged, re-photographed

J.A. Boiffard, Illustration for Georges Bataille, Le Gros Orteil, Documents, no. 6, 1929. Bataille’s surrealist theory focuses on the “informe” and is preoccupied with the “low” or “base.”



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