Rachel Cohen

Stepping out of the Shadows

The Militant Muse: Love, War and the Women of Surrealism

By

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When people write condensed accounts of Surrealism, they generally refer to the best-known figures: André Breton, the magnetic and sometimes authoritarian self-proclaimed leader of the movement; Max Ernst, one of its most powerful painters and creators of collages and sculptures, his figures monstrous and hybrid; Man Ray, photographer of smoothness and celebrity; Antonin Artaud, with his brilliantly incendiary view of the theatre. They talk about Paris in the 1920s, about experimentation with automatic writing and new techniques of making films. They mention the psychological distress of surviving the First World War and the way these artists offered a more emotional, less detached stance than Cubism did; the Surrealists were more politically revolutionary than their Cubist counterparts. It is widely recognised that figures such as Marcel Duchamp, who was associated with Surrealism, though not exactly a canonical member, opened up important new avenues for art. Happenings, installations, mixed media work, ready-mades, art films, performance pieces – all of these draw significantly on practices developed by the Surrealists. 

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