André Breton,…‘Surrealistic Rabbits and Pillows’
“The mind which plunges into Surrealism, relives with burning excitement the best part of childhood”. André Breton
André Breton (French: 19 February 1896 – 28 September 1966) was a French writer and poet. He is known best as the founder of Surrealism. His writings include the first Surrealist Manifesto (Manifeste du surréalisme) of 1924, in which he defined surrealism as “pure psychic automatism”.
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. The aim was to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality.” Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself.
“Surrealism. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, or in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation”. André Breton
Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact. Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was above all a revolutionary movement.
Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities during World War I and the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the 1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music of many countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy, and social theory.
In a publication The Magnetic Fields (Les Champs Magnétiques), a collaboration with Soupault, Breton implemented the principle of automatic writing. He published the Surrealist Manifesto in 1924, and was editor of the magazine La Révolution surréaliste from 1924. A group of writers became associated with him: Philippe Soupault, Louis Aragon, Paul Éluard, René Crevel, Michel Leiris, Benjamin Péret, Antonin Artaud, and Robert Desnos.
“It is living and ceasing to live that are imaginary solutions. Existence is elsewhere”. – The last two sentences of the Manifesto
“Eyes exist in the savage state”. André Breton – Surrealism and Painting; 1926
Anxious to combine the themes of personal transformation found in the works of Arthur Rimbaud with the politics of Karl Marx, Breton joined the French Communist Party in 1927, from which he was expelled in 1933. During this time, he survived mostly by the sale of paintings from his art gallery.
In 1938, Breton accepted a cultural commission from the French government to travel to Mexico. After a conference at the National Autonomous University of Mexico about surrealism, Breton stated after getting lost in Mexico City (as no one was waiting for him at the airport) “I don’t know why I came here. Mexico is the most surrealist country in the world”.
However, visiting Mexico provided the opportunity to meet Leon Trotsky. Breton and other surrealists traveled via a long boat ride from Patzcuaro to the town of Erongaricuaro. Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were among the visitors to the hidden community of intellectuals and artists.
“Everything that is doddering, squint-eyed, infamous, sullying, and grotesque is contained for me in this single word: God”. André Breton
Breton was an avid collector of art, ethnographic material, and unusual trinkets. He was particularly interested in materials from the northwest coast of North America. During a financial crisis he experienced in 1931, most of his collection (along with his friend Paul Éluard’s) was auctioned. He subsequently rebuilt the collection in his studio and home at rue Fontaine 42. The collection grew to over 5,300 items: modern paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, books, art catalogs, journals, manuscripts, and works of popular and Oceanic art. His works include the case studies Nadja (1928) and L’Amour fou [Mad Love] (1937).
“Love is always before you. Love it”. André Breton – Surrealism and Painting; 1926
Surrealistic Pillow is the second album by American psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, released in February 1967 as RCA Victor LSP-3766 (stereo) & LPM-3766 (mono). It is the first album by the band with vocalist Grace Slick and drummer Spencer Dryden.
“In the world we live in everything militates in favor of things that have not yet happened, of things that will never happen again”. André Breton
“Everything tends to make us believe that there exists a certain point of the mind at which life and death, the real and the imagined, past and future, the communicable and the incommunicable, high and low, cease to be perceived as contradictions”. Andre Breton