Art of the 20th Century



A Revolution in the Arts

 

 



Art Styles in 20th century Art Map

 

 

The Great Avant-garde Movements


 

 



Surrealist Art




 

 

Preface

CHAPTER ONE

Precursors

CHAPTER TWO

Anti-art

CHAPTER THREE

Conquest of the marvellous

CHAPTER FOUR

Surrealism and painting

CHAPTER FIVE

Towards a revolutionary art

CHAPTER SIX

Across the world

CHAPTER SEVEN

The object

CHAPTER EIGHT

Festivals of the imagination

CHAPTER NINE

In the United States

CHAPTER TEN

Surrealist architecture

CHAPTER ELEVEN

The post-war period

CHAPTER TWELVE

Occultation
 

 

 

 

*
see also:

Surrealism - 1924

Max Ernst
"A Week of Kindness" (A surrealistic novel in collage)

EXPLORATION:
Rene Magritte "Thought rendered visible"

EXPLORATION:
Salvador Dali

EXPLORATION:
Surrealism  "The Dream of Revolution"

*
 


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

 


CHAPTER SEVEN

 

 



The object



Meret Oppenheim
Joseph Cornell

Jacques Doucet
Jean Benoit
Elsa Schiaparelli

 


Andre Breton
Self-Portrait
19
29

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

Poem-Object
1935


Andre Breton
Poem-Object
1941

 

 

 

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
1936
 

 

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?

 


Man Ray
Self-Portrait
1930


Man Ray
Cift

 

 











Man Ray
Indestructible Object

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.

 



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.
 


Remedios Varo, Meret Oppenheim
and Leonora Carrington
An Animated Portrayal of Female Surrealists


Man Ray
Portrait of Meret Oppenheim


 


Meret Oppenheim
Object (Luncheon in Fur)

1936
 


Meret Oppenheim
My Nurse
1936

 

 

 

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
Untitled (Medici Prince)
1953


J
oseph
Cornell

Taglioni's
Jewel Basket
1940

 

 

 


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.

 

 


Marcel Duchamp
Rotary Hemisphere (Precision Optics)

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.
 

 

 

Jacques Doucet

(1924 – 1994)

French surrealist painter


Jacques Doucet
Croisee


 


Jacques Doucet
Les Petites Alpilles

 


 


Jacques Doucet
Sans titre

 


 


Jacques Doucet
Jeune fille Indienne


Jacques Doucet
Nomades, aux abords du grand désert blanc

 


 


Jacques Doucet
Untitled


Jacques Doucet
Veines du glacier

 

 

 

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
Mobile

 

 










Gherasim Luca

 Vierge a la Colonne

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.
 


Salvador Dali
Surrealist Object Functioning Symbolically
 

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'.

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

Execution Du Testament Du Marquis De Sade
 


Jean Benoit
The Eagle, Miss...


 


Jean Benoit
The same Way

 


 


Jean Benoit
Adam and Eve


Jean Benoit
The Magnetic Fields
 


 


Jean Benoit
Fad in head

 


 


Jean Benoit
Untitled

 


 


Jean Benoit
The Necrophile
1964-65
 


Jean Benoit
Costume for the Execution of the Testament
of the Marquis de Sade
1950

 


 


Jean Benoit
Costume for the Execution of the Testament
of the Marquis de Sade
1950


Jean Benoit
Costume for the Execution of the Testament
of the Marquis de Sade
1950

 


 


Jean Benoit
Untitled


Jean Benoit
Untitled

 


 


Jean Benoit
Untitled


Jean Benoit
Untitled

 


 


Jean Benoit
Untitled


Jean Benoit
Untitled

 

 

 

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.

 

 


Rauschenberg
Odalisk


Arman
Violon cubiste



 

 


Elsa Schiaparelli
Shoe hat
 


Elsa Schiaparelli
Monkey Fur Shoes
1938

 

 

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