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H V
106 articles
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24 annotations
 religion and spirituality 618
  • the mirror stage is suggested as the primary stage in the perception of a person that helps to conceive the real image from the self and from others.
  • The mirror image in early childhood serves to mould a self-image that is not actually a self-image, but an ideal one of what we want to be, and, consequently, it serves to set a psychological drive toward self-definition based on a imaginary structure forced by the identification with external social order.
  • to evoke hidden side of human mind, the unconscious, so that people could explain things that seem ambiguous or, on the contrary, obvious.
  • the society that we live in often imposes the roles on its members in order to protect itself from misunderstandings.
  • because the roles we play in the everyday life can differ greatly from what we are and who we are because of the necessity to adjust to the conditions of the outer world.
  • many identities are reflected in the mirror and it is up to a person to see or not to see them.
  • , human is in fragmented body in the real world and the fragmented body refers not only to images of the physical body but also to any sense of fragmentation and disunity
  • he thought integrated identity to be illusion of synthesis which is not really existent in the real world.
  • Lacan’s key concept regarding the mirror stage is for challenging the integrated identity that reflects human’s narcissistic desire for wholeness, totalitarian or self-autonomy which we should overcome to be mature.
  • In this regard, the mirror in the Kusama’s work is the place for searching human identity on the dialectical relationship between ‘seeing and to be seen’.
  • mirror image has some deceiving aspects that alienate human from the real self by representing the Narcissistic illusion of self-autonomy
  • The physician should be opaque to the patient and, like a mirror, show nothing but what is shown to him.
  • treat the mirrors as an instrument for initiating self-analysis
  • The more a person reflects on his/her self image in the mirror, the more he/she is likely to change in the inner world to adjust to the conditions of the outer world. On the other hand, it is possible that a person changes the inner world to have it as a shelter from the oppression and all negative factors that exist in the outer world.
14 annotations
  • "The mirror stage is a drama...which manufactures for the subject, caught up in the lure of spatial identification, the succession of phantasies that extends from a fragmented body-image to a form of its totality
  • aggressive tension, the subject identifies with the image: this primary identification with the counterpart is what forms the Ego
  • Lacan hypothesized, is first felt by the infant as a rivalry with its own image, because the wholeness of the image threatens it with fragmentation; thus the mirror stage gives rise to an aggressive tension between the subject and the image
  • The child sees its image as a whole, but this contrasts with the lack of coordination of the body and leads the child to perceive a fragmented body
  • s formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience", the first of his Écrits.
  • It illustrates the conflictual nature of the dual relationship". The dual relationship (relation duelle) refers not only to the relation between the Ego and the body, which is always characterized by illusions of similarity and reciprocity, but also to the relation between the Imaginary and the Real. T
  • shows that the Ego is the product of misunderstanding
  • formation of the Ego via the process of identification, the Ego being the result of identifying with one's own specular image.
  • as representing a permanent structure of subjectivity, or as the paradigm of "Imaginary order
  • feelings towards the image are mixed
  • caught between
  • hatred
  • and love
  • the turning of oneself into an object that can be viewed by the child from outside themselves
14 annotations
  • different reconstructions
  • The traditional work of art is experienced mainly through distanced contemplation.
  • In contrast, modern cultural forms such as photographs, TV shows and film do not lend themselves to contemplation. They are imperative, challenging and agitating the viewer, putting up signposts.
  • this loss of tradition brings the work of art into the distinct life-situation of the reader, viewer or listene
  • positive aspect
  • their insertion in a tradition
  • unpredictability in creativit
  • The autonomy of art is also lost.
  • the individual reaction is produced or compounded by the reaction of the entire audience.
  • rise of statistics.
  • It loses the continuity of its presentation and appreciation.
  • Responses to art are also increasingly collective – as in audience responses
  • speeding-up and close-ups.
  • distraction became an alternative to contemplation.
  • distraction involves the audience absorbing the work of art. Reception of art now normally happens in a state of distraction, especially in the case of film. ‘The public is an examiner, but an absent-minded one’.
  • contemplation is a kind of domination by the author: the work of art absorbs the audience.
  • generalised anxiety, and a death of private reflection
  • The loss of distance between meaning and its deployment in immediate propaganda may produce a flattened world in which revolutionary possibilities become invisible. If the audience absorbs the work of art, but the audience is itself trapped in mythologies and alienated subjectivity, then the revolutionary power of art is truncated
  • ritual aspects of art.
  • Art is to be reconstructed as something to be used, recomposed, combined rhizomatically, as a montage.
  • redible only from the exact angle at which they are shot.
  • film meets the need which Dadaism tried to create by earlier, inadequate means
  • unbelievable.
  • equipment-free realit
  • Distraction is fundamentally social. It replaces the viewer’s thoughts by moving images, stopping the viewer from thinking.
  • brought into new combinations by the reader.
  • tactile or actively
  • lived appreciation of art
  • art should be participatory and interactive,
  • habit
  • This dual process of destroying and renewing meanings is the flip-side of the crisis and renewal of humanity
  • e reality, appearing as credibly real, is paradoxically only the effect of extensive artifice. Yet it appe
32 annotations
  • Xu Zhen’s sculptures are masterpieces of psychology, their refined, impassive features adding ever so artfully to the increasing disquietude of the viewer.
  • there’s a kind of democratic aspect, a kind of balance you can find in it.
  • When I create a work, I’m always trying to find some kind of contradiction. I
  • resemble each other and reconcile
  • mirror image
  • We can tell where one ends and the other begins, but the ensuing synthesis has a harmony all of its very own.
  • An entire fundament of Chinese culture is turned on its head and compelled to union with the archetypal symbol of the West.
  • he removes the heads of the Greek figures and upon their necks, attaches inverted headless statues of the Longxin Buddha, the Cosmic Buddha,
  • a symbol of western cultural appropriation
  • a replica of the friezes of the East Pediment of the Parthenon, a
  • ing of ways
  • When I play with cultural elements, they don’t carry the same weight as they do for others.
  • two portrayals of a secular goddess of the modern era, the Statue of Liberty.
  • The very conceptual framework that gives the usual meaning to this image has been taken away.
  • Christ-like figure
  • as if frantically striving to restore their balance and stop themselves from falling.
  • an array of Apollos, Zeuses, Poseidons and Heracles
  • the daughter of Metis,
  • an interesting dialogue with its gigantic, benign and fluxional Corinthian counterpart
  • playful, irreverent and profoundly moving.
  • his negotiation and inversion of stereotype and metaphor
  • ‘Western’ culture from a modern Chinese perspective
  • signify an evolution of understanding of the ancient Greek cultural heritage isolated from western power narratives, or is it emphasising the enduring and eternal qualities of the irrational basis of the human subconscious,
  • they being symbolic of healing, knowledge, autochthonous power and the transition between the upper and lower worlds, the Corinthian snake provides an even greater conundrum.
  • For the western viewer, ensconced within a classical discourse whose understanding of Ancient Greek culture is often monolithic, angular and linear,
  • It challenges stereotypes and confounds pre-conceptions of the manner in which culture is appropriated, so as to reinforce a particular articulation of civilisation.
26 annotations
  • Afro
  • Afro-Portuguese ivories reflect both indigenous African and Renaissance European visual elements
  • a social class of middlemen
  • Loango coast souvenir ivories also reflect indigenous artistic traditions for relief-carved artworks
  • appealed to Western tastes for illustrated narrative
  • Afro-Portuguese and Loango Coast ivories incorporate visual elements from both foreign and indigenous sources
  • Kongo oliphants and other ivory sculptures from this period are often described as Afro-Portuguese ivories
  • Scenes commonly portrayed in relief on the ivories capture the dynamic and cosmopolitan coastal activity related to the transatlantic trade.
  • colonial rule
  • demonstrates Kongo sculptors’ adaptability in providing artworks of great artistic accomplishment for both indigenous and foreign clients
  • Loango Coast ivorie
  • popular souvenir
  • e collective effects of handling, use, age, and environment
  • e in colo
  • aesthetic qualities
  • The summits of these scepters are sometimes covered or filled with a mixture of clay-packed medicinal herbs that served to reinforce a leader’s spiritual power
  • as emblems of royal and chiefly authority
  • scepters
  • devotional and decorative
  • elaborate ivory sculpture
  • With the rise of transatlantic trade from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, ivory became one of the most valuable African natural resources desired by Western industry. Eventually, Kongo ivory carvers expanded their repertoire to include not only works for indigenous leaders and elites, but also artifacts for European and other foreigners who were involved with trade
  • These leaders commissioned expert sculptors to produce fine ivory objects for their personal and courtly use
  • a precious commodity that was strictly controlled by Kongo chiefs and kings
  • ry
  • Kongo ivories reflect the dynamics of artistic expression and social histor
25 annotations
  • vate a more intensive immobilization of the viewer. As Shildrick and Price have observed, disease in the ill person causes ‘dis-ease’
  • In contrast, the signs of illness in her later photographs estrange the performative acts of femininity in ways
  • se of this
  • an internal glimp
  • the IV drip” (154), as well as to the figure of Venus, the embodiment of beauty in Western art and myth. The title does not simply point ironically to Wilke as a woman who used to be beautiful but is now (re)pr
  • by focusing on her baldne
  • e primary conduit of me
  • Wilke’s incompletenes
  • that reconstruct a different femininity in every frame, Wilke’s artworks effectively unmask the performative nature of gender identity.
  • emi
  • that reconstruct a different fe
  • is anything but a series of repeated gestures, costumes, and corporeal signs.
  • Their subsequent performative acts of gender identity tear the veil off the lie that femininity
  • “mask of non-identity”
  • s all fall off, reveal ‘the real’”
  • xperienced a symbolic resurrectio
  • because of her death
  • Her body literally killed her.
  • re who is punished
  • embodies the destiny of the femme fatale
  • e witnesses to a woman’s journey towards death,
  • ragic and thought-provok
  • r yelling or laughin
  • mouth is open to full
  • medicalized object that is penetrating in order to find out more about the female body’s “contaminated other” – her illness
  • is no longer the phallus,
  • he corporeal signs that mean something in healthy bodies signify something very different in ill bodies.
  • no longer erotic or sexual: t
  • elicited in embodied subjects – serve no less to produce effects of identity, coherence, control and normat
  • making the face into the “penetrable (female) body” (
  • not problematize t
  • explicit sexualit
  • ad as being about sex in some way. In her photographs and performances Wilke usually posed nude or s
  • medical gaze, a mortal body
  • t, appears, upon closer examination, to be one of those rather thin, rough blankets issued regularly to hospital patien
  • blue robe t
  • Virgin Mary,
  • he had previously been labele
  • alludes to the whore archetype with wh
  • a stereotypical seductre
  • a bruised and bald Wilke i
  • namely poses, facial expressions, and props.
  • parodies this archetypal femaleness using strateg
  • the objectifying gaze is doubly negated by the enactment of illness in the Intra-Venus photographs.
  • resenting stereotypical feminine roles and persona
  • gaze itself is immobilized
  • Western fashion fro
  • “rhetoric of the pose
  • ignals agency and power
  • entity enacted in her earlier self-portraits. In this photograph, however, Wilke is clearly i
  • Her facial expression, pose, and humorous prop tell us that performative acts are taking place; she leaves it to the viewer to decide what they sig
  • highlight the performativity of gender by representing the artist, without her ‘mask’ of hair,
  • own beauty and normative femininity i
  • normative beauty
  • h
  • rt historians, when it comes to the female body, tend to see wholeness where there is fragmentatio
  • consumed by her body.
  • transgressive
  • Intra-Venus ima
  • because of her rumoured promiscuity with male artists – and by feminists who believed that she used her b
  • Wilke was criticized by both male artists
  • condemned for being confident in and about t
  • ilke’s display of her ‘beautiful,’ healthy, ‘normal’ body was regarded as inappropriate and self-indulgent, depictions of her sick and ‘abnor
  • posing during her treatment
  • construction calls attention to the fact that gender identity is just that: a construction dependant on a series of enactme
  • new performative acts of femininity, using props, poses, and costumes to reconstruct their gender identities. Thi
  • Intra-Venus
  • resulting loss of hair or a breast from the treatment forces the woman to engage in new performative acts to signify gender iden
  • performing stereotypical feminine roles
  • Intra-Venus s
  • resentations of performative acts that disrupt the idea of a coherent or intelligible feminini
71 annotations
  • Memphis colors were unlike anything ever seen on furniture before - hard, shrill, childlike and funny
  • mphis collection was all the things t
  • The same was true of its fanciful new shapes, with their odd angles, saw-toothed edges and flat disks, combined in startling ways.
  • The Memphis collection was all the things traditional furniture was not
  • n
  • Memphis's name seems to suggest the scope and diversity the movement sought to embrace
  • intentionally garish, visually shocking.
  • name seems to suggest the scope and diversity the movement sought to embrace, with its cross-cultural references to the ancient capital of Egypt and the home of Elvis. According to the founders, however, the name came about in December 1980, during one of their first meetings in Sottsass's living room. Bob Dylan's song ''Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again'' happened to be playing, and the choice was made.During most of 1981, this coterie of designers worked both independently and together to create the first Memphis collection of about 55 pieces of furniture, lamps, clocks and ceramics, to be shown that fall at the Milan Furniture Fair. As Shire recalled, ''I felt something was going to happen. I didn't know what, but I knew it was just the kind of thing I wanted to be involved with.''Something did happen. When Memphis burst onto the design scene on September 18, 1981, the response was immediate. The fresh, energetic pieces generated a tidal wave of interest from the public and the press. In the furniture-design world, this overnight stardom was unprecedented.Editors’ PicksN.F.L. Week 1 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread
  • Shocking colors and bizarre shapes provided Memphis with perhaps its broadest range of expressive possibilities
  • Furniture no longer had to be strictly functional; it could provoke, challenge, entertain and, above all, communicate.
10 annotations
 style and fashion 690
  • It would be mistaken to describe this lineage as representing a movement. Surrealistic design is not a gr
  • red into a dominant tendency within graphic design, and histories of design have said little about it. Work showing a strong debt to Surrealism emerges only when a graphic artist or designer appears who is attuned to this way of thinking, dreaming and imagining. Most graphic design conforms to an underlying grid, a sense of structure and professional good taste, which brings order but also imposes limits. The images and designs in Uncanny break free from these bureaucratic restrictions and follow the impulses of a wayward, subjective, dreamlike logic to arrive at their own kind of equilibrium and form. They show that graphic design, too, can sometimes be a place to encounter the strange, the fantastical and the uncanny, to rediscover our lost sense of mystery, and to experience the convulsive beauty and capacity for enchantment and wonder that the Surrealists called “the marvelous.” Automatism In the first Manifesto of Surrealism, published in Paris in 1924, Surrealism’s founder, André Breton, defines Surrealism as “Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner — the functioning of thought.” Reason would play no part in restricting the flow of thought in automatic writing and no moral or aesthetic control would be exercised. Surrealism offered a psychic mechanism to gain access to a superior reality.Karel Teissig, film poster, 1967Body Surrealist art and photography represented the body and probed its secret recesses with an anatomist’s fascination, as though base flesh — the big toe, the mouth — might divulge the ineffable mysteries of being. Graphic artists of the postwar years, inheriting this lexicon of anatomical images, broke the body into fragments, cutting out lips, breasts and limbs, and peeling away the skin to expose the bones that give the body structure, and the organs that animate it. Walking skeletons and speaking skulls are modern-day memento mori, intensifying the sense of life’s fragility and beauty. (See EYE) Chance encounter Les chants de Maldoror (1869) by the Comte de Lautréamont contains a phrase — “Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table” — that became a fundamental axiom for Breton and the Surrealists. Bringing together ordinary but otherwise unconnected elements in unexpected juxtapositions creates a new reality of the MARVELOUS. Negating an object’s everyday function allows us to perceive its inherent poetry and strangeness with electrifying clarity. (See WUNDERKAMMER) Cieślewicz, Roman (1930–96) Polish graphic designer and poster artist. Cieślewicz studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow and worked in Warsaw until 1963, when he moved to Paris. Early posters such as Katastrofa (1961) and Zawrót głowy (1963) for Hitchcock’s Vertigo assault the viewer with violently sharp, largely monochromatic images, which bring to mind similarly disquieting collages by ERNST. In later posters such as Diabły z Loudun (1974), the ferocious graphic intensity coupled with unnervingly balanced symmetry becomes demonic. (See LETTERS) Jindřich Štyrský, collage from Portable Cabinet, 1934 Collage A quintessential medium of Surrealist expression, as it had also been for Dada. Mundane images of everyday reality could be cut up and reassembled in magical new configurations that subverted bourgeois preconceptions, values and rationality. ERNST used collage to reanimate old engravings with spine-tingling jolts of psychic power. The Czech Surrealists TEIGE and ŠTYRSKÝ employed collage for purposes of erotic fantasy. In the 1960s, innovative Czech poster designers drew heavily on this tradition of radical collage-making. For American designer EDWARD FELLA, the collage principle was easily summarized: “Juxtaposition is everything!” Convulsive beauty André Breton concluded his book Nadja (1928) with the declaration that “Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all.” The perception of beauty was understood by the Surrealists as a thrilling shock experienced not only in the mind but in the body as an involuntary sensation of giddiness or tension. (See THE MARVELOUS) Death “Surrealism will usher you into death, which is a secret society.” — André Breton in the first Manifesto of Surrealism (1924). (See BODY) Rudolf Nemec, Valerie and her Week of Wonders, LP, 1970  Desire The Surrealists saw desire as the true expression of the psyche and they used the word often in their discussions of life, literature and art. To be truly free, a person must first recognize, and then act on, his or her desires. In L’Amour fou (1937), Breton’s book about the mystery of love, he describes desire as “the only motive of the world.” The object of this longing might be the BODY of a lover, an entirely non-sexual goal or outcome, or an actual object endowed with the magnetic allure of a fetish. Surrealist art abounds with female love-objects who possess for the artist the power of the poetic muse. The found object, too, can be a realization of secret desire. (See THE MARVELOUS) Andrzej Klimowski, The Secret, page from graphic novel, 2002  Dream The Surrealists believed, like Freud, that the motivations of the mind were most fully revealed in the operations of the unconscious. Dreams are tableaux from this hidden realm and Surrealist art repeatedly confronts us with extraordinary images originating in the depths of the nocturnal imagination. This is the aspect of Surrealism that has exerted the strongest influence on later generations of graphic artist. Poster design, in particular, has confronted the viewer with bizarrely transformed dreamlike figures (STAROWIEYSKI, VYLET’AL), grotesque apparitions (ROSEN, EARLS), demonic entities (CIESLEWICZ, TEISSIG) and otherworldly beings adrift in uncertain spaces (KLIMOWSKI). These images retain their capacity to enthrall and disturb, a sign that the image is provoking a reaction in the viewer’s own unconscious.Elliott Earls, Cranrbook Academy of Art poster, 2008 Earls, Elliott (b. 1966) American graphic designer, performance artist and educator. As a student at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he is now head of graphic design, Earls began to develop a militantly subjective graphic language, influenced by the examples of ERNST and Kurt Schwitters. In his posters, typefaces, and film projects, he mounts a continuous attack on fellow designers’ sense of decorum and taste, and wrenches graphic and typographic forms into discomfortingly malformed shapes. A series of posters promoting the departments at Cranbrook uses digital imaging to fashion monstrous mutations that appear to be simultaneously organic and artificial. Sandals from Diderot’s Encyclopédie, 1751–72 Encyclopedia The encyclopedia’s — and dictionary’s — alphabetical organization facilitates the CHANCE ENCOUNTER of unrelated or incompatible objects and ideas. Furthermore, the images in encyclopedias, especially very old ones, frequently display a heightened character of strangeness, a numinous quality noted by Roland Barthes in his essay “The Plates of the Encyclopedia” (1964), a meditation on Diderot’s great 18th-century Enlightenment project. “We can say that there is not one plate of the Encyclopedia which fails to vibrate well beyond its demonstrative intent,” he writes. “This singular vibration is above all an astonishment.” (See WUNDERKAMMER) Max Ernst, Une semaine de bonté, collage-novel, 1934 Ernst, Max (1891–1976) German painter and sculptor. Ernst, a self-taught artist educated in philosophy, was a master of the irrational juxtaposition of unrelated elements. His visual inventions exerted enormous influence on the development of 20th-century COLLAGE and graphic art. He founded the Cologne Dada group in 1919 and his first exhibition in Paris in 1920 was greeted enthusiastically by the emerging Surrealists. After collaborating with the poet Paul Éluard on Les malheurs des immortels (1922), which features a sequence of collages based on engravings, Ernst published the collage-novels La femme 100 têtes (1929), Rêve d’une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel (1930) and Une semaine de bonté (1934). Posters by VYLET’AL (The Birds) and Milan Grygar (Marat-Sade) center on visual quotations from Ernst. Brian Schorn, poster for a reading, 1994  Eye The eye, popularly regarded as the window of the soul, is one of the most persistent and suggestive icons in Surrealist image-making — from Man Ray to Salvador Dalí — as well as being a subject for Surrealist reflection. Georges Bataille made it his leitmotif in Story of the Eye (1928) and the Critical Dictionary (1929–30), which he edited, contains a long entry on the mysteries of the eye: “strange, vague, or simply beautiful.” In posters by designers such as TEISSIG, OLIVER and SCHORN, the organ of sight (often a solitary disembodied orb) regards the viewer with unsettling intensity. “The power of the eye is so strong that it is dangerous even when mere curiosity animates it” — Critical Dictionary. (See BODY) Edward Fella, page from lettering book, 1992  Fella, Edward (b. 1938) American commercial artist, graphic designer and educator. In his notebooks and in a series of flyers to advertise his lectures, created since his retirement from commercial practice, Fella has used typographic material for a sustained experiment in “automatic designing.” The printed pieces display remarkable versatility, as though the continuously morphing letterforms are gushing from a reservoir in his unconscious. Fella acknowledges the work’s basis in AUTOMATISM: “the whole idea is not to think, to tap into the subconscious through a kind of automatic writing, a Surrealist practice.” His book Letters on America (2000) is a collection of Polaroids of vernacular lettering sought and catalogued as objects of DESIRE. Klimowski, Andrzej (b. 1949) British graphic artist, illustrator and educator. In 1973, after studying painting, sculpture and graphic art, Klimowski moved to Warsaw to study poster design and film animation. The posters from his Polish period have more in common with the photo-collage approach of CIESLEWICZ than with the painted poster tradition. After returning to the UK in 1980, Klimowski applied his surreal images, often featuring angelic beings, to book cover design and editorial illustration. In 1994, he published his first wordless graphic novel, The Depository: A Dream Book, followed by The Secret (2002) and Horace Dorlan (2007), which alternates between his text and images.Roman Cieślewicz, alphabet for Guide de la France mystérieuse, 1964 Letters The fixed lineaments of the alphabet can also be made pliable and subjected to Surrealist COLLAGE and transformation. In 1952, the Czech poet Jindřich Heisler, adapting the graphic lessons of ERNST, constructed an alphabet from details cut from old engravings. CIESLEWICZ did something similar for the Guide de la France Mystérieuse (1964). In 1994, SCHORN performed a series of incisions, amputations and sutures on the body of the letter “A.” “Letters can now be explored as living, organic wonders by removing old tissues, transplanting new organs, or grafting new limbs,” he said. M/M (PARIS)’s The Alphabet (2001) melts away parts of the faces and figures of a parade of female models to mould a set of loosely contoured alphabetic signs. The marvelous One of the central and most enduring concepts of Surrealism. The marvelous (in French, le merveilleux) is an alert, elevated, otherworldly state of mind, a moment when reality seems to open up and disclose its essence more fully. This revelatory disturbance of the senses can be induced by poems, paintings, photographs and objects of uncertain purpose; by enigmatic arrangements of merchandise (gloves, mannequins, artificial limbs) encountered in shop windows; by especially atmospheric parts of the city discovered by chance while walking; or by the radiant face of a loved one. In the first Manifesto of Surrealism, Breton writes that “the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful.” (See CONVULSIVE BEAUTY, THE UNCANNY, WUNDERKAMMER) M/M (Paris), theater poster, 2005 M/M (Paris) French graphic design studio founded in 1992 by Michael Amzalag (b. 1968) and Mathias Augustyniak (b. 1967). M/M have developed a mode of graphic invention unfettered by the usual constraints of convention and form. Their disjointed compositions often suggest the outcome of some manner of AUTOMATISM, even if the effect is controlled. Since 1995, they have created a series of posters for the Centre Dramatique de Bretagne, a small theater in Lorient. The hand-drawn lettering, which meanders around like a dreamer’s doodle, comes closest to visualizing the kind of output the Bureau central de recherches surréalistes might have generated in 1920s Paris had it also operated as a graphic design studio. Vaughan Oliver & Simon Larbalestier, theater poster, 1998  Oliver, Vaughan (b. 1957) British art director and graphic designer. Oliver saw the work of Dalí as a teenager and this led him to Breton, Éluard, ERNST and Magritte. Surrealism’s irrationalism, he recalls, “made sense.” In his later collaborations with the photographers Nigel Grierson (as 23 Envelope), Simon Larbalestier (as v23) and others, Oliver designed graphic images that recall canonical pictures by Surrealist photographers, in their visceral emphasis on isolated parts of the BODY, such as the toe, mouth or EYE. The Clan of Xymox album cover (1985) is constructed around an UNCANNY image of suspended dolls. Quay Brothers, music poster, 1983  Quay Brothers (b. 1947) American graphic artists and film-makers. Inspired by Polish poster art seen in Philadelphia, identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay studied illustration at the Royal College of Art in London. In the 1970s and early 1980s, they produced graphic images for posters and book covers before committing themselves entirely to film-making. Their animated WUNDERKAMMERN, using puppets and dolls, are haunted by a vision of a dark, surreal and melancholic Mitteleuropa. Much of their early graphic work is now lost and overlooked, but the Duet Emmo poster (1983) gives a flavor, and their ornate calligraphic film titles seem to emanate from a parallel reality. Jonathon Rosen, cover of artist’s book, 1990  Rosen, Jonathon (b. 1959) American graphic artist and illustrator. Drawing on sources that include the scatological marginalia in medieval manuscripts, Hieronymus Bosch, antiquated technology, medical illustrations and Surrealism, Rosen has created a bizarre alternative universe where the troubled BODY exists in ambiguous symbiotic union with strange machines. His “Gothic Surrealism” was already fully developed in 1990 when a French publisher issued Intestinal Fortitude: Depictions of Anatomical Blasphemy, and he has continued to find outlets within commercial media for disturbing and even horrific imagery that makes no concessions to the casual viewer. Schorn, Brian (b. 1961) American graphic designer, photographer and musician. Schorn attended medical school for two years before turning to photography and design. As a student at Cranbrook Academy of Art, he applied Surrealist concerns, including COLLAGE, AUTOMATISM and a focus on the BODY, to the production of graphic design and typography. These projects were fueled, he said, by “a desire to reach content not available to grid-orientated designs or thinking.” (See LETTERS)Franciszek Starowieyski, theater poster, 1974 Starowieyski, Franciszek (1930–2009) Polish painter, poster artist, theater and film designer. Starowieyski’s extensive body of work across different media is one of the most consistent expressions of an unrestrained Surrealist sensibility to be found in graphic art and design. Oblivious to the dictates of artistic fashion or taste, he pushed his imagination to the limit, plunging viewers into an alarming psychological reality where the bulging corpulence of the BODY, representing life and DESIRE, is forced into an inescapably intimate embrace with the monstrous corruption of DEATH. The relationship is seen at its most tender in his poster for Strindberg’s Taniec smierci (The Dance of Death, 1974). Štyrský, Jindřich (1899–1942) Czechoslovakian artist, photographer and designer. Štyrský, a regular collaborator with the painter Toyen (1902–80), was a founder member in 1934 of the Surrealist Group in Czechoslovakia. In his photographic series, Štyrský concentrated on shop windows, fairgrounds and funerary objects. The typography of old advertisements and the crude vernacular paintings used to promote bizarre sideshow attractions add to the sense of unfathomable mystery. His Portable Cabinet collages (1934), many featuring BODY parts and organs, were the first to make use of source material printed in color, as though the deranged monochromatic dream-world discovered by Ernst could now be viewed in hallucinatory Technicolor. Jan Švankmajer, hand-colored etching, 1972–73 Švankmajer, Jan (b. 1934) Czechoslovakian film-maker and artist. Švankmajer was already committed to Surrealism when, in 1970, he joined the Surrealist Group in Prague. The visual sensibility of his many short films, deeply in thrall to Arcimboldo and the surreal plenitude of the WUNDERKAMMER, is often highly graphic. In Historia Naturae, Suita (1967), he uses found imagery — old black and white engravings and lithographs — cut together in rapid, rhythmical montages to lay bare the rapacious appetites of man: the entire animal world exists to be consumed. In the 1970s, unable to make films, he created COLLAGES on anatomical, zoological, ethnological and technological themes. Švankmajer’s wife, Eva Švankmajerová (1940–2005), painter and fellow Surrealist, collaborated on his films and designed numerous posters to promote them. Karel Teige, book cover, 1935 Teige, Karel (1900–51) Czechoslovakian writer, critic and graphic designer. In the 1920s, Teige’s lyrical conception of Poetism, to describe the avant-garde position held by the Devětsil group, had much in common with Surrealism. His book and magazine design greatly influenced other designers. In 1934, he joined the Surrealist Group in Czechoslovakia, becoming its spokesman, and his book cover designs based on COLLAGE — such as Pantomima (1935) for the Surrealist novelist and poet Vítězslav Nezval — fully embraced Surrealism. He also produced many autonomous collages that obsessively subjected photographs of the female BODY to erotic fragmentation. Teissig, Karel (1925–2000) Czechoslovakian painter, graphic artist and illustrator. Teissig was one of the pioneers of COLLAGE in Czech film poster design and tended to concentrate on drama, mystery and horror films best suited to his powerfully emotive style. The visual influence of Surrealism can be seen in many of his most compelling images. In a poster designed in 1967 for Volker Schlöndorff’s Young Törless, about an emotionally detached boy who witnesses cruelties at school, Teissig employs the quintessential Surrealist trope of an antique anatomical diagram, made doubly strange by the upended presence of two menacing, hyena-like predators. Emmanuel Polanco, book cover (undated recent edition) The uncanny In his essay “The Uncanny” (1919), Freud suggests that the feeling something is uncanny (in German, unheimlich — “unhomely”) arises when an emotional impulse we have repressed returns to consciousness, triggered by some inexplicable sight or experience, and frightens us. It makes no difference to the effect whether the original source of this emotion, which could be highly familiar, was intrinsically disturbing or not. In many Surrealist images, something ordinary and familiar, suddenly perceived as a symbol, becomes disruptive and strange. Doubles are uncanny. Coincidence and repetition are uncanny. The “evil EYE” is uncanny. The doll, an inanimate object that nevertheless suggests the presence of life, is uncanny. Josef Vylet’al, film poster, 1965  Vylet’al, Josef (1940–89) Czechoslovakian painter, graphic artist, film and theater designer. Vylet’al cited many artistic “allies,” including Bosch, Arcimboldo, Dalí, Magritte and ERNST, as well as the influence of ŠTYRSKÝ and Toyen. In 1965, ethereal, root-like forms, which he called “Tree Beings,” began to appear in his paintings, marking a new phase of intensity in his work. These spectral creatures can be seen in his poster for the Czech film Hrdina má Strach (The Hero is Afraid, 1965), where they float around an elegant figure in a bare, gridded room whose head has inflated to become a vast organic balloon, a symbol of either obliteration or boundless interior discovery. Domenico Remps, Cabinet of Curiosities, oil on canvas, 1690s  Wunderkammer The first museums were Wunderkammern, cabinets of curiosities assembled by wealthy 17th-century scholars and collectors for the education and amusement of themselves and their acquaintances. The CHANCE ENCOUNTERS in these profuse displays of natural marvels and man-made objects provoked a sense of poetry and wonder, and Surrealists such as Breton, seeking the MARVELOUS, created similar private collections. BibliOdyssey, Pictorial Webster’s, Implicasphere and other contemporary “cabinets” pursue a DESIRE for enchantment that owes much to Surrealism. Museum-scale Wunderkammern include The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, Los Angeles, and the Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacy at the Manchester Museum. (See ENCYCLOPEDIA)See also:The Dictionary as Art ConceptLove of Lexicons Jan Švankmajer and the Graphic UncannySlicing Open the Eyeball: Surrealism and the Visual UnconsciousSurrealism and Design, Part 1: Dark Tools of DesireSurrealism and Design, Part 2: Documents of the Marvellous Surrealism: The Enduring Appeal of Convulsive Beauty  window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({ appId : '549191665189926', xfbml : true, version : 'v2.0' }); $('.fblike').click(function() { FB.ui({ method: 'share_open_graph', action_type: 'og.likes', action_properties: JSON.stringify({ object:'http://designobserver.com/feature/a-dictionary-of-surrealism-and-the-graphic-image/37685', }) }, function(response){}); }); }; (function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;} js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({ appId : '914000848708379', xfbml : true, version : 'v2.6' }); }; (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.6&appId=549191665189926"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Posted in: Arts + Culture, Graphic Design, History, Illustration, Theory + Criticism Comments [9] Wonderful article, and thank you for featuring my two favorite artists- Jan Švankmajer and Karel Teige. Bravo! Together with their other Czech artists they deserve a wider international recognition. Ludmilla http://www.buffalogirlsproductions.com Ludmilla 02.18.1310:07 Dear Rick Poynor As much as I love and respect your articles, books, exhibitions, etc., and critical work in general, I must admit that I remain rather unconvinced by your attempts to prove the importance of surrealism on 20th-century graphic design : it seems to me, on the contrary, that graphic design owes much of its creative strategies to Dada, whose influence on surrealism itself was crucial during the 1920s and 1930s. I reckon that surrealism exerted a strong influence on advertising (as proven by the many posters or ad campaigns ripping off Magritte’s paintings), but on graphic design ? I'm doubtful. Very best, SD Stéphane Darricau 02.19.1303:33 Stéphane, thank you for your comment — I appreciate your skepticism! Uncanny was very much a hypothesis, which I tested by bringing a lot of pieces together to see whether the proposal added up. I’m naturally highly interested to see how other researchers in the field react to this material. Did you visit the exhibitions in Brno or Rotterdam, which both had around 270 examples, or see the catalogue, which shows around 110? I believe there is already more than enough material to talk about, but of course there’s a need to publicize the subject more widely, which is why I have now republished the “dictionary,” making it much easier to read. I hope it’s clear from the second paragraph of the short introduction at the top that I’m not making over-large claims for Surrealism as an influence on graphic design. I acknowledge that these influences are sporadic. I am, however, saying that the subject has received insufficient attention in graphic design histories by writers such as Meggs and Heller. I go into more detail about this in my essay “Surrealism and Design, Part 1”. I also feel encouraged by the continuing attention that Surrealism is receiving in relation to other fields, most notably photography, film, fashion, architecture, and three-dimensional design. It would be quite strange if graphic design, which borrows so heavily from prevailing cultural tendencies, had not had some kind of relationship over the decades with Surrealism. The Uncanny exhibition was commissioned to be part of a festival of graphic design and that undoubtedly influenced the use of “graphic design” in the original title. I subsequently decided that “graphic image” would be a better term for what I’m trying to explore — I use this term now in lectures and I use it in the title here. Graphic images might be created by artists, commercial artists, illustrators, graphic designers, or as you point out, advertising designers. These images and designs could certainly be part of formal “graphic design” projects, but I don’t want to use professional conceptions of graphic design practice as the lens through which to examine and understand this kind of work; that’s much too limiting. One polemical point that I wanted to make with Uncanny is that this work embodies a challenge to graphic design. It is often an affront to good taste and it introduces a concern with psychological realities that designers sometimes (or maybe often?) neglect. I also acknowledge that the audience for reconsidering this kind of communication is perhaps more likely to be illustrators or artists than graphic designers, though everyone is welcome! I’d like to continue with this research — this was just a start — and Dada, as pre-history (it’s briefly acknowledged above with reference to collage), will receive more attention, though Dada’s typographic influence is already well known to designers, as you say. I also decided with Uncanny not to cover Magritte’s influence on advertising and record sleeves because this is more familiar and often very glib. Instead, I wanted to stress the psychological dimension of the less familiar work shown in Uncanny and its relation to key concepts in Surrealism. Rick Poynor 02.19.1311:40 You can't get the catalogue anywhere it seems. I don't suppose Mr Poynor you have umpteen copies lying around? Luke lharby 02.20.1307:55 Luke, I'm afraid it's out of print. That's why I put the text and some of the illustrations online. I don't have piles of copies. Rick Poynor 02.20.1308:25 Dear Rick, i noticed about this wonderful catalogue when I read it in étapes 13 http: // ggili.com.mx/es/tienda/productos/etapes-diseno-y-cultura-visual-13, with texts translated into Spanish (I believe that also it was published in the French edition). I believe in the influence and presence of surrealism in graphic design, and your hypothesis is very precise in text and image. As you suggest that still you are in the search of names related to the surrealism, I encourage to mention two important names. The Spanish illustrator and designer Isidro Ferrer http: // www.isidroferrer.com/, who not only recognizes influences as the surrealism, but also of Alfred Jarry and the pataphysisc, the body, the faces and the rare objects, in a portfolio of admirable work. If you have an e-mail, I can send a long text that I wrote about Ferrer, in Spanish but full of images. The other one is the Danish artist Sergei Sviatchenko http: // www.sviatchenko.dk/artwork, whom I knew in Luxembourg. His photographic collages and photomontages, enigmatic and unique, have possible influences of the surrealism. Recently he edited a book http: // www.sviatchenko.dk/publications/222-everything-goes-right-left-if-you-want-it,-the-art-of-sergei-sviatchenko,-2012 Best regards, Lucas Lucas López 02.20.1304:24 Dear Rick Poynor Thank you for your lengthy reply. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to see the show in Brno ; I browsed through the catalogue once at a friend's, but it was already out of print at the time, so I was unable to purchase it as well (which is a shame, since it would have fitted nicely on my shelves alongside your other books). But my skepticism about this goes back a long way, at least to your two-part article about Surrealism and graphic designed published in “Eye” in 2007. I do agree with you that the influence of Dada on typography has already been described by numerous authors since Lupton, Goldstein & Rothschild's “Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age” — but I'm under the impression that there's much more to be found. Consider, for instance, how Dada strategies regarding the use of photographic material (i.e. photomontages by Hausmann, Höch, Heartfield et al.) provide a critical deconstruction of our faith in the photographic picture (thus prefiguring the work of contemporary designers such as Jan van Toorn or Julian House), when Surrealism plays upon this faith by constructing images whose visual trickery (see Man Ray's “Le Violon d'Ingres”) is intended to make us believe in the reality of what's shown in them. This is the difference between “visual metonymy” (what you see is the result of a series of destructive actions which can be deducted from the final outcome), which is a fundamental graphic design strategy, and “optical illusionism”, which is the main tenet of advertising imagery (Magritte's pictures are painted but pursue basically the same goals, and you can also find this in Dalí's work). In this respect, some of the examples you show above (Teige, the Quay Brothers, Polanco), Klimowski's famed work for Kundera's Faber editions, etc., seem to me to show more links with Dada than with Surrealism — because they let the process appear in the outcome instead of aiming at a visually-integrated result. In the end, please forgive me if my English writing doesn't allow me to describe these ideas in a more convincing way — I'm struggling a little bit here. SD Stéphane Darricau 02.21.1303:25 Lucas, thank you for these recommendations, both good ones. I know Sergei Sviatchenko’s work. Very interesting. Quite a lot of the new wave of collagists show obvious debts to Surrealism. I’d like to see your Ferrer text. I know his work a little but not in any detail. You can email me by clicking on “Contact” at the top right of my Observatory homepage here on Design Observer. Stéphane, I’m sure you are right that there is more to be found when it comes to Dada’s influences on visual communication, just as I’m sure that there is a lot more to be found when it comes to Surrealism’s influences. The two movements are difficult to disentangle, sharing many of the same personnel, which is why it was quite usual in early art historical accounts and exhibitions to consider them together. Your “destructive action” idea is interesting but I think it makes an over-schematic distinction, which then leads to some odd conclusions. Teige was an avowed Surrealist. The Quays hold back from explicitly stating their sympathies with Surrealism only because saying that things are “surreal” has become such a cliché. Klimowski produces some of the most oneiric imagery in British/Polish graphic communication. Neither he nor the Quays had any objection to being included in Uncanny. A contemporary designer such as Julian House (not included in Uncanny) is deeply familiar with Surrealist imagery and visual strategies, as well as with Dada. I would certainly want to include him in any future survey of this subject. But I don’t think the clear-cut distinction you draw between destructive action (Dada) and illusionism (Surrealism) actually holds up. Collage is a perfect medium for chance encounter — that essential Surrealist strategy. Ernst, a Dadaist turned Surrealist, continued to make collages; in 1931 he used collage to present the members of the Surrealist group. Teige made collages. Breton and others made Surrealist objects based on the principle of assemblage. There were some remarkable, lesser known examples of collage in the La Subversion des images exhibition at the Centre Pompidou by Max Servais and Georges Hugnet, which employ strips of found text as well as image fragments. In Exquisite Corpse, the Surrealist game, the images are discontinuous, even if some parts remain illusionistic; the constructional principle is closer to collage than to trompe l’oeil. And there is, in any case, plenty of Surrealist painting that isn’t illusionistic (early Tanguy, some of Ernst, Miró, Masson, Oscar Domínguez’s pictures based on decalcomania, etc). Uncanny featured graphic work that derived from both the collage-based and the illusionistic tendencies within Surrealism. Rick Poynor 02.22.1311:38 Dear Rick, I'm a student on illustration/visual communications and I am working on a project related to Hasard Objectif, surrealism and graphic design. I've just watch your conference INQUIETANTE ETRANGETE : SURREALISME ET GRAPHISME online at the Centre Pompidou web. I was really inspired by the video and I'm sure it's going to be of much help for this project. I was wondering. Is there anything else in the contemporary graphic design that you would think it would be useful for the subject I'm working on? Thank you very much for your time. Best regards, Carol Carol 01.29.1404:20 Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. He is Professor of Design and Visual Culture at the University of Reading in the UK. More from Rick Poynor Herbert Spencer and The Book of Numbers The Book of Numbers by Herbert and Mafalda Spencer was aimed at children, but its intriguing visual approach is more “photobook” than “schoolbook.” The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter Clutter and design are inseparable as concepts because clutter is the negation of design. Exposure: Andy’s Food Mart by Tibor Kalman and M&Co The virtue of the vernacular The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic Punk has two graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic and The Art of Punk. What conclusions do they draw? Exposure: License Photo Studio by Walker Evans The building as camera Jobs | October 17 Kendo Brands, Inc. 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  • ent. It would be mistaken to describe this lineage as representing a movement. Surrealistic design is not a group activity, it has never cohered into a dominant tendency within graphic design, and histories of design have said little about it. Work showing a strong debt to Surrealism emerges only when a graphic artist or designer appears who is attuned to this way of thinking, dreaming and imagining. Most graphic design conforms to an underlying grid, a sense of structure and professional good taste, which brings order but also imposes limits. The images and designs in Uncanny break free from these bureaucratic restrictions and follow the impulses of a wayward, subjective, dreamlike logic to arrive at their own kind of equilibrium and form. They show that graphic design, too, can sometimes be a place to encounter the strange, the fantastical and the uncanny, to rediscover our lost sense of mystery, and to experience the convulsive beauty and capacity for enchantment and wonder that the Surrealists called “the marvelous.” Automatism In the first Manifesto of Surrealism, published in Paris in 1924, Surrealism’s founder, André Breton, defines Surrealism as “Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner — the functioning of thought.” Reason would play no part in restricting the flow of thought in automatic writing and no moral or aesthetic control would be exercised. Surrealism offered a psychic mechanism to gain access to a superior reality.Karel Teissig, film poster, 1967Body Surrealist art and photography represented the body and probed its secret recesses with an anatomist’s fascination, as though base flesh — the big toe, the mouth — might divulge the ineffable mysteries of being. Graphic artists of the postwar years, inheriting this lexicon of anatomical images, broke the body into fragments, cutting out lips, breasts and limbs, and peeling away the skin to expose the bones that give the body structure, and the organs that animate it. Walking skeletons and speaking skulls are modern-day memento mori, intensifying the sense of life’s fragility and beauty. (See EYE) Chance encounter Les chants de Maldoror (1869) by the Comte de Lautréamont contains a phrase — “Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table” — that became a fundamental axiom for Breton and the Surrealists. Bringing together ordinary but otherwise unconnected elements in unexpected juxtapositions creates a new reality of the MARVELOUS. Negating an object’s everyday function allows us to perceive its inherent poetry and strangeness with electrifying clarity. (See WUNDERKAMMER) Cieślewicz, Roman (1930–96) Polish graphic designer and poster artist. Cieślewicz studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow and worked in Warsaw until 1963, when he moved to Paris. Early posters such as Katastrofa (1961) and Zawrót głowy (1963) for Hitchcock’s Vertigo assault the viewer with violently sharp, largely monochromatic images, which bring to mind similarly disquieting collages by ERNST. In later posters such as Diabły z Loudun (1974), the ferocious graphic intensity coupled with unnervingly balanced symmetry becomes demonic. (See LETTERS) Jindřich Štyrský, collage from Portable Cabinet, 1934 Collage A quintessential medium of Surrealist expression, as it had also been for Dada. Mundane images of everyday reality could be cut up and reassembled in magical new configurations that subverted bourgeois preconceptions, values and rationality. ERNST used collage to reanimate old engravings with spine-tingling jolts of psychic power. The Czech Surrealists TEIGE and ŠTYRSKÝ employed collage for purposes of erotic fantasy. In the 1960s, innovative Czech poster designers drew heavily on this tradition of radical collage-making. For American designer EDWARD FELLA, the collage principle was easily summarized: “Juxtaposition is everything!” Convulsive beauty André Breton concluded his book Nadja (1928) with the declaration that “Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all.” The perception of beauty was understood by the Surrealists as a thrilling shock experienced not only in the mind but in the body as an involuntary sensation of giddiness or tension. (See THE MARVELOUS) Death “Surrealism will usher you into death, which is a secret society.” — André Breton in the first Manifesto of Surrealism (1924). (See BODY) Rudolf Nemec, Valerie and her Week of Wonders, LP, 1970  Desire The Surrealists saw desire as the true expression of the psyche and they used the word often in their discussions of life, literature and art. To be truly free, a person must first recognize, and then act on, his or her desires. In L’Amour fou (1937), Breton’s book about the mystery of love, he describes desire as “the only motive of the world.” The object of this longing might be the BODY of a lover, an entirely non-sexual goal or outcome, or an actual object endowed with the magnetic allure of a fetish. Surrealist art abounds with female love-objects who possess for the artist the power of the poetic muse. The found object, too, can be a realization of secret desire. (See THE MARVELOUS) Andrzej Klimowski, The Secret, page from graphic novel, 2002  Dream The Surrealists believed, like Freud, that the motivations of the mind were most fully revealed in the operations of the unconscious. Dreams are tableaux from this hidden realm and Surrealist art repeatedly confronts us with extraordinary images originating in the depths of the nocturnal imagination. This is the aspect of Surrealism that has exerted the strongest influence on later generations of graphic artist. Poster design, in particular, has confronted the viewer with bizarrely transformed dreamlike figures (STAROWIEYSKI, VYLET’AL), grotesque apparitions (ROSEN, EARLS), demonic entities (CIESLEWICZ, TEISSIG) and otherworldly beings adrift in uncertain spaces (KLIMOWSKI). These images retain their capacity to enthrall and disturb, a sign that the image is provoking a reaction in the viewer’s own unconscious.Elliott Earls, Cranrbook Academy of Art poster, 2008 Earls, Elliott (b. 1966) American graphic designer, performance artist and educator. As a student at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he is now head of graphic design, Earls began to develop a militantly subjective graphic language, influenced by the examples of ERNST and Kurt Schwitters. In his posters, typefaces, and film projects, he mounts a continuous attack on fellow designers’ sense of decorum and taste, and wrenches graphic and typographic forms into discomfortingly malformed shapes. A series of posters promoting the departments at Cranbrook uses digital imaging to fashion monstrous mutations that appear to be simultaneously organic and artificial. Sandals from Diderot’s Encyclopédie, 1751–72 Encyclopedia The encyclopedia’s — and dictionary’s — alphabetical organization facilitates the CHANCE ENCOUNTER of unrelated or incompatible objects and ideas. Furthermore, the images in encyclopedias, especially very old ones, frequently display a heightened character of strangeness, a numinous quality noted by Roland Barthes in his essay “The Plates of the Encyclopedia” (1964), a meditation on Diderot’s great 18th-century Enlightenment project. “We can say that there is not one plate of the Encyclopedia which fails to vibrate well beyond its demonstrative intent,” he writes. “This singular vibration is above all an astonishment.” (See WUNDERKAMMER) Max Ernst, Une semaine de bonté, collage-novel, 1934 Ernst, Max (1891–1976) German painter and sculptor. Ernst, a self-taught artist educated in philosophy, was a master of the irrational juxtaposition of unrelated elements. His visual inventions exerted enormous influence on the development of 20th-century COLLAGE and graphic art. He founded the Cologne Dada group in 1919 and his first exhibition in Paris in 1920 was greeted enthusiastically by the emerging Surrealists. After collaborating with the poet Paul Éluard on Les malheurs des immortels (1922), which features a sequence of collages based on engravings, Ernst published the collage-novels La femme 100 têtes (1929), Rêve d’une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel (1930) and Une semaine de bonté (1934). Posters by VYLET’AL (The Birds) and Milan Grygar (Marat-Sade) center on visual quotations from Ernst. Brian Schorn, poster for a reading, 1994  Eye The eye, popularly regarded as the window of the soul, is one of the most persistent and suggestive icons in Surrealist image-making — from Man Ray to Salvador Dalí — as well as being a subject for Surrealist reflection. Georges Bataille made it his leitmotif in Story of the Eye (1928) and the Critical Dictionary (1929–30), which he edited, contains a long entry on the mysteries of the eye: “strange, vague, or simply beautiful.” In posters by designers such as TEISSIG, OLIVER and SCHORN, the organ of sight (often a solitary disembodied orb) regards the viewer with unsettling intensity. “The power of the eye is so strong that it is dangerous even when mere curiosity animates it” — Critical Dictionary. (See BODY) Edward Fella, page from lettering book, 1992  Fella, Edward (b. 1938) American commercial artist, graphic designer and educator. In his notebooks and in a series of flyers to advertise his lectures, created since his retirement from commercial practice, Fella has used typographic material for a sustained experiment in “automatic designing.” The printed pieces display remarkable versatility, as though the continuously morphing letterforms are gushing from a reservoir in his unconscious. Fella acknowledges the work’s basis in AUTOMATISM: “the whole idea is not to think, to tap into the subconscious through a kind of automatic writing, a Surrealist practice.” His book Letters on America (2000) is a collection of Polaroids of vernacular lettering sought and catalogued as objects of DESIRE. Klimowski, Andrzej (b. 1949) British graphic artist, illustrator and educator. In 1973, after studying painting, sculpture and graphic art, Klimowski moved to Warsaw to study poster design and film animation. The posters from his Polish period have more in common with the photo-collage approach of CIESLEWICZ than with the painted poster tradition. After returning to the UK in 1980, Klimowski applied his surreal images, often featuring angelic beings, to book cover design and editorial illustration. In 1994, he published his first wordless graphic novel, The Depository: A Dream Book, followed by The Secret (2002) and Horace Dorlan (2007), which alternates between his text and images.Roman Cieślewicz, alphabet for Guide de la France mystérieuse, 1964 Letters The fixed lineaments of the alphabet can also be made pliable and subjected to Surrealist COLLAGE and transformation. In 1952, the Czech poet Jindřich Heisler, adapting the graphic lessons of ERNST, constructed an alphabet from details cut from old engravings. CIESLEWICZ did something similar for the Guide de la France Mystérieuse (1964). In 1994, SCHORN performed a series of incisions, amputations and sutures on the body of the letter “A.” “Letters can now be explored as living, organic wonders by removing old tissues, transplanting new organs, or grafting new limbs,” he said. M/M (PARIS)’s The Alphabet (2001) melts away parts of the faces and figures of a parade of female models to mould a set of loosely contoured alphabetic signs. The marvelous One of the central and most enduring concepts of Surrealism. The marvelous (in French, le merveilleux) is an alert, elevated, otherworldly state of mind, a moment when reality seems to open up and disclose its essence more fully. This revelatory disturbance of the senses can be induced by poems, paintings, photographs and objects of uncertain purpose; by enigmatic arrangements of merchandise (gloves, mannequins, artificial limbs) encountered in shop windows; by especially atmospheric parts of the city discovered by chance while walking; or by the radiant face of a loved one. In the first Manifesto of Surrealism, Breton writes that “the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful.” (See CONVULSIVE BEAUTY, THE UNCANNY, WUNDERKAMMER) M/M (Paris), theater poster, 2005 M/M (Paris) French graphic design studio founded in 1992 by Michael Amzalag (b. 1968) and Mathias Augustyniak (b. 1967). M/M have developed a mode of graphic invention unfettered by the usual constraints of convention and form. Their disjointed compositions often suggest the outcome of some manner of AUTOMATISM, even if the effect is controlled. Since 1995, they have created a series of posters for the Centre Dramatique de Bretagne, a small theater in Lorient. The hand-drawn lettering, which meanders around like a dreamer’s doodle, comes closest to visualizing the kind of output the Bureau central de recherches surréalistes might have generated in 1920s Paris had it also operated as a graphic design studio. Vaughan Oliver & Simon Larbalestier, theater poster, 1998  Oliver, Vaughan (b. 1957) British art director and graphic designer. Oliver saw the work of Dalí as a teenager and this led him to Breton, Éluard, ERNST and Magritte. Surrealism’s irrationalism, he recalls, “made sense.” In his later collaborations with the photographers Nigel Grierson (as 23 Envelope), Simon Larbalestier (as v23) and others, Oliver designed graphic images that recall canonical pictures by Surrealist photographers, in their visceral emphasis on isolated parts of the BODY, such as the toe, mouth or EYE. The Clan of Xymox album cover (1985) is constructed around an UNCANNY image of suspended dolls. Quay Brothers, music poster, 1983  Quay Brothers (b. 1947) American graphic artists and film-makers. Inspired by Polish poster art seen in Philadelphia, identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay studied illustration at the Royal College of Art in London. In the 1970s and early 1980s, they produced graphic images for posters and book covers before committing themselves entirely to film-making. Their animated WUNDERKAMMERN, using puppets and dolls, are haunted by a vision of a dark, surreal and melancholic Mitteleuropa. Much of their early graphic work is now lost and overlooked, but the Duet Emmo poster (1983) gives a flavor, and their ornate calligraphic film titles seem to emanate from a parallel reality. Jonathon Rosen, cover of artist’s book, 1990  Rosen, Jonathon (b. 1959) American graphic artist and illustrator. Drawing on sources that include the scatological marginalia in medieval manuscripts, Hieronymus Bosch, antiquated technology, medical illustrations and Surrealism, Rosen has created a bizarre alternative universe where the troubled BODY exists in ambiguous symbiotic union with strange machines. His “Gothic Surrealism” was already fully developed in 1990 when a French publisher issued Intestinal Fortitude: Depictions of Anatomical Blasphemy, and he has continued to find outlets within commercial media for disturbing and even horrific imagery that makes no concessions to the casual viewer. Schorn, Brian (b. 1961) American graphic designer, photographer and musician. Schorn attended medical school for two years before turning to photography and design. As a student at Cranbrook Academy of Art, he applied Surrealist concerns, including COLLAGE, AUTOMATISM and a focus on the BODY, to the production of graphic design and typography. These projects were fueled, he said, by “a desire to reach content not available to grid-orientated designs or thinking.” (See LETTERS)Franciszek Starowieyski, theater poster, 1974 Starowieyski, Franciszek (1930–2009) Polish painter, poster artist, theater and film designer. Starowieyski’s extensive body of work across different media is one of the most consistent expressions of an unrestrained Surrealist sensibility to be found in graphic art and design. Oblivious to the dictates of artistic fashion or taste, he pushed his imagination to the limit, plunging viewers into an alarming psychological reality where the bulging corpulence of the BODY, representing life and DESIRE, is forced into an inescapably intimate embrace with the monstrous corruption of DEATH. The relationship is seen at its most tender in his poster for Strindberg’s Taniec smierci (The Dance of Death, 1974). Štyrský, Jindřich (1899–1942) Czechoslovakian artist, photographer and designer. Štyrský, a regular collaborator with the painter Toyen (1902–80), was a founder member in 1934 of the Surrealist Group in Czechoslovakia. In his photographic series, Štyrský concentrated on shop windows, fairgrounds and funerary objects. The typography of old advertisements and the crude vernacular paintings used to promote bizarre sideshow attractions add to the sense of unfathomable mystery. His Portable Cabinet collages (1934), many featuring BODY parts and organs, were the first to make use of source material printed in color, as though the deranged monochromatic dream-world discovered by Ernst could now be viewed in hallucinatory Technicolor. Jan Švankmajer, hand-colored etching, 1972–73 Švankmajer, Jan (b. 1934) Czechoslovakian film-maker and artist. Švankmajer was already committed to Surrealism when, in 1970, he joined the Surrealist Group in Prague. The visual sensibility of his many short films, deeply in thrall to Arcimboldo and the surreal plenitude of the WUNDERKAMMER, is often highly graphic. In Historia Naturae, Suita (1967), he uses found imagery — old black and white engravings and lithographs — cut together in rapid, rhythmical montages to lay bare the rapacious appetites of man: the entire animal world exists to be consumed. In the 1970s, unable to make films, he created COLLAGES on anatomical, zoological, ethnological and technological themes. Švankmajer’s wife, Eva Švankmajerová (1940–2005), painter and fellow Surrealist, collaborated on his films and designed numerous posters to promote them. Karel Teige, book cover, 1935 Teige, Karel (1900–51) Czechoslovakian writer, critic and graphic designer. In the 1920s, Teige’s lyrical conception of Poetism, to describe the avant-garde position held by the Devětsil group, had much in common with Surrealism. His book and magazine design greatly influenced other designers. In 1934, he joined the Surrealist Group in Czechoslovakia, becoming its spokesman, and his book cover designs based on COLLAGE — such as Pantomima (1935) for the Surrealist novelist and poet Vítězslav Nezval — fully embraced Surrealism. He also produced many autonomous collages that obsessively subjected photographs of the female BODY to erotic fragmentation. Teissig, Karel (1925–2000) Czechoslovakian painter, graphic artist and illustrator. Teissig was one of the pioneers of COLLAGE in Czech film poster design and tended to concentrate on drama, mystery and horror films best suited to his powerfully emotive style. The visual influence of Surrealism can be seen in many of his most compelling images. In a poster designed in 1967 for Volker Schlöndorff’s Young Törless, about an emotionally detached boy who witnesses cruelties at school, Teissig employs the quintessential Surrealist trope of an antique anatomical diagram, made doubly strange by the upended presence of two menacing, hyena-like predators. Emmanuel Polanco, book cover (undated recent edition) The uncanny In his essay “The Uncanny” (1919), Freud suggests that the feeling something is uncanny (in German, unheimlich — “unhomely”) arises when an emotional impulse we have repressed returns to consciousness, triggered by some inexplicable sight or experience, and frightens us. It makes no difference to the effect whether the original source of this emotion, which could be highly familiar, was intrinsically disturbing or not. In many Surrealist images, something ordinary and familiar, suddenly perceived as a symbol, becomes disruptive and strange. Doubles are uncanny. Coincidence and repetition are uncanny. The “evil EYE” is uncanny. The doll, an inanimate object that nevertheless suggests the presence of life, is uncanny. Josef Vylet’al, film poster, 1965  Vylet’al, Josef (1940–89) Czechoslovakian painter, graphic artist, film and theater designer. Vylet’al cited many artistic “allies,” including Bosch, Arcimboldo, Dalí, Magritte and ERNST, as well as the influence of ŠTYRSKÝ and Toyen. In 1965, ethereal, root-like forms, which he called “Tree Beings,” began to appear in his paintings, marking a new phase of intensity in his work. These spectral creatures can be seen in his poster for the Czech film Hrdina má Strach (The Hero is Afraid, 1965), where they float around an elegant figure in a bare, gridded room whose head has inflated to become a vast organic balloon, a symbol of either obliteration or boundless interior discovery. Domenico Remps, Cabinet of Curiosities, oil on canvas, 1690s  Wunderkammer The first museums were Wunderkammern, cabinets of curiosities assembled by wealthy 17th-century scholars and collectors for the education and amusement of themselves and their acquaintances. The CHANCE ENCOUNTERS in these profuse displays of natural marvels and man-made objects provoked a sense of poetry and wonder, and Surrealists such as Breton, seeking the MARVELOUS, created similar private collections. BibliOdyssey, Pictorial Webster’s, Implicasphere and other contemporary “cabinets” pursue a DESIRE for enchantment that owes much to Surrealism. Museum-scale Wunderkammern include The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, Los Angeles, and the Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacy at the Manchester Museum. (See ENCYCLOPEDIA)See also:The Dictionary as Art ConceptLove of Lexicons Jan Švankmajer and the Graphic UncannySlicing Open the Eyeball: Surrealism and the Visual UnconsciousSurrealism and Design, Part 1: Dark Tools of DesireSurrealism and Design, Part 2: Documents of the Marvellous Surrealism: The Enduring Appeal of Convulsive Beauty  window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({ appId : '549191665189926', xfbml : true, version : 'v2.0' }); $('.fblike').click(function() { FB.ui({ method: 'share_open_graph', action_type: 'og.likes', action_properties: JSON.stringify({ object:'http://designobserver.com/feature/a-dictionary-of-surrealism-and-the-graphic-image/37685', }) }, function(response){}); }); }; (function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;} js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({ appId : '914000848708379', xfbml : true, version : 'v2.6' }); }; (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.6&appId=549191665189926"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Posted in: Arts + Culture, Graphic Design, History, Illustration, Theory + Criticism Comments [9] Wonderful article, and thank you for featuring my two favorite artists- Jan Švankmajer and Karel Teige. Bravo! Together with their other Czech artists they deserve a wider international recognition. Ludmilla http://www.buffalogirlsproductions.com Ludmilla 02.18.1310:07 Dear Rick Poynor As much as I love and respect your articles, books, exhibitions, etc., and critical work in general, I must admit that I remain rather unconvinced by your attempts to prove the importance of surrealism on 20th-century graphic design : it seems to me, on the contrary, that graphic design owes much of its creative strategies to Dada, whose influence on surrealism itself was crucial during the 1920s and 1930s. I reckon that surrealism exerted a strong influence on advertising (as proven by the many posters or ad campaigns ripping off Magritte’s paintings), but on graphic design ? I'm doubtful. Very best, SD Stéphane Darricau 02.19.1303:33 Stéphane, thank you for your comment — I appreciate your skepticism! Uncanny was very much a hypothesis, which I tested by bringing a lot of pieces together to see whether the proposal added up. I’m naturally highly interested to see how other researchers in the field react to this material. Did you visit the exhibitions in Brno or Rotterdam, which both had around 270 examples, or see the catalogue, which shows around 110? I believe there is already more than enough material to talk about, but of course there’s a need to publicize the subject more widely, which is why I have now republished the “dictionary,” making it much easier to read. I hope it’s clear from the second paragraph of the short introduction at the top that I’m not making over-large claims for Surrealism as an influence on graphic design. I acknowledge that these influences are sporadic. I am, however, saying that the subject has received insufficient attention in graphic design histories by writers such as Meggs and Heller. I go into more detail about this in my essay “Surrealism and Design, Part 1”. I also feel encouraged by the continuing attention that Surrealism is receiving in relation to other fields, most notably photography, film, fashion, architecture, and three-dimensional design. It would be quite strange if graphic design, which borrows so heavily from prevailing cultural tendencies, had not had some kind of relationship over the decades with Surrealism. The Uncanny exhibition was commissioned to be part of a festival of graphic design and that undoubtedly influenced the use of “graphic design” in the original title. I subsequently decided that “graphic image” would be a better term for what I’m trying to explore — I use this term now in lectures and I use it in the title here. Graphic images might be created by artists, commercial artists, illustrators, graphic designers, or as you point out, advertising designers. These images and designs could certainly be part of formal “graphic design” projects, but I don’t want to use professional conceptions of graphic design practice as the lens through which to examine and understand this kind of work; that’s much too limiting. One polemical point that I wanted to make with Uncanny is that this work embodies a challenge to graphic design. It is often an affront to good taste and it introduces a concern with psychological realities that designers sometimes (or maybe often?) neglect. I also acknowledge that the audience for reconsidering this kind of communication is perhaps more likely to be illustrators or artists than graphic designers, though everyone is welcome! I’d like to continue with this research — this was just a start — and Dada, as pre-history (it’s briefly acknowledged above with reference to collage), will receive more attention, though Dada’s typographic influence is already well known to designers, as you say. I also decided with Uncanny not to cover Magritte’s influence on advertising and record sleeves because this is more familiar and often very glib. Instead, I wanted to stress the psychological dimension of the less familiar work shown in Uncanny and its relation to key concepts in Surrealism. Rick Poynor 02.19.1311:40 You can't get the catalogue anywhere it seems. I don't suppose Mr Poynor you have umpteen copies lying around? Luke lharby 02.20.1307:55 Luke, I'm afraid it's out of print. That's why I put the text and some of the illustrations online. I don't have piles of copies. Rick Poynor 02.20.1308:25 Dear Rick, i noticed about this wonderful catalogue when I read it in étapes 13 http: // ggili.com.mx/es/tienda/productos/etapes-diseno-y-cultura-visual-13, with texts translated into Spanish (I believe that also it was published in the French edition). I believe in the influence and presence of surrealism in graphic design, and your hypothesis is very precise in text and image. As you suggest that still you are in the search of names related to the surrealism, I encourage to mention two important names. The Spanish illustrator and designer Isidro Ferrer http: // www.isidroferrer.com/, who not only recognizes influences as the surrealism, but also of Alfred Jarry and the pataphysisc, the body, the faces and the rare objects, in a portfolio of admirable work. If you have an e-mail, I can send a long text that I wrote about Ferrer, in Spanish but full of images. The other one is the Danish artist Sergei Sviatchenko http: // www.sviatchenko.dk/artwork, whom I knew in Luxembourg. His photographic collages and photomontages, enigmatic and unique, have possible influences of the surrealism. Recently he edited a book http: // www.sviatchenko.dk/publications/222-everything-goes-right-left-if-you-want-it,-the-art-of-sergei-sviatchenko,-2012 Best regards, Lucas Lucas López 02.20.1304:24 Dear Rick Poynor Thank you for your lengthy reply. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to see the show in Brno ; I browsed through the catalogue once at a friend's, but it was already out of print at the time, so I was unable to purchase it as well (which is a shame, since it would have fitted nicely on my shelves alongside your other books). But my skepticism about this goes back a long way, at least to your two-part article about Surrealism and graphic designed published in “Eye” in 2007. I do agree with you that the influence of Dada on typography has already been described by numerous authors since Lupton, Goldstein & Rothschild's “Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age” — but I'm under the impression that there's much more to be found. Consider, for instance, how Dada strategies regarding the use of photographic material (i.e. photomontages by Hausmann, Höch, Heartfield et al.) provide a critical deconstruction of our faith in the photographic picture (thus prefiguring the work of contemporary designers such as Jan van Toorn or Julian House), when Surrealism plays upon this faith by constructing images whose visual trickery (see Man Ray's “Le Violon d'Ingres”) is intended to make us believe in the reality of what's shown in them. This is the difference between “visual metonymy” (what you see is the result of a series of destructive actions which can be deducted from the final outcome), which is a fundamental graphic design strategy, and “optical illusionism”, which is the main tenet of advertising imagery (Magritte's pictures are painted but pursue basically the same goals, and you can also find this in Dalí's work). In this respect, some of the examples you show above (Teige, the Quay Brothers, Polanco), Klimowski's famed work for Kundera's Faber editions, etc., seem to me to show more links with Dada than with Surrealism — because they let the process appear in the outcome instead of aiming at a visually-integrated result. In the end, please forgive me if my English writing doesn't allow me to describe these ideas in a more convincing way — I'm struggling a little bit here. SD Stéphane Darricau 02.21.1303:25 Lucas, thank you for these recommendations, both good ones. I know Sergei Sviatchenko’s work. Very interesting. Quite a lot of the new wave of collagists show obvious debts to Surrealism. I’d like to see your Ferrer text. I know his work a little but not in any detail. You can email me by clicking on “Contact” at the top right of my Observatory homepage here on Design Observer. Stéphane, I’m sure you are right that there is more to be found when it comes to Dada’s influences on visual communication, just as I’m sure that there is a lot more to be found when it comes to Surrealism’s influences. The two movements are difficult to disentangle, sharing many of the same personnel, which is why it was quite usual in early art historical accounts and exhibitions to consider them together. Your “destructive action” idea is interesting but I think it makes an over-schematic distinction, which then leads to some odd conclusions. Teige was an avowed Surrealist. The Quays hold back from explicitly stating their sympathies with Surrealism only because saying that things are “surreal” has become such a cliché. Klimowski produces some of the most oneiric imagery in British/Polish graphic communication. Neither he nor the Quays had any objection to being included in Uncanny. A contemporary designer such as Julian House (not included in Uncanny) is deeply familiar with Surrealist imagery and visual strategies, as well as with Dada. I would certainly want to include him in any future survey of this subject. But I don’t think the clear-cut distinction you draw between destructive action (Dada) and illusionism (Surrealism) actually holds up. Collage is a perfect medium for chance encounter — that essential Surrealist strategy. Ernst, a Dadaist turned Surrealist, continued to make collages; in 1931 he used collage to present the members of the Surrealist group. Teige made collages. Breton and others made Surrealist objects based on the principle of assemblage. There were some remarkable, lesser known examples of collage in the La Subversion des images exhibition at the Centre Pompidou by Max Servais and Georges Hugnet, which employ strips of found text as well as image fragments. In Exquisite Corpse, the Surrealist game, the images are discontinuous, even if some parts remain illusionistic; the constructional principle is closer to collage than to trompe l’oeil. And there is, in any case, plenty of Surrealist painting that isn’t illusionistic (early Tanguy, some of Ernst, Miró, Masson, Oscar Domínguez’s pictures based on decalcomania, etc). Uncanny featured graphic work that derived from both the collage-based and the illusionistic tendencies within Surrealism. Rick Poynor 02.22.1311:38 Dear Rick, I'm a student on illustration/visual communications and I am working on a project related to Hasard Objectif, surrealism and graphic design. I've just watch your conference INQUIETANTE ETRANGETE : SURREALISME ET GRAPHISME online at the Centre Pompidou web. I was really inspired by the video and I'm sure it's going to be of much help for this project. I was wondering. Is there anything else in the contemporary graphic design that you would think it would be useful for the subject I'm working on? Thank you very much for your time. Best regards, Carol Carol 01.29.1404:20 Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. He is Professor of Design and Visual Culture at the University of Reading in the UK. More from Rick Poynor Herbert Spencer and The Book of Numbers The Book of Numbers by Herbert and Mafalda Spencer was aimed at children, but its intriguing visual approach is more “photobook” than “schoolbook.” The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter Clutter and design are inseparable as concepts because clutter is the negation of design. Exposure: Andy’s Food Mart by Tibor Kalman and M&Co The virtue of the vernacular The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic Punk has two graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic and The Art of Punk. What conclusions do they draw? Exposure: License Photo Studio by Walker Evans The building as camera Jobs | October 17 Kendo Brands, Inc. 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  • abounds with female love-objects who possess for the artist the power of the poetic muse. The found object, too, can be a realization of secret desire. (See THE MARVELOUS) Andrzej Klimowski, The Secret, page from graphic novel, 2002  Dream The Surrealists believed, like Freud, that the motivations of the mind were most fully revealed in the operations of the unconscious. Dreams are tableaux from this hidden realm and Surrealist art repeatedly confronts us with extraordinary images originating in the depths of the nocturnal imagination. This is the aspect of Surrealism that has exerted the strongest influence on later generations of graphic artist. Poster design, in particular, has confronted the viewer with bizarrely transformed dreamlike figures (STAROWIEYSKI, VYLET’AL), grotesque apparitions (ROSEN, EARLS), demonic entities (CIESLEWICZ, TEISSIG) and otherworldly beings adrift in uncertain spaces (KLIMOWSKI). These images retain their capacity to enthrall and disturb, a sign that the image is provoking a reaction in the viewer’s own unconscious.Elliott Earls, Cranrbook Academy of Art poster, 2008 Earls, Elliott (b. 1966) American graphic designer, performance artist and educator. As a student at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he is now head of graphic design, Earls began to develop a militantly subjective graphic language, influenced by the examples of ERNST and Kurt Schwitters. In his posters, typefaces, and film projects, he mounts a continuous attack on fellow designers’ sense of decorum and taste, and wrenches graphic and typographic forms into discomfortingly malformed shapes. A series of posters promoting the departments at Cranbrook uses digital imaging to fashion monstrous mutations that appear to be simultaneously organic and artificial. Sandals from Diderot’s Encyclopédie, 1751–72 Encyclopedia The encyclopedia’s — and dictionary’s — alphabetical organization facilitates the CHANCE ENCOUNTER of unrelated or incompatible objects and ideas. Furthermore, the images in encyclopedias, especially very old ones, frequently display a heightened character of strangeness, a numinous quality noted by Roland Barthes in his essay “The Plates of the Encyclopedia” (1964), a meditation on Diderot’s great 18th-century Enlightenment project. “We can say that there is not one plate of the Encyclopedia which fails to vibrate well beyond its demonstrative intent,” he writes. “This singular vibration is above all an astonishment.” (See WUNDERKAMMER) Max Ernst, Une semaine de bonté, collage-novel, 1934 Ernst, Max (1891–1976) German painter and sculptor. Ernst, a self-taught artist educated in philosophy, was a master of the irrational juxtaposition of unrelated elements. His visual inventions exerted enormous influence on the development of 20th-century COLLAGE and graphic art. He founded the Cologne Dada group in 1919 and his first exhibition in Paris in 1920 was greeted enthusiastically by the emerging Surrealists. After collaborating with the poet Paul Éluard on Les malheurs des immortels (1922), which features a sequence of collages based on engravings, Ernst published the collage-novels La femme 100 têtes (1929), Rêve d’une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel (1930) and Une semaine de bonté (1934). Posters by VYLET’AL (The Birds) and Milan Grygar (Marat-Sade) center on visual quotations from Ernst. Brian Schorn, poster for a reading, 1994  Eye The eye, popularly regarded as the window of the soul, is one of the most persistent and suggestive icons in Surrealist image-making — from Man Ray to Salvador Dalí — as well as being a subject for Surrealist reflection. Georges Bataille made it his leitmotif in Story of the Eye (1928) and the Critical Dictionary (1929–30), which he edited, contains a long entry on the mysteries of the eye: “strange, vague, or simply beautiful.” In posters by designers such as TEISSIG, OLIVER and SCHORN, the organ of sight (often a solitary disembodied orb) regards the viewer with unsettling intensity. “The power of the eye is so strong that it is dangerous even when mere curiosity animates it” — Critical Dictionary. (See BODY) Edward Fella, page from lettering book, 1992  Fella, Edward (b. 1938) American commercial artist, graphic designer and educator. In his notebooks and in a series of flyers to advertise his lectures, created since his retirement from commercial practice, Fella has used typographic material for a sustained experiment in “automatic designing.” The printed pieces display remarkable versatility, as though the continuously morphing letterforms are gushing from a reservoir in his unconscious. Fella acknowledges the work’s basis in AUTOMATISM: “the whole idea is not to think, to tap into the subconscious through a kind of automatic writing, a Surrealist practice.” His book Letters on America (2000) is a collection of Polaroids of vernacular lettering sought and catalogued as objects of DESIRE. Klimowski, Andrzej (b. 1949) British graphic artist, illustrator and educator. In 1973, after studying painting, sculpture and graphic art, Klimowski moved to Warsaw to study poster design and film animation. The posters from his Polish period have more in common with the photo-collage approach of CIESLEWICZ than with the painted poster tradition. After returning to the UK in 1980, Klimowski applied his surreal images, often featuring angelic beings, to book cover design and editorial illustration. In 1994, he published his first wordless graphic novel, The Depository: A Dream Book, followed by The Secret (2002) and Horace Dorlan (2007), which alternates between his text and images.Roman Cieślewicz, alphabet for Guide de la France mystérieuse, 1964 Letters The fixed lineaments of the alphabet can also be made pliable and subjected to Surrealist COLLAGE and transformation. In 1952, the Czech poet Jindřich Heisler, adapting the graphic lessons of ERNST, constructed an alphabet from details cut from old engravings. CIESLEWICZ did something similar for the Guide de la France Mystérieuse (1964). In 1994, SCHORN performed a series of incisions, amputations and sutures on the body of the letter “A.” “Letters can now be explored as living, organic wonders by removing old tissues, transplanting new organs, or grafting new limbs,” he said. M/M (PARIS)’s The Alphabet (2001) melts away parts of the faces and figures of a parade of female models to mould a set of loosely contoured alphabetic signs. The marvelous One of the central and most enduring concepts of Surrealism. The marvelous (in French, le merveilleux) is an alert, elevated, otherworldly state of mind, a moment when reality seems to open up and disclose its essence more fully. This revelatory disturbance of the senses can be induced by poems, paintings, photographs and objects of uncertain purpose; by enigmatic arrangements of merchandise (gloves, mannequins, artificial limbs) encountered in shop windows; by especially atmospheric parts of the city discovered by chance while walking; or by the radiant face of a loved one. In the first Manifesto of Surrealism, Breton writes that “the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful.” (See CONVULSIVE BEAUTY, THE UNCANNY, WUNDERKAMMER) M/M (Paris), theater poster, 2005 M/M (Paris) French graphic design studio founded in 1992 by Michael Amzalag (b. 1968) and Mathias Augustyniak (b. 1967). M/M have developed a mode of graphic invention unfettered by the usual constraints of convention and form. Their disjointed compositions often suggest the outcome of some manner of AUTOMATISM, even if the effect is controlled. Since 1995, they have created a series of posters for the Centre Dramatique de Bretagne, a small theater in Lorient. The hand-drawn lettering, which meanders around like a dreamer’s doodle, comes closest to visualizing the kind of output the Bureau central de recherches surréalistes might have generated in 1920s Paris had it also operated as a graphic design studio. Vaughan Oliver & Simon Larbalestier, theater poster, 1998  Oliver, Vaughan (b. 1957) British art director and graphic designer. Oliver saw the work of Dalí as a teenager and this led him to Breton, Éluard, ERNST and Magritte. Surrealism’s irrationalism, he recalls, “made sense.” In his later collaborations with the photographers Nigel Grierson (as 23 Envelope), Simon Larbalestier (as v23) and others, Oliver designed graphic images that recall canonical pictures by Surrealist photographers, in their visceral emphasis on isolated parts of the BODY, such as the toe, mouth or EYE. The Clan of Xymox album cover (1985) is constructed around an UNCANNY image of suspended dolls. Quay Brothers, music poster, 1983  Quay Brothers (b. 1947) American graphic artists and film-makers. Inspired by Polish poster art seen in Philadelphia, identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay studied illustration at the Royal College of Art in London. In the 1970s and early 1980s, they produced graphic images for posters and book covers before committing themselves entirely to film-making. Their animated WUNDERKAMMERN, using puppets and dolls, are haunted by a vision of a dark, surreal and melancholic Mitteleuropa. Much of their early graphic work is now lost and overlooked, but the Duet Emmo poster (1983) gives a flavor, and their ornate calligraphic film titles seem to emanate from a parallel reality. Jonathon Rosen, cover of artist’s book, 1990  Rosen, Jonathon (b. 1959) American graphic artist and illustrator. Drawing on sources that include the scatological marginalia in medieval manuscripts, Hieronymus Bosch, antiquated technology, medical illustrations and Surrealism, Rosen has created a bizarre alternative universe where the troubled BODY exists in ambiguous symbiotic union with strange machines. His “Gothic Surrealism” was already fully developed in 1990 when a French publisher issued Intestinal Fortitude: Depictions of Anatomical Blasphemy, and he has continued to find outlets within commercial media for disturbing and even horrific imagery that makes no concessions to the casual viewer. Schorn, Brian (b. 1961) American graphic designer, photographer and musician. Schorn attended medical school for two years before turning to photography and design. As a student at Cranbrook Academy of Art, he applied Surrealist concerns, including COLLAGE, AUTOMATISM and a focus on the BODY, to the production of graphic design and typography. These projects were fueled, he said, by “a desire to reach content not available to grid-orientated designs or thinking.” (See LETTERS)Franciszek Starowieyski, theater poster, 1974 Starowieyski, Franciszek (1930–2009) Polish painter, poster artist, theater and film designer. Starowieyski’s extensive body of work across different media is one of the most consistent expressions of an unrestrained Surrealist sensibility to be found in graphic art and design. Oblivious to the dictates of artistic fashion or taste, he pushed his imagination to the limit, plunging viewers into an alarming psychological reality where the bulging corpulence of the BODY, representing life and DESIRE, is forced into an inescapably intimate embrace with the monstrous corruption of DEATH. The relationship is seen at its most tender in his poster for Strindberg’s Taniec smierci (The Dance of Death, 1974). Štyrský, Jindřich (1899–1942) Czechoslovakian artist, photographer and designer. Štyrský, a regular collaborator with the painter Toyen (1902–80), was a founder member in 1934 of the Surrealist Group in Czechoslovakia. In his photographic series, Štyrský concentrated on shop windows, fairgrounds and funerary objects. The typography of old advertisements and the crude vernacular paintings used to promote bizarre sideshow attractions add to the sense of unfathomable mystery. His Portable Cabinet collages (1934), many featuring BODY parts and organs, were the first to make use of source material printed in color, as though the deranged monochromatic dream-world discovered by Ernst could now be viewed in hallucinatory Technicolor. Jan Švankmajer, hand-colored etching, 1972–73 Švankmajer, Jan (b. 1934) Czechoslovakian film-maker and artist. Švankmajer was already committed to Surrealism when, in 1970, he joined the Surrealist Group in Prague. The visual sensibility of his many short films, deeply in thrall to Arcimboldo and the surreal plenitude of the WUNDERKAMMER, is often highly graphic. In Historia Naturae, Suita (1967), he uses found imagery — old black and white engravings and lithographs — cut together in rapid, rhythmical montages to lay bare the rapacious appetites of man: the entire animal world exists to be consumed. In the 1970s, unable to make films, he created COLLAGES on anatomical, zoological, ethnological and technological themes. Švankmajer’s wife, Eva Švankmajerová (1940–2005), painter and fellow Surrealist, collaborated on his films and designed numerous posters to promote them. Karel Teige, book cover, 1935 Teige, Karel (1900–51) Czechoslovakian writer, critic and graphic designer. In the 1920s, Teige’s lyrical conception of Poetism, to describe the avant-garde position held by the Devětsil group, had much in common with Surrealism. His book and magazine design greatly influenced other designers. In 1934, he joined the Surrealist Group in Czechoslovakia, becoming its spokesman, and his book cover designs based on COLLAGE — such as Pantomima (1935) for the Surrealist novelist and poet Vítězslav Nezval — fully embraced Surrealism. He also produced many autonomous collages that obsessively subjected photographs of the female BODY to erotic fragmentation. Teissig, Karel (1925–2000) Czechoslovakian painter, graphic artist and illustrator. Teissig was one of the pioneers of COLLAGE in Czech film poster design and tended to concentrate on drama, mystery and horror films best suited to his powerfully emotive style. The visual influence of Surrealism can be seen in many of his most compelling images. In a poster designed in 1967 for Volker Schlöndorff’s Young Törless, about an emotionally detached boy who witnesses cruelties at school, Teissig employs the quintessential Surrealist trope of an antique anatomical diagram, made doubly strange by the upended presence of two menacing, hyena-like predators. Emmanuel Polanco, book cover (undated recent edition) The uncanny In his essay “The Uncanny” (1919), Freud suggests that the feeling something is uncanny (in German, unheimlich — “unhomely”) arises when an emotional impulse we have repressed returns to consciousness, triggered by some inexplicable sight or experience, and frightens us. It makes no difference to the effect whether the original source of this emotion, which could be highly familiar, was intrinsically disturbing or not. In many Surrealist images, something ordinary and familiar, suddenly perceived as a symbol, becomes disruptive and strange. Doubles are uncanny. Coincidence and repetition are uncanny. The “evil EYE” is uncanny. The doll, an inanimate object that nevertheless suggests the presence of life, is uncanny. Josef Vylet’al, film poster, 1965  Vylet’al, Josef (1940–89) Czechoslovakian painter, graphic artist, film and theater designer. Vylet’al cited many artistic “allies,” including Bosch, Arcimboldo, Dalí, Magritte and ERNST, as well as the influence of ŠTYRSKÝ and Toyen. In 1965, ethereal, root-like forms, which he called “Tree Beings,” began to appear in his paintings, marking a new phase of intensity in his work. These spectral creatures can be seen in his poster for the Czech film Hrdina má Strach (The Hero is Afraid, 1965), where they float around an elegant figure in a bare, gridded room whose head has inflated to become a vast organic balloon, a symbol of either obliteration or boundless interior discovery. Domenico Remps, Cabinet of Curiosities, oil on canvas, 1690s  Wunderkammer The first museums were Wunderkammern, cabinets of curiosities assembled by wealthy 17th-century scholars and collectors for the education and amusement of themselves and their acquaintances. The CHANCE ENCOUNTERS in these profuse displays of natural marvels and man-made objects provoked a sense of poetry and wonder, and Surrealists such as Breton, seeking the MARVELOUS, created similar private collections. BibliOdyssey, Pictorial Webster’s, Implicasphere and other contemporary “cabinets” pursue a DESIRE for enchantment that owes much to Surrealism. Museum-scale Wunderkammern include The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, Los Angeles, and the Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacy at the Manchester Museum. (See ENCYCLOPEDIA)See also:The Dictionary as Art ConceptLove of Lexicons Jan Švankmajer and the Graphic UncannySlicing Open the Eyeball: Surrealism and the Visual UnconsciousSurrealism and Design, Part 1: Dark Tools of DesireSurrealism and Design, Part 2: Documents of the Marvellous Surrealism: The Enduring Appeal of Convulsive Beauty  window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({ appId : '549191665189926', xfbml : true, version : 'v2.0' }); $('.fblike').click(function() { FB.ui({ method: 'share_open_graph', action_type: 'og.likes', action_properties: JSON.stringify({ object:'http://designobserver.com/feature/a-dictionary-of-surrealism-and-the-graphic-image/37685', }) }, function(response){}); }); }; (function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;} js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({ appId : '914000848708379', xfbml : true, version : 'v2.6' }); }; (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.6&appId=549191665189926"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Posted in: Arts + Culture, Graphic Design, History, Illustration, Theory + Criticism Comments [9] Wonderful article, and thank you for featuring my two favorite artists- Jan Švankmajer and Karel Teige. Bravo! Together with their other Czech artists they deserve a wider international recognition. Ludmilla http://www.buffalogirlsproductions.com Ludmilla 02.18.1310:07 Dear Rick Poynor As much as I love and respect your articles, books, exhibitions, etc., and critical work in general, I must admit that I remain rather unconvinced by your attempts to prove the importance of surrealism on 20th-century graphic design : it seems to me, on the contrary, that graphic design owes much of its creative strategies to Dada, whose influence on surrealism itself was crucial during the 1920s and 1930s. I reckon that surrealism exerted a strong influence on advertising (as proven by the many posters or ad campaigns ripping off Magritte’s paintings), but on graphic design ? I'm doubtful. Very best, SD Stéphane Darricau 02.19.1303:33 Stéphane, thank you for your comment — I appreciate your skepticism! Uncanny was very much a hypothesis, which I tested by bringing a lot of pieces together to see whether the proposal added up. I’m naturally highly interested to see how other researchers in the field react to this material. Did you visit the exhibitions in Brno or Rotterdam, which both had around 270 examples, or see the catalogue, which shows around 110? I believe there is already more than enough material to talk about, but of course there’s a need to publicize the subject more widely, which is why I have now republished the “dictionary,” making it much easier to read. I hope it’s clear from the second paragraph of the short introduction at the top that I’m not making over-large claims for Surrealism as an influence on graphic design. I acknowledge that these influences are sporadic. I am, however, saying that the subject has received insufficient attention in graphic design histories by writers such as Meggs and Heller. I go into more detail about this in my essay “Surrealism and Design, Part 1”. I also feel encouraged by the continuing attention that Surrealism is receiving in relation to other fields, most notably photography, film, fashion, architecture, and three-dimensional design. It would be quite strange if graphic design, which borrows so heavily from prevailing cultural tendencies, had not had some kind of relationship over the decades with Surrealism. The Uncanny exhibition was commissioned to be part of a festival of graphic design and that undoubtedly influenced the use of “graphic design” in the original title. I subsequently decided that “graphic image” would be a better term for what I’m trying to explore — I use this term now in lectures and I use it in the title here. Graphic images might be created by artists, commercial artists, illustrators, graphic designers, or as you point out, advertising designers. These images and designs could certainly be part of formal “graphic design” projects, but I don’t want to use professional conceptions of graphic design practice as the lens through which to examine and understand this kind of work; that’s much too limiting. One polemical point that I wanted to make with Uncanny is that this work embodies a challenge to graphic design. It is often an affront to good taste and it introduces a concern with psychological realities that designers sometimes (or maybe often?) neglect. I also acknowledge that the audience for reconsidering this kind of communication is perhaps more likely to be illustrators or artists than graphic designers, though everyone is welcome! I’d like to continue with this research — this was just a start — and Dada, as pre-history (it’s briefly acknowledged above with reference to collage), will receive more attention, though Dada’s typographic influence is already well known to designers, as you say. I also decided with Uncanny not to cover Magritte’s influence on advertising and record sleeves because this is more familiar and often very glib. Instead, I wanted to stress the psychological dimension of the less familiar work shown in Uncanny and its relation to key concepts in Surrealism. Rick Poynor 02.19.1311:40 You can't get the catalogue anywhere it seems. I don't suppose Mr Poynor you have umpteen copies lying around? Luke lharby 02.20.1307:55 Luke, I'm afraid it's out of print. That's why I put the text and some of the illustrations online. I don't have piles of copies. Rick Poynor 02.20.1308:25 Dear Rick, i noticed about this wonderful catalogue when I read it in étapes 13 http: // ggili.com.mx/es/tienda/productos/etapes-diseno-y-cultura-visual-13, with texts translated into Spanish (I believe that also it was published in the French edition). I believe in the influence and presence of surrealism in graphic design, and your hypothesis is very precise in text and image. As you suggest that still you are in the search of names related to the surrealism, I encourage to mention two important names. The Spanish illustrator and designer Isidro Ferrer http: // www.isidroferrer.com/, who not only recognizes influences as the surrealism, but also of Alfred Jarry and the pataphysisc, the body, the faces and the rare objects, in a portfolio of admirable work. If you have an e-mail, I can send a long text that I wrote about Ferrer, in Spanish but full of images. The other one is the Danish artist Sergei Sviatchenko http: // www.sviatchenko.dk/artwork, whom I knew in Luxembourg. His photographic collages and photomontages, enigmatic and unique, have possible influences of the surrealism. Recently he edited a book http: // www.sviatchenko.dk/publications/222-everything-goes-right-left-if-you-want-it,-the-art-of-sergei-sviatchenko,-2012 Best regards, Lucas Lucas López 02.20.1304:24 Dear Rick Poynor Thank you for your lengthy reply. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to see the show in Brno ; I browsed through the catalogue once at a friend's, but it was already out of print at the time, so I was unable to purchase it as well (which is a shame, since it would have fitted nicely on my shelves alongside your other books). But my skepticism about this goes back a long way, at least to your two-part article about Surrealism and graphic designed published in “Eye” in 2007. I do agree with you that the influence of Dada on typography has already been described by numerous authors since Lupton, Goldstein & Rothschild's “Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age” — but I'm under the impression that there's much more to be found. Consider, for instance, how Dada strategies regarding the use of photographic material (i.e. photomontages by Hausmann, Höch, Heartfield et al.) provide a critical deconstruction of our faith in the photographic picture (thus prefiguring the work of contemporary designers such as Jan van Toorn or Julian House), when Surrealism plays upon this faith by constructing images whose visual trickery (see Man Ray's “Le Violon d'Ingres”) is intended to make us believe in the reality of what's shown in them. This is the difference between “visual metonymy” (what you see is the result of a series of destructive actions which can be deducted from the final outcome), which is a fundamental graphic design strategy, and “optical illusionism”, which is the main tenet of advertising imagery (Magritte's pictures are painted but pursue basically the same goals, and you can also find this in Dalí's work). In this respect, some of the examples you show above (Teige, the Quay Brothers, Polanco), Klimowski's famed work for Kundera's Faber editions, etc., seem to me to show more links with Dada than with Surrealism — because they let the process appear in the outcome instead of aiming at a visually-integrated result. In the end, please forgive me if my English writing doesn't allow me to describe these ideas in a more convincing way — I'm struggling a little bit here. SD Stéphane Darricau 02.21.1303:25 Lucas, thank you for these recommendations, both good ones. I know Sergei Sviatchenko’s work. Very interesting. Quite a lot of the new wave of collagists show obvious debts to Surrealism. I’d like to see your Ferrer text. I know his work a little but not in any detail. You can email me by clicking on “Contact” at the top right of my Observatory homepage here on Design Observer. Stéphane, I’m sure you are right that there is more to be found when it comes to Dada’s influences on visual communication, just as I’m sure that there is a lot more to be found when it comes to Surrealism’s influences. The two movements are difficult to disentangle, sharing many of the same personnel, which is why it was quite usual in early art historical accounts and exhibitions to consider them together. Your “destructive action” idea is interesting but I think it makes an over-schematic distinction, which then leads to some odd conclusions. Teige was an avowed Surrealist. The Quays hold back from explicitly stating their sympathies with Surrealism only because saying that things are “surreal” has become such a cliché. Klimowski produces some of the most oneiric imagery in British/Polish graphic communication. Neither he nor the Quays had any objection to being included in Uncanny. A contemporary designer such as Julian House (not included in Uncanny) is deeply familiar with Surrealist imagery and visual strategies, as well as with Dada. I would certainly want to include him in any future survey of this subject. But I don’t think the clear-cut distinction you draw between destructive action (Dada) and illusionism (Surrealism) actually holds up. Collage is a perfect medium for chance encounter — that essential Surrealist strategy. Ernst, a Dadaist turned Surrealist, continued to make collages; in 1931 he used collage to present the members of the Surrealist group. Teige made collages. Breton and others made Surrealist objects based on the principle of assemblage. There were some remarkable, lesser known examples of collage in the La Subversion des images exhibition at the Centre Pompidou by Max Servais and Georges Hugnet, which employ strips of found text as well as image fragments. In Exquisite Corpse, the Surrealist game, the images are discontinuous, even if some parts remain illusionistic; the constructional principle is closer to collage than to trompe l’oeil. And there is, in any case, plenty of Surrealist painting that isn’t illusionistic (early Tanguy, some of Ernst, Miró, Masson, Oscar Domínguez’s pictures based on decalcomania, etc). Uncanny featured graphic work that derived from both the collage-based and the illusionistic tendencies within Surrealism. Rick Poynor 02.22.1311:38 Dear Rick, I'm a student on illustration/visual communications and I am working on a project related to Hasard Objectif, surrealism and graphic design. I've just watch your conference INQUIETANTE ETRANGETE : SURREALISME ET GRAPHISME online at the Centre Pompidou web. I was really inspired by the video and I'm sure it's going to be of much help for this project. I was wondering. Is there anything else in the contemporary graphic design that you would think it would be useful for the subject I'm working on? Thank you very much for your time. Best regards, Carol Carol 01.29.1404:20 Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. He is Professor of Design and Visual Culture at the University of Reading in the UK. More from Rick Poynor Herbert Spencer and The Book of Numbers The Book of Numbers by Herbert and Mafalda Spencer was aimed at children, but its intriguing visual approach is more “photobook” than “schoolbook.” The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter Clutter and design are inseparable as concepts because clutter is the negation of design. Exposure: Andy’s Food Mart by Tibor Kalman and M&Co The virtue of the vernacular The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic Punk has two graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic and The Art of Punk. What conclusions do they draw? Exposure: License Photo Studio by Walker Evans The building as camera Jobs | October 17 Kendo Brands, Inc. San Francisco, CAManager, Global Store Design - Temporary Pandiscio GreenNew York, NYBusiness ManagerHomeWorx and ScentWorxNew York, NYSenior DesignerBSH Home AppliancesIrvine, CASenior Industrial Designer IPost A JobView All Jobs (function () { var src = document.createElement('script'); src.type = 'text/javascript'; src.async = true; src.src = document.location.protocol + "//www.coroflot.com/jobs/partners_javascript_recent_jobs_secure?origin_id=14&number_of_jobs=4"; document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0].appendChild(src); } ()); googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1471436438685-3'); }); googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1471436438685-4'); });
  • i
  • Surrealistic design is not a group activity, it has never cohered into a dominant tendency within graphic design, and histories of design have said little about it
  • would be mistaken to describe this lineage as representing a movemen
  • n to describe this lineage as representing a movement. Surrealistic design is not a group activity, it has never cohered into a dominant tendency within graphic design, and histories of design have said little about it. Work showing a strong debt to Surrealism emerges only when a graphic artist or designer appears who is attuned to this way of thinking, dreaming and imagining. Most graphic design conforms to an underlying grid, a sense of structure and professional good taste, which brings order but also imposes limits. The images and designs in Uncanny break free from these bureaucratic restrictions and follow the impulses of a wayward, subjective, dreamlike logic to arrive at their own kind of equilibrium and form. They show that graphic design, too, can sometimes be a place to encounter the strange, the fantastical and the uncanny, to rediscover our lost sense of mystery, and to experience the convulsive beauty and capacity for enchantment and wonder that the Surrealists called “the marvelous.” Automatism In the first Manifesto of Surrealism, published in Paris in 1924, Surrealism’s founder, André Breton, defines Surrealism as “Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner — the functioning of thought.” Reason would play no part in restricting the flow of thought in automatic writing and no moral or aesthetic control would be exercised. Surrealism offered a psychic mechanism to gain access to a superior reality.Karel Teissig, film poster, 1967Body Surrealist art and photography represented the body and probed its secret recesses with an anatomist’s fascination, as though base flesh — the big toe, the mouth — might divulge the ineffable mysteries of being. Graphic artists of the postwar years, inheriting this lexicon of anatomical images, broke the body into fragments, cutting out lips, breasts and limbs, and peeling away the skin to expose the bones that give the body structure, and the organs that animate it. Walking skeletons and speaking skulls are modern-day memento mori, intensifying the sense of life’s fragility and beauty. (See EYE) Chance encounter Les chants de Maldoror (1869) by the Comte de Lautréamont contains a phrase — “Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table” — that became a fundamental axiom for Breton and the Surrealists. Bringing together ordinary but otherwise unconnected elements in unexpected juxtapositions creates a new reality of the MARVELOUS. Negating an object’s everyday function allows us to perceive its inherent poetry and strangeness with electrifying clarity. (See WUNDERKAMMER) Cieślewicz, Roman (1930–96) Polish graphic designer and poster artist. Cieślewicz studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow and worked in Warsaw until 1963, when he moved to Paris. Early posters such as Katastrofa (1961) and Zawrót głowy (1963) for Hitchcock’s Vertigo assault the viewer with violently sharp, largely monochromatic images, which bring to mind similarly disquieting collages by ERNST. In later posters such as Diabły z Loudun (1974), the ferocious graphic intensity coupled with unnervingly balanced symmetry becomes demonic. (See LETTERS) Jindřich Štyrský, collage from Portable Cabinet, 1934 Collage A quintessential medium of Surrealist expression, as it had also been for Dada. Mundane images of everyday reality could be cut up and reassembled in magical new configurations that subverted bourgeois preconceptions, values and rationality. ERNST used collage to reanimate old engravings with spine-tingling jolts of psychic power. The Czech Surrealists TEIGE and ŠTYRSKÝ employed collage for purposes of erotic fantasy. In the 1960s, innovative Czech poster designers drew heavily on this tradition of radical collage-making. For American designer EDWARD FELLA, the collage principle was easily summarized: “Juxtaposition is everything!” Convulsive beauty André Breton concluded his book Nadja (1928) with the declaration that “Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all.” The perception of beauty was understood by the Surrealists as a thrilling shock experienced not only in the mind but in the body as an involuntary sensation of giddiness or tension. (See THE MARVELOUS) Death “Surrealism will usher you into death, which is a secret society.” — André Breton in the first Manifesto of Surrealism (1924). (See BODY) Rudolf Nemec, Valerie and her Week of Wonders, LP, 1970  Desire The Surrealists saw desire as the true expression of the psyche and they used the word often in their discussions of life, literature and art. To be truly free, a person must first recognize, and then act on, his or her desires. In L’Amour fou (1937), Breton’s book about the mystery of love, he describes desire as “the only motive of the world.” The object of this longing might be the BODY of a lover, an entirely non-sexual goal or outcome, or an actual object endowed with the magnetic allure of a fetish. Surrealist art abounds with female love-objects who possess for the artist the power of the poetic muse. The found object, too, can be a realization of secret desire. (See THE MARVELOUS) Andrzej Klimowski, The Secret, page from graphic novel, 2002  Dream The Surrealists believed, like Freud, that the motivations of the mind were most fully revealed in the operations of the unconscious. Dreams are tableaux from this hidden realm and Surrealist art repeatedly confronts us with extraordinary images originating in the depths of the nocturnal imagination. This is the aspect of Surrealism that has exerted the strongest influence on later generations of graphic artist. Poster design, in particular, has confronted the viewer with bizarrely transformed dreamlike figures (STAROWIEYSKI, VYLET’AL), grotesque apparitions (ROSEN, EARLS), demonic entities (CIESLEWICZ, TEISSIG) and otherworldly beings adrift in uncertain spaces (KLIMOWSKI). These images retain their capacity to enthrall and disturb, a sign that the image is provoking a reaction in the viewer’s own unconscious.Elliott Earls, Cranrbook Academy of Art poster, 2008 Earls, Elliott (b. 1966) American graphic designer, performance artist and educator. As a student at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he is now head of graphic design, Earls began to develop a militantly subjective graphic language, influenced by the examples of ERNST and Kurt Schwitters. In his posters, typefaces, and film projects, he mounts a continuous attack on fellow designers’ sense of decorum and taste, and wrenches graphic and typographic forms into discomfortingly malformed shapes. A series of posters promoting the departments at Cranbrook uses digital imaging to fashion monstrous mutations that appear to be simultaneously organic and artificial. Sandals from Diderot’s Encyclopédie, 1751–72 Encyclopedia The encyclopedia’s — and dictionary’s — alphabetical organization facilitates the CHANCE ENCOUNTER of unrelated or incompatible objects and ideas. Furthermore, the images in encyclopedias, especially very old ones, frequently display a heightened character of strangeness, a numinous quality noted by Roland Barthes in his essay “The Plates of the Encyclopedia” (1964), a meditation on Diderot’s great 18th-century Enlightenment project. “We can say that there is not one plate of the Encyclopedia which fails to vibrate well beyond its demonstrative intent,” he writes. “This singular vibration is above all an astonishment.” (See WUNDERKAMMER) Max Ernst, Une semaine de bonté, collage-novel, 1934 Ernst, Max (1891–1976) German painter and sculptor. Ernst, a self-taught artist educated in philosophy, was a master of the irrational juxtaposition of unrelated elements. His visual inventions exerted enormous influence on the development of 20th-century COLLAGE and graphic art. He founded the Cologne Dada group in 1919 and his first exhibition in Paris in 1920 was greeted enthusiastically by the emerging Surrealists. After collaborating with the poet Paul Éluard on Les malheurs des immortels (1922), which features a sequence of collages based on engravings, Ernst published the collage-novels La femme 100 têtes (1929), Rêve d’une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel (1930) and Une semaine de bonté (1934). Posters by VYLET’AL (The Birds) and Milan Grygar (Marat-Sade) center on visual quotations from Ernst. Brian Schorn, poster for a reading, 1994  Eye The eye, popularly regarded as the window of the soul, is one of the most persistent and suggestive icons in Surrealist image-making — from Man Ray to Salvador Dalí — as well as being a subject for Surrealist reflection. Georges Bataille made it his leitmotif in Story of the Eye (1928) and the Critical Dictionary (1929–30), which he edited, contains a long entry on the mysteries of the eye: “strange, vague, or simply beautiful.” In posters by designers such as TEISSIG, OLIVER and SCHORN, the organ of sight (often a solitary disembodied orb) regards the viewer with unsettling intensity. “The power of the eye is so strong that it is dangerous even when mere curiosity animates it” — Critical Dictionary. (See BODY) Edward Fella, page from lettering book, 1992  Fella, Edward (b. 1938) American commercial artist, graphic designer and educator. In his notebooks and in a series of flyers to advertise his lectures, created since his retirement from commercial practice, Fella has used typographic material for a sustained experiment in “automatic designing.” The printed pieces display remarkable versatility, as though the continuously morphing letterforms are gushing from a reservoir in his unconscious. Fella acknowledges the work’s basis in AUTOMATISM: “the whole idea is not to think, to tap into the subconscious through a kind of automatic writing, a Surrealist practice.” His book Letters on America (2000) is a collection of Polaroids of vernacular lettering sought and catalogued as objects of DESIRE. Klimowski, Andrzej (b. 1949) British graphic artist, illustrator and educator. In 1973, after studying painting, sculpture and graphic art, Klimowski moved to Warsaw to study poster design and film animation. The posters from his Polish period have more in common with the photo-collage approach of CIESLEWICZ than with the painted poster tradition. After returning to the UK in 1980, Klimowski applied his surreal images, often featuring angelic beings, to book cover design and editorial illustration. In 1994, he published his first wordless graphic novel, The Depository: A Dream Book, followed by The Secret (2002) and Horace Dorlan (2007), which alternates between his text and images.Roman Cieślewicz, alphabet for Guide de la France mystérieuse, 1964 Letters The fixed lineaments of the alphabet can also be made pliable and subjected to Surrealist COLLAGE and transformation. In 1952, the Czech poet Jindřich Heisler, adapting the graphic lessons of ERNST, constructed an alphabet from details cut from old engravings. CIESLEWICZ did something similar for the Guide de la France Mystérieuse (1964). In 1994, SCHORN performed a series of incisions, amputations and sutures on the body of the letter “A.” “Letters can now be explored as living, organic wonders by removing old tissues, transplanting new organs, or grafting new limbs,” he said. M/M (PARIS)’s The Alphabet (2001) melts away parts of the faces and figures of a parade of female models to mould a set of loosely contoured alphabetic signs. The marvelous One of the central and most enduring concepts of Surrealism. The marvelous (in French, le merveilleux) is an alert, elevated, otherworldly state of mind, a moment when reality seems to open up and disclose its essence more fully. This revelatory disturbance of the senses can be induced by poems, paintings, photographs and objects of uncertain purpose; by enigmatic arrangements of merchandise (gloves, mannequins, artificial limbs) encountered in shop windows; by especially atmospheric parts of the city discovered by chance while walking; or by the radiant face of a loved one. In the first Manifesto of Surrealism, Breton writes that “the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful.” (See CONVULSIVE BEAUTY, THE UNCANNY, WUNDERKAMMER) M/M (Paris), theater poster, 2005 M/M (Paris) French graphic design studio founded in 1992 by Michael Amzalag (b. 1968) and Mathias Augustyniak (b. 1967). M/M have developed a mode of graphic invention unfettered by the usual constraints of convention and form. Their disjointed compositions often suggest the outcome of some manner of AUTOMATISM, even if the effect is controlled. Since 1995, they have created a series of posters for the Centre Dramatique de Bretagne, a small theater in Lorient. The hand-drawn lettering, which meanders around like a dreamer’s doodle, comes closest to visualizing the kind of output the Bureau central de recherches surréalistes might have generated in 1920s Paris had it also operated as a graphic design studio. Vaughan Oliver & Simon Larbalestier, theater poster, 1998  Oliver, Vaughan (b. 1957) British art director and graphic designer. Oliver saw the work of Dalí as a teenager and this led him to Breton, Éluard, ERNST and Magritte. Surrealism’s irrationalism, he recalls, “made sense.” In his later collaborations with the photographers Nigel Grierson (as 23 Envelope), Simon Larbalestier (as v23) and others, Oliver designed graphic images that recall canonical pictures by Surrealist photographers, in their visceral emphasis on isolated parts of the BODY, such as the toe, mouth or EYE. The Clan of Xymox album cover (1985) is constructed around an UNCANNY image of suspended dolls. Quay Brothers, music poster, 1983  Quay Brothers (b. 1947) American graphic artists and film-makers. Inspired by Polish poster art seen in Philadelphia, identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay studied illustration at the Royal College of Art in London. In the 1970s and early 1980s, they produced graphic images for posters and book covers before committing themselves entirely to film-making. Their animated WUNDERKAMMERN, using puppets and dolls, are haunted by a vision of a dark, surreal and melancholic Mitteleuropa. Much of their early graphic work is now lost and overlooked, but the Duet Emmo poster (1983) gives a flavor, and their ornate calligraphic film titles seem to emanate from a parallel reality. Jonathon Rosen, cover of artist’s book, 1990  Rosen, Jonathon (b. 1959) American graphic artist and illustrator. Drawing on sources that include the scatological marginalia in medieval manuscripts, Hieronymus Bosch, antiquated technology, medical illustrations and Surrealism, Rosen has created a bizarre alternative universe where the troubled BODY exists in ambiguous symbiotic union with strange machines. His “Gothic Surrealism” was already fully developed in 1990 when a French publisher issued Intestinal Fortitude: Depictions of Anatomical Blasphemy, and he has continued to find outlets within commercial media for disturbing and even horrific imagery that makes no concessions to the casual viewer. Schorn, Brian (b. 1961) American graphic designer, photographer and musician. Schorn attended medical school for two years before turning to photography and design. As a student at Cranbrook Academy of Art, he applied Surrealist concerns, including COLLAGE, AUTOMATISM and a focus on the BODY, to the production of graphic design and typography. These projects were fueled, he said, by “a desire to reach content not available to grid-orientated designs or thinking.” (See LETTERS)Franciszek Starowieyski, theater poster, 1974 Starowieyski, Franciszek (1930–2009) Polish painter, poster artist, theater and film designer. Starowieyski’s extensive body of work across different media is one of the most consistent expressions of an unrestrained Surrealist sensibility to be found in graphic art and design. Oblivious to the dictates of artistic fashion or taste, he pushed his imagination to the limit, plunging viewers into an alarming psychological reality where the bulging corpulence of the BODY, representing life and DESIRE, is forced into an inescapably intimate embrace with the monstrous corruption of DEATH. The relationship is seen at its most tender in his poster for Strindberg’s Taniec smierci (The Dance of Death, 1974). Štyrský, Jindřich (1899–1942) Czechoslovakian artist, photographer and designer. Štyrský, a regular collaborator with the painter Toyen (1902–80), was a founder member in 1934 of the Surrealist Group in Czechoslovakia. In his photographic series, Štyrský concentrated on shop windows, fairgrounds and funerary objects. The typography of old advertisements and the crude vernacular paintings used to promote bizarre sideshow attractions add to the sense of unfathomable mystery. His Portable Cabinet collages (1934), many featuring BODY parts and organs, were the first to make use of source material printed in color, as though the deranged monochromatic dream-world discovered by Ernst could now be viewed in hallucinatory Technicolor. Jan Švankmajer, hand-colored etching, 1972–73 Švankmajer, Jan (b. 1934) Czechoslovakian film-maker and artist. Švankmajer was already committed to Surrealism when, in 1970, he joined the Surrealist Group in Prague. The visual sensibility of his many short films, deeply in thrall to Arcimboldo and the surreal plenitude of the WUNDERKAMMER, is often highly graphic. In Historia Naturae, Suita (1967), he uses found imagery — old black and white engravings and lithographs — cut together in rapid, rhythmical montages to lay bare the rapacious appetites of man: the entire animal world exists to be consumed. In the 1970s, unable to make films, he created COLLAGES on anatomical, zoological, ethnological and technological themes. Švankmajer’s wife, Eva Švankmajerová (1940–2005), painter and fellow Surrealist, collaborated on his films and designed numerous posters to promote them. Karel Teige, book cover, 1935 Teige, Karel (1900–51) Czechoslovakian writer, critic and graphic designer. In the 1920s, Teige’s lyrical conception of Poetism, to describe the avant-garde position held by the Devětsil group, had much in common with Surrealism. His book and magazine design greatly influenced other designers. In 1934, he joined the Surrealist Group in Czechoslovakia, becoming its spokesman, and his book cover designs based on COLLAGE — such as Pantomima (1935) for the Surrealist novelist and poet Vítězslav Nezval — fully embraced Surrealism. He also produced many autonomous collages that obsessively subjected photographs of the female BODY to erotic fragmentation. Teissig, Karel (1925–2000) Czechoslovakian painter, graphic artist and illustrator. Teissig was one of the pioneers of COLLAGE in Czech film poster design and tended to concentrate on drama, mystery and horror films best suited to his powerfully emotive style. The visual influence of Surrealism can be seen in many of his most compelling images. In a poster designed in 1967 for Volker Schlöndorff’s Young Törless, about an emotionally detached boy who witnesses cruelties at school, Teissig employs the quintessential Surrealist trope of an antique anatomical diagram, made doubly strange by the upended presence of two menacing, hyena-like predators. Emmanuel Polanco, book cover (undated recent edition) The uncanny In his essay “The Uncanny” (1919), Freud suggests that the feeling something is uncanny (in German, unheimlich — “unhomely”) arises when an emotional impulse we have repressed returns to consciousness, triggered by some inexplicable sight or experience, and frightens us. It makes no difference to the effect whether the original source of this emotion, which could be highly familiar, was intrinsically disturbing or not. In many Surrealist images, something ordinary and familiar, suddenly perceived as a symbol, becomes disruptive and strange. Doubles are uncanny. Coincidence and repetition are uncanny. The “evil EYE” is uncanny. The doll, an inanimate object that nevertheless suggests the presence of life, is uncanny. Josef Vylet’al, film poster, 1965  Vylet’al, Josef (1940–89) Czechoslovakian painter, graphic artist, film and theater designer. Vylet’al cited many artistic “allies,” including Bosch, Arcimboldo, Dalí, Magritte and ERNST, as well as the influence of ŠTYRSKÝ and Toyen. In 1965, ethereal, root-like forms, which he called “Tree Beings,” began to appear in his paintings, marking a new phase of intensity in his work. These spectral creatures can be seen in his poster for the Czech film Hrdina má Strach (The Hero is Afraid, 1965), where they float around an elegant figure in a bare, gridded room whose head has inflated to become a vast organic balloon, a symbol of either obliteration or boundless interior discovery. Domenico Remps, Cabinet of Curiosities, oil on canvas, 1690s  Wunderkammer The first museums were Wunderkammern, cabinets of curiosities assembled by wealthy 17th-century scholars and collectors for the education and amusement of themselves and their acquaintances. The CHANCE ENCOUNTERS in these profuse displays of natural marvels and man-made objects provoked a sense of poetry and wonder, and Surrealists such as Breton, seeking the MARVELOUS, created similar private collections. BibliOdyssey, Pictorial Webster’s, Implicasphere and other contemporary “cabinets” pursue a DESIRE for enchantment that owes much to Surrealism. Museum-scale Wunderkammern include The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, Los Angeles, and the Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacy at the Manchester Museum. (See ENCYCLOPEDIA)See also:The Dictionary as Art ConceptLove of Lexicons Jan Švankmajer and the Graphic UncannySlicing Open the Eyeball: Surrealism and the Visual UnconsciousSurrealism and Design, Part 1: Dark Tools of DesireSurrealism and Design, Part 2: Documents of the Marvellous Surrealism: The Enduring Appeal of Convulsive Beauty  window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({ appId : '549191665189926', xfbml : true, version : 'v2.0' }); $('.fblike').click(function() { FB.ui({ method: 'share_open_graph', action_type: 'og.likes', action_properties: JSON.stringify({ object:'http://designobserver.com/feature/a-dictionary-of-surrealism-and-the-graphic-image/37685', }) }, function(response){}); }); }; (function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;} js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({ appId : '914000848708379', xfbml : true, version : 'v2.6' }); }; (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.6&appId=549191665189926"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Posted in: Arts + Culture, Graphic Design, History, Illustration, Theory + Criticism Comments [9] Wonderful article, and thank you for featuring my two favorite artists- Jan Švankmajer and Karel Teige. Bravo! Together with their other Czech artists they deserve a wider international recognition. Ludmilla http://www.buffalogirlsproductions.com Ludmilla 02.18.1310:07 Dear Rick Poynor As much as I love and respect your articles, books, exhibitions, etc., and critical work in general, I must admit that I remain rather unconvinced by your attempts to prove the importance of surrealism on 20th-century graphic design : it seems to me, on the contrary, that graphic design owes much of its creative strategies to Dada, whose influence on surrealism itself was crucial during the 1920s and 1930s. I reckon that surrealism exerted a strong influence on advertising (as proven by the many posters or ad campaigns ripping off Magritte’s paintings), but on graphic design ? I'm doubtful. Very best, SD Stéphane Darricau 02.19.1303:33 Stéphane, thank you for your comment — I appreciate your skepticism! Uncanny was very much a hypothesis, which I tested by bringing a lot of pieces together to see whether the proposal added up. I’m naturally highly interested to see how other researchers in the field react to this material. Did you visit the exhibitions in Brno or Rotterdam, which both had around 270 examples, or see the catalogue, which shows around 110? I believe there is already more than enough material to talk about, but of course there’s a need to publicize the subject more widely, which is why I have now republished the “dictionary,” making it much easier to read. I hope it’s clear from the second paragraph of the short introduction at the top that I’m not making over-large claims for Surrealism as an influence on graphic design. I acknowledge that these influences are sporadic. I am, however, saying that the subject has received insufficient attention in graphic design histories by writers such as Meggs and Heller. I go into more detail about this in my essay “Surrealism and Design, Part 1”. I also feel encouraged by the continuing attention that Surrealism is receiving in relation to other fields, most notably photography, film, fashion, architecture, and three-dimensional design. It would be quite strange if graphic design, which borrows so heavily from prevailing cultural tendencies, had not had some kind of relationship over the decades with Surrealism. The Uncanny exhibition was commissioned to be part of a festival of graphic design and that undoubtedly influenced the use of “graphic design” in the original title. I subsequently decided that “graphic image” would be a better term for what I’m trying to explore — I use this term now in lectures and I use it in the title here. Graphic images might be created by artists, commercial artists, illustrators, graphic designers, or as you point out, advertising designers. These images and designs could certainly be part of formal “graphic design” projects, but I don’t want to use professional conceptions of graphic design practice as the lens through which to examine and understand this kind of work; that’s much too limiting. One polemical point that I wanted to make with Uncanny is that this work embodies a challenge to graphic design. It is often an affront to good taste and it introduces a concern with psychological realities that designers sometimes (or maybe often?) neglect. I also acknowledge that the audience for reconsidering this kind of communication is perhaps more likely to be illustrators or artists than graphic designers, though everyone is welcome! I’d like to continue with this research — this was just a start — and Dada, as pre-history (it’s briefly acknowledged above with reference to collage), will receive more attention, though Dada’s typographic influence is already well known to designers, as you say. I also decided with Uncanny not to cover Magritte’s influence on advertising and record sleeves because this is more familiar and often very glib. Instead, I wanted to stress the psychological dimension of the less familiar work shown in Uncanny and its relation to key concepts in Surrealism. Rick Poynor 02.19.1311:40 You can't get the catalogue anywhere it seems. I don't suppose Mr Poynor you have umpteen copies lying around? Luke lharby 02.20.1307:55 Luke, I'm afraid it's out of print. That's why I put the text and some of the illustrations online. I don't have piles of copies. Rick Poynor 02.20.1308:25 Dear Rick, i noticed about this wonderful catalogue when I read it in étapes 13 http: // ggili.com.mx/es/tienda/productos/etapes-diseno-y-cultura-visual-13, with texts translated into Spanish (I believe that also it was published in the French edition). I believe in the influence and presence of surrealism in graphic design, and your hypothesis is very precise in text and image. As you suggest that still you are in the search of names related to the surrealism, I encourage to mention two important names. The Spanish illustrator and designer Isidro Ferrer http: // www.isidroferrer.com/, who not only recognizes influences as the surrealism, but also of Alfred Jarry and the pataphysisc, the body, the faces and the rare objects, in a portfolio of admirable work. If you have an e-mail, I can send a long text that I wrote about Ferrer, in Spanish but full of images. The other one is the Danish artist Sergei Sviatchenko http: // www.sviatchenko.dk/artwork, whom I knew in Luxembourg. His photographic collages and photomontages, enigmatic and unique, have possible influences of the surrealism. Recently he edited a book http: // www.sviatchenko.dk/publications/222-everything-goes-right-left-if-you-want-it,-the-art-of-sergei-sviatchenko,-2012 Best regards, Lucas Lucas López 02.20.1304:24 Dear Rick Poynor Thank you for your lengthy reply. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to see the show in Brno ; I browsed through the catalogue once at a friend's, but it was already out of print at the time, so I was unable to purchase it as well (which is a shame, since it would have fitted nicely on my shelves alongside your other books). But my skepticism about this goes back a long way, at least to your two-part article about Surrealism and graphic designed published in “Eye” in 2007. I do agree with you that the influence of Dada on typography has already been described by numerous authors since Lupton, Goldstein & Rothschild's “Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age” — but I'm under the impression that there's much more to be found. Consider, for instance, how Dada strategies regarding the use of photographic material (i.e. photomontages by Hausmann, Höch, Heartfield et al.) provide a critical deconstruction of our faith in the photographic picture (thus prefiguring the work of contemporary designers such as Jan van Toorn or Julian House), when Surrealism plays upon this faith by constructing images whose visual trickery (see Man Ray's “Le Violon d'Ingres”) is intended to make us believe in the reality of what's shown in them. This is the difference between “visual metonymy” (what you see is the result of a series of destructive actions which can be deducted from the final outcome), which is a fundamental graphic design strategy, and “optical illusionism”, which is the main tenet of advertising imagery (Magritte's pictures are painted but pursue basically the same goals, and you can also find this in Dalí's work). In this respect, some of the examples you show above (Teige, the Quay Brothers, Polanco), Klimowski's famed work for Kundera's Faber editions, etc., seem to me to show more links with Dada than with Surrealism — because they let the process appear in the outcome instead of aiming at a visually-integrated result. In the end, please forgive me if my English writing doesn't allow me to describe these ideas in a more convincing way — I'm struggling a little bit here. SD Stéphane Darricau 02.21.1303:25 Lucas, thank you for these recommendations, both good ones. I know Sergei Sviatchenko’s work. Very interesting. Quite a lot of the new wave of collagists show obvious debts to Surrealism. I’d like to see your Ferrer text. I know his work a little but not in any detail. You can email me by clicking on “Contact” at the top right of my Observatory homepage here on Design Observer. Stéphane, I’m sure you are right that there is more to be found when it comes to Dada’s influences on visual communication, just as I’m sure that there is a lot more to be found when it comes to Surrealism’s influences. The two movements are difficult to disentangle, sharing many of the same personnel, which is why it was quite usual in early art historical accounts and exhibitions to consider them together. Your “destructive action” idea is interesting but I think it makes an over-schematic distinction, which then leads to some odd conclusions. Teige was an avowed Surrealist. The Quays hold back from explicitly stating their sympathies with Surrealism only because saying that things are “surreal” has become such a cliché. Klimowski produces some of the most oneiric imagery in British/Polish graphic communication. Neither he nor the Quays had any objection to being included in Uncanny. A contemporary designer such as Julian House (not included in Uncanny) is deeply familiar with Surrealist imagery and visual strategies, as well as with Dada. I would certainly want to include him in any future survey of this subject. But I don’t think the clear-cut distinction you draw between destructive action (Dada) and illusionism (Surrealism) actually holds up. Collage is a perfect medium for chance encounter — that essential Surrealist strategy. Ernst, a Dadaist turned Surrealist, continued to make collages; in 1931 he used collage to present the members of the Surrealist group. Teige made collages. Breton and others made Surrealist objects based on the principle of assemblage. There were some remarkable, lesser known examples of collage in the La Subversion des images exhibition at the Centre Pompidou by Max Servais and Georges Hugnet, which employ strips of found text as well as image fragments. In Exquisite Corpse, the Surrealist game, the images are discontinuous, even if some parts remain illusionistic; the constructional principle is closer to collage than to trompe l’oeil. And there is, in any case, plenty of Surrealist painting that isn’t illusionistic (early Tanguy, some of Ernst, Miró, Masson, Oscar Domínguez’s pictures based on decalcomania, etc). Uncanny featured graphic work that derived from both the collage-based and the illusionistic tendencies within Surrealism. Rick Poynor 02.22.1311:38 Dear Rick, I'm a student on illustration/visual communications and I am working on a project related to Hasard Objectif, surrealism and graphic design. I've just watch your conference INQUIETANTE ETRANGETE : SURREALISME ET GRAPHISME online at the Centre Pompidou web. I was really inspired by the video and I'm sure it's going to be of much help for this project. I was wondering. Is there anything else in the contemporary graphic design that you would think it would be useful for the subject I'm working on? Thank you very much for your time. Best regards, Carol Carol 01.29.1404:20 Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. He is Professor of Design and Visual Culture at the University of Reading in the UK. More from Rick Poynor Herbert Spencer and The Book of Numbers The Book of Numbers by Herbert and Mafalda Spencer was aimed at children, but its intriguing visual approach is more “photobook” than “schoolbook.” The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter Clutter and design are inseparable as concepts because clutter is the negation of design. Exposure: Andy’s Food Mart by Tibor Kalman and M&Co The virtue of the vernacular The Art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic Punk has two graphic histories: Punk: An Aesthetic and The Art of Punk. What conclusions do they draw? Exposure: License Photo Studio by Walker Evans The building as camera Jobs | October 17 Kendo Brands, Inc. San Francisco, CAManager, Global Store Design - Temporary Pandiscio GreenNew York, NYBusiness ManagerHomeWorx and ScentWorxNew York, NYSenior DesignerBSH Home AppliancesIrvine, CASenior Industrial Designer IPost A JobView All Jobs (function () { var src = document.createElement('script'); src.type = 'text/javascript'; src.async = true; src.src = document.location.protocol + "//www.coroflot.com/jobs/partners_javascript_recent_jobs_secure?origin_id=14&number_of_jobs=4"; document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0].appendChild(src); } ()); googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1471436438685-3'); }); googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1471436438685-4'); });
8 annotations
  • Photo Engraving magazin
  • If you love love, you will love Surrealism
  • Surrealist magazine VVV,
  • potent and persuasive examples of Surrealism’s influence on graphic design
  • e marvellous in both their dreamlike images and extravagantly ornamental calligraphy.
  • similar Surrealist techniques to graphic imagery. ‘
  • n – are ‘specialists in revolt’ who will stop at nothing to achieve their aims. ‘Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, and in the disinterested play of pure thought,
  • ‘a means of total liberation of the mind’
  • Bayer’s ad for Adrianol nose drops,
  • Many of the finest posters convey a feeling that the repressed – in both the psychological and political senses – is not merely returning to the surface but gushing uncontrollably into view.
  • in black humour, in nonsense poetry, in the Gothic novel, in anatomical engravings, in the strange architectural visions of Piranesi and the disquieting Symbolist dream-pictures of Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon.
  • ‘obscure objects of desire’.
  • Brian Schorn
  • ‘It was completely natural and flowing.
  • . Everything happened in a purely unconscious state where anything was possible.
  • mind, body and spiri
  • ‘not for new things but for new eyes with which to re-envision and understand afresh both the world one had just lived through and its ideological legacies’.
  • Only occasionally in these years were there indications of what Surrealism might look like
  • synthesising
  • Quay Brothers
  • de Chirico (a Surrealist by adoption), Dalí and Magritte
  • e lost their power to bemuse or delight decades ag
  • unexamined role in the history of graphic design
  • it had no decisive impact on typographic methods and aesthetics.
  • can be traced back to Modernism, Surrealism is not part of this narrative
  • ‘Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design’, the first substantial exhibition to examine Surrealism’s influence on design,
  • origins lay in poetry
  • ntax were under assault, it might seem odd that Surrealism’s founders did not attempt to unpick the conventions
  • Ernst’s prodigiously inventive juxtapositions revealed a new graphic universe and they have had an immeasurable, if not always acknowledged, influence on the language of graphic design.
  • Surreal magazine
  • are potentially limitless in their possibilities for a truly unfettered graphic design,
  • ‘ruins of the bourgeoisie’
  • expediency, without commitment to Surrealism’s radical intentions
  • e El Lissitzky, Rodchenko
  • its first task was to unchain language by putting the emphasis on automatic writing,
  • the early to mid-1990s
  • body’s interior
  • I lived it and what I produced at that time was a product of it.’
  • ideas drawn from Surrealism
  • Schorn recalls. ‘It was completely natural and flowing.’ He began to apply similar Surrealist techniques to graphic imagery. ‘Soon, the entire form and content of my designs were informed by Surrealist techniques and ideas, most notably collage, automatism, dreams, fascination with the body, primal urges and non-sequiturs. Everything happened in a purely unconscious state where anything was possible. The work, in a way, spontaneously combusted before my eyes. It was fuelled by a desire to reach content not available to grid-oriented designs or thinking. The works were individual universes without rules of logic.’ While Schorn’s pieces might have seemed superficially similar to other examples of 1990s graphic rule-breaking, his designs for campus events and local clients such as Surreal magazine (published briefly in Detroit) were fluent examples of authentically surrealistic graphic form. The anatomical details and organic formations derived from Schorn’s intimate study of the body’s interior – an education in seeing that few graphic designers can ever have shared – achieve a depth of psychological reality found in the most compelling Surrealist creations: they are dream deposits and residues of a desire beyond words. Schorn’s poetry, published in Emigre with typographic collages based on the letter ‘A’, and in a book, Strabismus (1995), is equally committed to Surrealist aims and imperatives. If the Surrealists had made graphic design a central concern in the 1920s and 1930s, and had brought the same degree of iconoclasm to typography and graphic form that they brought to collage and painting, then Schorn’s and Fella’s output gives a good idea of what it might have looked like. ‘My interest in Surrealism was completely attached to all aspects of my self: mind, body and spirit,’ says Schorn. ‘I lived it and what I produced at that time was a product of it.’ Tiuja, the village madwoman, 1962. Illustration based on the writings of Bruno Schultz, the author of Street of Crocodiles. Schorn’s experience suggests that ideas drawn from Surrealism – whether we use the term or not – are potentially limitless in their possibilities for a truly unfettered graphic design, just as they are limitless in other areas of culture. His experience also shows why there are few designers whose work can be closely related to Surrealism as a movement. Surrealism demands a degree of inwardness that is not compatible with the realities of most client work. Fella pursues his brand of uncompromising automatism from a position of semi-retirement. Schorn tried working as a corporate designer in Chicago after Cranbrook, but gave it up in less than a year. After that he taught graphic design for six years, only to discover that there was little time to engage in personal explorations as intensive as those he had conducted during his years studying photography, writing and design. Today, after acquiring a fourth MFA in electronic music, he works as a musician and performance artist and teaches interdisciplinary art. The strange products of his brief stay in design offer a tantalisingly sharp glimpse of another possible design world, for anyone who seeks it. ‘Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design’ is at the V&A, London SW7, from 29 March to 22 July 2007. Street of Crocodiles can be found on a double DVD, The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 (BFI). Poster-sized wedding invitation by Ed Fella, 1994. First published in Eye no. 63 vol. 16 2007 Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.
  • it has been argued that his concerns lay with conscious matters of perception, interpretation and pictorial organisation, rather than with the expression of subconscious impulses.
  • : furniture, fashion and the interior take centre stage.
  • the exploration of the unconscious and the revelations of dream imagery.
  • In Fella’s case, call it automatic designing.
  • Ed Fella
  • the street poster was the medium in which this new sensibility flourished.
  • ‘pure psychic automatism’
  • , Alvin Lustig
  • achieve a depth of psychological reality found in the most compelling Surrealist creations:
  • I wrote a tremendous amount of poetry using this technique and I believe that I actually accomplished a kind of total, open door to my unconscious landscape
  • Surrealism demands a degree of inwardness that is not compatible with the realities of most client work.
  • nfluences from Dada and Constructivism as well as Surrealist tropes. (See Eye no. 24 vol. 6) Representational collage elements, such as the hand holding a hat and the keyboard instrument, come from Max Ernst, while the abstract ‘biomorphic’ shapes were familiar from the works of Arp, Joan Miró and the non-representational landscapes of Yves Tanguy. In 1939, Dalí became the talk of New York with window displays for Bonwit Teller that offended the department store’s customers, and Surrealism’s influence was given an added boost in the US by the arrival during the war years of so many émigré Surrealists and their affiliates, including Breton, Arp, Miró, Duchamp, Magritte, and Hans Bellmer. In the 1940s, Alvin Lustig was the most convincing American graphic interpreter of Surrealist imagery in a series of remarkably free book covers for the publisher New Directions. (See Eye no. 10 vol. 3.) On Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil, one of the most mysterious, three biomorphic beings radiate spindly tendrils of menace. Surrealism in Eastern Europe In the decades after the Second World War, some of the most potent and persuasive examples of Surrealism’s influence on graphic design came from Eastern Europe – from Czechoslovakia and Poland. In 1934, the photographer and collagist Jindrich Styrsky and the painter Toyen co-founded a Surrealist group in Prague, and they kept closely in touch with the Parisian Surrealists, creating rich soil for later developments in graphic art and design. In both Poland and Czechoslovakia, the street poster was the medium in which this new sensibility flourished. Where American and British commercial Surrealism can seem much too neatly manicured, given the movement’s flagrantly anti-bourgeois origins, these Eastern European images were barbed and unsettling interpretations of the films and plays they announced – by turns enchanted, capricious, enigmatic, fantastical, bizarre and sometimes monstrous. The constraints on free speech under which the designers were compelled to work in Communist countries necessitated the development of a feverishly expressive symbolism. Many of the finest posters convey a feeling that the repressed – in both the psychological and political senses – is not merely returning to the surface but gushing uncontrollably into view. Asked about his influences, the Polish designer Roman Cieslewicz tended to cite El Lissitzky, Rodchenko and the Dadaist John Heartfield rather than any of the Surrealists, though he admired Bayer’s surreal photomontages. Yet his work is charged with an electrifying power that inevitably brings to mind Ernst’s more threatening collages. In a poster for the film Katastrofa (1961), Cieslewicz fashions a giant, misshapen head out of engravings of an eye and an old map, and fills its mouth with black teeth like torn metal. In 1952, the Czech Surrealist poet Jindrich Heisler had collaged together a polymorphous alphabet out of hands, arms, heads, measuring devices and hammers, and twelve years later Cieslewicz made his own hybrid letterforms, using faces, snakes, lizards and an armadillo that, once again, recall Ernst. David Carson later used the letters to construct a Ray Gun masthead. A similar taste for jagged, expressionistic forms cut together with antique engravings and peculiar photographic details appears in the work of Karel Teissig, who pioneered the use of surreal collage effects in the Czech poster. In a marketplace that allowed designers a degree of interpretative latitude that is rare today, these visual techniques could be applied to the least obvious subjects. In Teissig’s poster for the film of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (1968), two of the Indians have doll heads – the doll is one of Surrealism’s enduring icons – while the third figure’s face is a grotesque, leering mask. Czech film poster for Ten Little Indians, based on Agatha Christie’s novel, designed by Karel Teisseg, 1968. Dolls, with empty craniums where their hair used to be, haunt the films of the Quay Brothers, one of the most fascinating cases of the way the spirit of Surrealism continues to operate undercover in contemporary image-making. In the late 1960s, on arrival at the Philadelphia College of Art to study illustration, the twins saw an exhibition of Polish posters that would change their lives. They often speak of their admiration for poster artists such as Cieslewicz, Jan Lenica and Franciszek Starowieyski. A poster by Bronislaw Zelek, showing an anatomical section of a jaw and throat, appears on a wall at the start of their film Street of Crocodiles (1986). In the 1970s and early 1980s, before settling into film-making, the Quays designed posters, book covers and record sleeves that seem to embody a genuinely Surrealist pursuit of the marvellous in both their dreamlike images and extravagantly ornamental calligraphy. The films continue this quest, constructing mysterious puppet-world scenarios and confabulating ‘meanings’ that make satisfying emotional sense while eluding rational transcription. Nevertheless, the Quays prefer to distance themselves from Surrealism. ‘Of course we are familiar with Surrealism, we know its history and its place,’ they told an interviewer in 1996, ‘but the term can too often be used in a cavalier way, without acknowledgement of its real meaning. Like, “Oh, that’s cool, that’s surreal.” When it’s used cautiously and intelligently it can be a very descriptive term, but we’re weary of its over-use.’ This over-use of ‘surreal’ as a synonym for ‘weird’ or ‘strange’ might seem to be an insuperable problem. Illusionistic illustrations plundered from Magritte lost their power to bemuse or delight decades ago, though some illustrators still churn them out. No creative person wants to be identified with a term that has been trivialised and rendered meaningless. Yet this doesn’t mean that work in sympathy with the original Surrealists’ ideas and aims is not possible, as the Quays’ body of work confirms. As the Surrealists themselves often pointed out, they were in part simply laying bare and proclaiming a sensibility and a way of being that had many precursors in literature and art: in black humour, in nonsense poetry, in the Gothic novel, in anatomical engravings, in the strange architectural visions of Piranesi and the disquieting Symbolist dream-pictures of Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon. Universes without rules of logic It may be that to find traces of a purer and more vital strain of Surrealism within graphic design we have to return to a period that is not currently fashionable: the early to mid-1990s. Although the experimental digital design of that time has been understood mainly as a response to new technological possibilities, and to postmodern market conditions, some of the more notable work from those years has a Surrealist quality of spontaneous interior expression. Advertisement for Adrianol Emulsion nose drops designed by Herbert Bayer, 1935. If this sounds far-fetched, consider the work of Ed Fella, which is based on a form of ‘pure psychic automatism’ – as Breton defined Surrealism – that remains one of the cornerstones of Surrealist practice. In Fella’s case, call it automatic designing. This can be seen most clearly in the obsessive doodling in his many notebooks (see Eye no. 23 vol. 6), but the posters he has produced since the late 1980s, usually now for his own lectures, display the same urge to facilitate unpremeditated discovery and the chance encounter of unlikely typographic forms. Fella cites Ernst as a key figure: ‘Juxtaposition is everything!’ he says in Influences (Die Gestalten Verlag, 2006), a ‘lexicon’ based on the possibilities of random selection and fruitful juxtaposition. Fella’s interest in vernacular typography, shared by many other designers, and seen in his book of roadside Polaroids, Letters on America, can be interpreted as a search for outmoded, Benjaminian ‘obscure objects of desire’. In the work of Fella’s colleague, Brian Schorn, the connection with Surrealism becomes even more explicit. Schorn studied for two years at medical school where he worked as a microbiology assistant and dissected a human cadaver. His interest in Surrealism and in figures such as Ernst and the poetic box-maker Joseph Cornell began when he switched to photographic studies. Schorn had acquired MFAs in photography and creative writing before I encountered him at Cranbrook Academy of Art in the early 1990s, studying for a third MFA in graphic design. By that time he was thoroughly steeped in Surrealist literature and art: Lautréamont (author of the Surrealist precursor classic Les Chants de Maldoror), Breton, Artaud, Bataille, the Romanian painter Victor Brauner and the contemporary American photographer Joel-Peter Witkin are just a few of the influences Schorn cites. He kept dream journals and experimented with automatic writing. ‘I wrote a tremendous amount of poetry using this technique and I believe that I actually accomplished a kind of total, open door to my unconscious landscape,’ Schorn recalls. ‘It was completely natural and flowing.’ He began to apply similar Surrealist techniques to graphic imagery. ‘Soon, the entire form and content of my designs were informed by Surrealist techniques and ideas, most notably collage, automatism, dreams, fascination with the body, primal urges and non-sequiturs. Everything happened in a purely unconscious state where anything was possible. The work, in a way, spontaneously combusted before my eyes. It was fuelled by a desire to reach content not available to grid-oriented designs or thinking. The works were individual universes without rules of logic.’ While Schorn’s pieces might have seemed superficially similar to other examples of 1990s graphic rule-breaking, his designs for campus events and local clients such as Surreal magazine (published briefly in Detroit) were fluent examples of authentically surrealistic graphic form. The anatomical details and organic formations derived from Schorn’s intimate study of the body’s interior – an education in seeing that few graphic designers can ever have shared – achieve a depth of psychological reality found in the most compelling Surrealist creations: they are dream deposits and residues of a desire beyond words. Schorn’s poetry, published in Emigre with typographic collages based on the letter ‘A’, and in a book, Strabismus (1995), is equally committed to Surrealist aims and imperatives. If the Surrealists had made graphic design a central concern in the 1920s and 1930s, and had brought the same degree of iconoclasm to typography and graphic form that they brought to collage and painting, then Schorn’s and Fella’s output gives a good idea of what it might have looked like. ‘My interest in Surrealism was completely attached to all aspects of my self: mind, body and spirit,’ says Schorn. ‘I lived it and what I produced at that time was a product of it.’ Tiuja, the village madwoman, 1962. Illustration based on the writings of Bruno Schultz, the author of Street of Crocodiles. Schorn’s experience suggests that ideas drawn from Surrealism – whether we use the term or not – are potentially limitless in their possibilities for a truly unfettered graphic design, just as they are limitless in other areas of culture. His experience also shows why there are few designers whose work can be closely related to Surrealism as a movement. Surrealism demands a degree of inwardness that is not compatible with the realities of most client work. Fella pursues his brand of uncompromising automatism from a position of semi-retirement. Schorn tried working as a corporate designer in Chicago after Cranbrook, but gave it up in less than a year. After that he taught graphic design for six years, only to discover that there was little time to engage in personal explorations as intensive as those he had conducted during his years studying photography, writing and design. Today, after acquiring a fourth MFA in electronic music, he works as a musician and performance artist and teaches interdisciplinary art. The strange products of his brief stay in design offer a tantalisingly sharp glimpse of another possible design world, for anyone who seeks it. ‘Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design’ is at the V&A, London SW7, from 29 March to 22 July 2007. Street of Crocodiles can be found on a double DVD, The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 (BFI). Poster-sized wedding invitation by Ed Fella, 1994. First published in Eye no. 63 vol. 16 2007 Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.
  • he works were individual universes without rules of logic.
  • they are dream deposits and residues of a desire beyond words
  • asionally in these years were there indications of what Surrealism might look like if applied to the graphic space of the typographic, printed page rather than to pictorial spaces visualised by paintbrush and airbrush. American designer Lester Beall’s cover for the fifth issue of Photo Engraving magazine (1939) is in every sense a graphic construction, synthesising typographic and compositional influences from Dada and Constructivism as well as Surrealist tropes. (See Eye no. 24 vol. 6) Representational collage elements, such as the hand holding a hat and the keyboard instrument, come from Max Ernst, while the abstract ‘biomorphic’ shapes were familiar from the works of Arp, Joan Miró and the non-representational landscapes of Yves Tanguy. In 1939, Dalí became the talk of New York with window displays for Bonwit Teller that offended the department store’s customers, and Surrealism’s influence was given an added boost in the US by the arrival during the war years of so many émigré Surrealists and their affiliates, including Breton, Arp, Miró, Duchamp, Magritte, and Hans Bellmer. In the 1940s, Alvin Lustig was the most convincing American graphic interpreter of Surrealist imagery in a series of remarkably free book covers for the publisher New Directions. (See Eye no. 10 vol. 3.) On Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil, one of the most mysterious, three biomorphic beings radiate spindly tendrils of menace. Surrealism in Eastern Europe In the decades after the Second World War, some of the most potent and persuasive examples of Surrealism’s influence on graphic design came from Eastern Europe – from Czechoslovakia and Poland. In 1934, the photographer and collagist Jindrich Styrsky and the painter Toyen co-founded a Surrealist group in Prague, and they kept closely in touch with the Parisian Surrealists, creating rich soil for later developments in graphic art and design. In both Poland and Czechoslovakia, the street poster was the medium in which this new sensibility flourished. Where American and British commercial Surrealism can seem much too neatly manicured, given the movement’s flagrantly anti-bourgeois origins, these Eastern European images were barbed and unsettling interpretations of the films and plays they announced – by turns enchanted, capricious, enigmatic, fantastical, bizarre and sometimes monstrous. The constraints on free speech under which the designers were compelled to work in Communist countries necessitated the development of a feverishly expressive symbolism. Many of the finest posters convey a feeling that the repressed – in both the psychological and political senses – is not merely returning to the surface but gushing uncontrollably into view. Asked about his influences, the Polish designer Roman Cieslewicz tended to cite El Lissitzky, Rodchenko and the Dadaist John Heartfield rather than any of the Surrealists, though he admired Bayer’s surreal photomontages. Yet his work is charged with an electrifying power that inevitably brings to mind Ernst’s more threatening collages. In a poster for the film Katastrofa (1961), Cieslewicz fashions a giant, misshapen head out of engravings of an eye and an old map, and fills its mouth with black teeth like torn metal. In 1952, the Czech Surrealist poet Jindrich Heisler had collaged together a polymorphous alphabet out of hands, arms, heads, measuring devices and hammers, and twelve years later Cieslewicz made his own hybrid letterforms, using faces, snakes, lizards and an armadillo that, once again, recall Ernst. David Carson later used the letters to construct a Ray Gun masthead. A similar taste for jagged, expressionistic forms cut together with antique engravings and peculiar photographic details appears in the work of Karel Teissig, who pioneered the use of surreal collage effects in the Czech poster. In a marketplace that allowed designers a degree of interpretative latitude that is rare today, these visual techniques could be applied to the least obvious subjects. In Teissig’s poster for the film of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (1968), two of the Indians have doll heads – the doll is one of Surrealism’s enduring icons – while the third figure’s face is a grotesque, leering mask. Czech film poster for Ten Little Indians, based on Agatha Christie’s novel, designed by Karel Teisseg, 1968. Dolls, with empty craniums where their hair used to be, haunt the films of the Quay Brothers, one of the most fascinating cases of the way the spirit of Surrealism continues to operate undercover in contemporary image-making. In the late 1960s, on arrival at the Philadelphia College of Art to study illustration, the twins saw an exhibition of Polish posters that would change their lives. They often speak of their admiration for poster artists such as Cieslewicz, Jan Lenica and Franciszek Starowieyski. A poster by Bronislaw Zelek, showing an anatomical section of a jaw and throat, appears on a wall at the start of their film Street of Crocodiles (1986). In the 1970s and early 1980s, before settling into film-making, the Quays designed posters, book covers and record sleeves that seem to embody a genuinely Surrealist pursuit of the marvellous in both their dreamlike images and extravagantly ornamental calligraphy. The films continue this quest, constructing mysterious puppet-world scenarios and confabulating ‘meanings’ that make satisfying emotional sense while eluding rational transcription. Nevertheless, the Quays prefer to distance themselves from Surrealism. ‘Of course we are familiar with Surrealism, we know its history and its place,’ they told an interviewer in 1996, ‘but the term can too often be used in a cavalier way, without acknowledgement of its real meaning. Like, “Oh, that’s cool, that’s surreal.” When it’s used cautiously and intelligently it can be a very descriptive term, but we’re weary of its over-use.’ This over-use of ‘surreal’ as a synonym for ‘weird’ or ‘strange’ might seem to be an insuperable problem. Illusionistic illustrations plundered from Magritte lost their power to bemuse or delight decades ago, though some illustrators still churn them out. No creative person wants to be identified with a term that has been trivialised and rendered meaningless. Yet this doesn’t mean that work in sympathy with the original Surrealists’ ideas and aims is not possible, as the Quays’ body of work confirms. As the Surrealists themselves often pointed out, they were in part simply laying bare and proclaiming a sensibility and a way of being that had many precursors in literature and art: in black humour, in nonsense poetry, in the Gothic novel, in anatomical engravings, in the strange architectural visions of Piranesi and the disquieting Symbolist dream-pictures of Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon. Universes without rules of logic It may be that to find traces of a purer and more vital strain of Surrealism within graphic design we have to return to a period that is not currently fashionable: the early to mid-1990s. Although the experimental digital design of that time has been understood mainly as a response to new technological possibilities, and to postmodern market conditions, some of the more notable work from those years has a Surrealist quality of spontaneous interior expression. Advertisement for Adrianol Emulsion nose drops designed by Herbert Bayer, 1935. If this sounds far-fetched, consider the work of Ed Fella, which is based on a form of ‘pure psychic automatism’ – as Breton defined Surrealism – that remains one of the cornerstones of Surrealist practice. In Fella’s case, call it automatic designing. This can be seen most clearly in the obsessive doodling in his many notebooks (see Eye no. 23 vol. 6), but the posters he has produced since the late 1980s, usually now for his own lectures, display the same urge to facilitate unpremeditated discovery and the chance encounter of unlikely typographic forms. Fella cites Ernst as a key figure: ‘Juxtaposition is everything!’ he says in Influences (Die Gestalten Verlag, 2006), a ‘lexicon’ based on the possibilities of random selection and fruitful juxtaposition. Fella’s interest in vernacular typography, shared by many other designers, and seen in his book of roadside Polaroids, Letters on America, can be interpreted as a search for outmoded, Benjaminian ‘obscure objects of desire’. In the work of Fella’s colleague, Brian Schorn, the connection with Surrealism becomes even more explicit. Schorn studied for two years at medical school where he worked as a microbiology assistant and dissected a human cadaver. His interest in Surrealism and in figures such as Ernst and the poetic box-maker Joseph Cornell began when he switched to photographic studies. Schorn had acquired MFAs in photography and creative writing before I encountered him at Cranbrook Academy of Art in the early 1990s, studying for a third MFA in graphic design. By that time he was thoroughly steeped in Surrealist literature and art: Lautréamont (author of the Surrealist precursor classic Les Chants de Maldoror), Breton, Artaud, Bataille, the Romanian painter Victor Brauner and the contemporary American photographer Joel-Peter Witkin are just a few of the influences Schorn cites. He kept dream journals and experimented with automatic writing. ‘I wrote a tremendous amount of poetry using this technique and I believe that I actually accomplished a kind of total, open door to my unconscious landscape,’ Schorn recalls. ‘It was completely natural and flowing.’ He began to apply similar Surrealist techniques to graphic imagery. ‘Soon, the entire form and content of my designs were informed by Surrealist techniques and ideas, most notably collage, automatism, dreams, fascination with the body, primal urges and non-sequiturs. Everything happened in a purely unconscious state where anything was possible. The work, in a way, spontaneously combusted before my eyes. It was fuelled by a desire to reach content not available to grid-oriented designs or thinking. The works were individual universes without rules of logic.’ While Schorn’s pieces might have seemed superficially similar to other examples of 1990s graphic rule-breaking, his designs for campus events and local clients such as Surreal magazine (published briefly in Detroit) were fluent examples of authentically surrealistic graphic form. The anatomical details and organic formations derived from Schorn’s intimate study of the body’s interior – an education in seeing that few graphic designers can ever have shared – achieve a depth of psychological reality found in the most compelling Surrealist creations: they are dream deposits and residues of a desire beyond words. Schorn’s poetry, published in Emigre with typographic collages based on the letter ‘A’, and in a book, Strabismus (1995), is equally committed to Surrealist aims and imperatives. If the Surrealists had made graphic design a central concern in the 1920s and 1930s, and had brought the same degree of iconoclasm to typography and graphic form that they brought to collage and painting, then Schorn’s and Fella’s output gives a good idea of what it might have looked like. ‘My interest in Surrealism was completely attached to all aspects of my self: mind, body and spirit,’ says Schorn. ‘I lived it and what I produced at that time was a product of it.’ Tiuja, the village madwoman, 1962. Illustration based on the writings of Bruno Schultz, the author of Street of Crocodiles. Schorn’s experience suggests that ideas drawn from Surrealism – whether we use the term or not – are potentially limitless in their possibilities for a truly unfettered graphic design, just as they are limitless in other areas of culture. His experience also shows why there are few designers whose work can be closely related to Surrealism as a movement. Surrealism demands a degree of inwardness that is not compatible with the realities of most client work. Fella pursues his brand of uncompromising automatism from a position of semi-retirement. Schorn tried working as a corporate designer in Chicago after Cranbrook, but gave it up in less than a year. After that he taught graphic design for six years, only to discover that there was little time to engage in personal explorations as intensive as those he had conducted during his years studying photography, writing and design. Today, after acquiring a fourth MFA in electronic music, he works as a musician and performance artist and teaches interdisciplinary art. The strange products of his brief stay in design offer a tantalisingly sharp glimpse of another possible design world, for anyone who seeks it. ‘Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design’ is at the V&A, London SW7, from 29 March to 22 July 2007. Street of Crocodiles can be found on a double DVD, The Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 (BFI). Poster-sized wedding invitation by Ed Fella, 1994. First published in Eye no. 63 vol. 16 2007 Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.
55 annotations
 visual art and design 687
  • borrowed from 19th-century natural science, Art Nouveau and new technologies such as microphotography and film to create a new symbolism, rich in natural forms and motifs
  • Fashion offered the Surrealists further opportunities to explore sexual symbolism and particularly, the focus of sexual desire on a particular part of the body or object (fetishisation).
  • used encircling bands of colour which intensified the dancer's spiralling motion.
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • strong visual concept,
  • represent the complexities and contradictions of modern
  • , the movement began to cross-over into the commercial, material world
  • Hans Schleger
  • The ballet was one of the first spheres to reveal the wider influence of Surrealism.
  • protesting against the merging of art and commerce.
  • The shift away from text and image was driven by the need to engage directly with the material world, the world of objects and commerce.
  • s Monkton House,
  • new objects constructed out of pre-existing and often outdated commodities.
  • commercial designers themselves, particularly in the fields of advertising, graphics, theatre and film.
  • 'Spinning Top' character in Jeux d'enfants
  • These constructions forced new meanings through bizarre juxtapositions that alluded to subjective dreams or desires.
  • Monkton House
  • represent the complexities and contradictions of modern life
  • The Surrealist object was partly intended as critique of consumer culture
  • life
  • contrast to the prevailing views in modern interior design
  • For them, the body became the subject of intense scrutiny – dismembered, fragmented, desecrated, and eroticised. It allowed for an exploration of sexuality as an aspect of modernity, and was a driving force in the commercialisation of Surrealism.
  • Shoe hat
  • a faceless body bound in a constraining corset reveals a Surrealist preoccupation with objectification and the erotic lure of clothing.
  • Elsa Schiaparelli
  • pushed the boundaries of fashion, they were also smart and often very wearable.
  • creating a visual language of organic forms, known as biomorphism, or 'free-form'.
  • combining humour with a morbid edge
  • borrowed from 19th-century natural science, Art Nouveau and new technologies such as microphotography and film to create a new symbolism, rich in natural forms and motifs. T
  • Fashion offered the Surrealists further opportunities to explore sexual symbolism and particularly,
30 annotations
 visual art and design 667
  • exclude from his drawings all conscious effort and taste, and, thus, was the visual equivalent of automatic writing. Like automatic writing and drawing, frottage is based on the principle of metamorphosis, of transformation.
  • "a sudden intensification of the visionary faculties and brought forth an illusive succession of contradictory images, double, triple, and multiple images, piling up on each other with the persistence and rapidity which are peculiar to love-memories and visions of half-sleep."
  • René Magritte
  • visual puns,
  • Joan Miró
  • through man's unconscious mind, free from any logical restraint, that this group of artists hoped to liberate the human spirit. Their aim was to subvert citizens from their good behavior, bombard them with impolite messages, and show them the joys of anti-rational speculation.
  • Ernst's purpose was to use shapes, figures, and materials in any way he chose, to ignore their customary relationships in order to arrange them in accordance with his own needs as these emerged from the subconscious or the dream.
  • , as the real guilty party f
  • contemptuous of logic and "good sense
  • whose works adhered to psychic automatism,
  • judged on the basis of how well he or she evoked unconscious mate
  • invaluable
  • illusionists,
  • phantasmagorical quality is created not only by the juxtaposition of incongruous objects but by the uncanny use of light whose source is never clear and an abruptly scaled-down perspective.
  • frottage,
  • Salvador Dali,
  • as a means of the exploration of the unconscious and of discovery
  • make the familiar strange by exploring the following principles: enlargement of a detail (an immense apple or rose filling up all the space in a room), the association of complimentaries (the chair-shelter, the bird-mountain), the animation of the inanimate (the shoe with toes, the dress with breasts), the mysterious opening, material transformations (a person who is hollow), and anatomical surprises. I
  • one of conflict rather than harmony and meant to throw the viewer off kilter.
  • tried to simulate a semi-conscious, dreamlike state of mind, and wrote down whatever words, images and sentences emerged.
  • unconscious doodlings were the starting point and inspiration for a more careful refinement and definition of certain figures and objects. Automatism, thus, became a means of inspiration and evocation, of calling or summoning forth images from our unconscious.
  • a moment of revelation in which are resolved the contradictions and oppositions of dreams and reality
  • the procedure as a means of liberating one's potential
  • applied a meticulous realism in depicting the fantastic or to familiar objects placed in unusual surroundings.
  • appear to be lifelike representations of reality, but, on close inspection, there is an element of surprise in them, for the images that they portray could only exist in the human imagination or in the dream
  • surrealist illusionism at its very best.
  • make the familiar strange by exploring the following principles:
  • observation of his mad patients
  • the essence of Surrealism became artlessness: the supremacy of method over product; the neglect, even the rejection of any aesthetic criteria; and the bringing of art into the sphere of everyday life.
  • drawings made in this way lost the character of the material used and took on a whole new appearance
  • phantasmagorical quality is created not only by the juxtaposition of incongruous objects but by the uncanny use of light whose source is never clear and an abruptly scaled-down perspective.
  • who proved that precise realism could be as Surrealist as pure automatism.
  • transcribed their dreams and took part in spiritualistic sessions at which the members would speak, write or draw while under hypnosis.
  • judged on the basis of how well he or she evoked unconscious material.
  • phantasmagorical quality is created not only by the juxtaposition of incongruous objects but by the uncanny use of light whose source is never clear and an abruptly scaled-down perspective.
  • a more constructive use of unconscious material.
  • Man Ray
  • surreal moment,
  • a means of discovering the mysterious, the enigmatic, the unconscious.
  • Max Ernst.
  • Marcel Duchamp
  • his fascination with the irrational as the source of creativity and of freedom from any kind of restraint.
  • phantasmagorical quality is created not only by the juxtaposition of incongruous objects but by the uncanny use of light whose source is never clear and an abruptly scaled-down perspective.
  • a deliberate act of visual disorientation. Taking the most ordinary objects, he metamorphosized them by paying painstaking attention to naturalistic detail and then placing them outside of their normal context.
44 annotations
 visual art and design 688
  • . Giorgio de Chirico
  • regarded as a precursor of the movement. The focus on dreams and desire reflected
  • The Invisible Object encapsulates the dynamics of the Surrealist encounter—the desire to love and be loved, the potential prelude to amorous and erotic experience, the impulse to make contact and at the same time maintain distance.
  • Rení Magritte
  • The Robing of the Bride
  • couple floating in mid-air, suggests inexplicable ritual and alchemistic design that both generates and suppresses eroticism.
  • ambiguous sexuality
  • a key Surrealist wor
  • Hans Bellmer
  • an unwavering belief that love, desire, and freedom of the imagination were the salvation of humanity,
  • The Surrealists aimed to liberate the human imagination through an aesthetic investigation of desire—the authentic voice, they believed, of the inner self and the impulse behind love.
  • Duchamp
  • express desire
  • Press Exhibitions News General Information Press Images Press Account FAQs for Media Contact Us Search the Press Room Surrealism: Desire Unbound, First Major Exhibition of International Surrealism in More Than Twenty Years, Documents Revolutionary Movement That Openly Addressed Sexuality in Art Exhibition Dates: February 6 – May 12, 2002 Exhibition Location: Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, Second Floor Press Preview: Monday, February 4, 10 a.m.—noon One of the most extraordinary artistic and intellectual movements of the 20th century will be explored in Surrealism: Desire Unbound, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art February 6 through May 12, 2002. More than 300 works including paintings, sculpture, photographs, films, poems, manuscripts, and books will explore the first major artistic movement to address openly the topics of love, desire, and various aspects of sexuality. The exhibition has been organized by Tate Modern, London. "Guided by an unwavering belief that love, desire, and freedom of the imagination were the salvation of humanity, the Surrealist vision was expressed in some of the most provocative works of art of the 20th century," commented Philippe de Montebello, Director. "This is a groundbreaking exhibition that may both challenge and delight the visitor by the breadth, richness, and frankness of its images." Surrealism embraced not only art and literature, but also psychoanalysis, philosophy, and politics. The Surrealists aimed to liberate the human imagination through an aesthetic investigation of desire—the authentic voice, they believed, of the inner self and the impulse behind love. Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), one of the movement's earliest precursors as well as one of its first proponents, initially reflected on how to express desire in art around 1912, and throughout his career he continued to make ero
  • eroticism the central them
  • Press Exhibitions News General Information Press Images Press Account FAQs for Media Contact Us Search the Press Room Surrealism: Desire Unbound, First Major Exhibition of International Surrealism in More Than Twenty Years, Documents Revolutionary Movement That Openly Addressed Sexuality in Art Exhibition Dates: February 6 – May 12, 2002 Exhibition Location: Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, Second Floor Press Preview: Monday, February 4, 10 a.m.—noon One of the most extraordinary artistic and intellectual movements of the 20th century will be explored in Surrealism: Desire Unbound, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art February 6 through May 12, 2002. More than 300 works including paintings, sculpture, photographs, films, poems, manuscripts, and books will explore the first major artistic movement to address openly the topics of love, desire, and various aspects of sexuality. The exhibition has been organized by Tate Modern, London. "Guided by an unwavering belief that love, desire, and freedom of the imagination were the salvation of humanity, the Surrealist vision was expressed in some of the most provocative works of art of the 20th century," commented Philippe de Montebello, Director. "This is a groundbreaking exhibition that may both challenge and delight the visitor by the breadth, richness, and frankness of its images." Surrealism embraced not only art and literature, but also psychoanalysis, philosophy, and politics. The Surrealists aimed to liberate the human imagination through an aesthetic investigation of desire—the authentic voice, they believed, of the inner self and the impulse behind love. Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), one of the movement's earliest precursors as well as one of its first proponents, initially reflected on how to express desire in art around 1912, and throughout his career he continued to make eroticism t
16 annotations
  • He reports a suggestion that the offending material might have come from an 18th century restoration that had subsequently been removed
  • ake hard detailed vis
  • Caravaggio survives in two formats, one being a truncated version of the other.
  • both versions were now original but that one was rather more so than the othe
  • negative hard “scientific evidence” can be discounted on the basis of assumptions, hunches, and suspicions.
  • no doubt that this was now the original work”.
  • n more to the point for the courts to require the production of the best possible photographs of as many of the versions as possible to permit visual comparisons of the two rival versions.
  • technical proofs enjoyed no institutional protection, being still in private hands
  • The conclusion was hasty and perhaps too trusting of technical testimony.
  • The Taking of Christ.
  • g-out over the ownership of the Florence/Rome version. Technical examinations of the painting were ordered by court prosecutors without the knowledge of the owners
  • primary
  • Such hypothetical exculpation would only be necessary if claims that Naples Yellow could not have been used by anyone before 1630 were Gospel and if the painting’s attribution was insecu
  • f this painting contains antimony, and unless evidence exists to support the former existence of a now entirely disappeared 18th century restoration, we should accept that this material has now been found in two Caravaggio paintings and adjust the technical literature chronologies accordingly
  • provisional feasts
  • many indications of the limitations of modern conservation practice
  • ith this Caravaggio, multiple versions exist we should make hard detailed visual
  • ith this Caravaggio, multiple versions exist we should make hard detailed visual
  • Naples Yellow is not a product of a kno
  • claimed chronologies of materials within the literature of technical analysis are moveable
  • which state is likelier
  • The informed human eye is our best “diagnostic tool” in the study of art and will remain so no matter how much money and resources might be thrown into technical studies
  • Visual comparisons in attributions, as in restorations, are of the essence. They should never be neglected, let alone discounted, on the authority of some technical evidence that may or may not be soundly framed; that may or may not be selective or loaded in its presentation; and, that will, in any event, soon be rendered obsolete by more up-to-date equipment.
  • The Taking of Christ, was examined at the National Gallery in London it was found that its ground (priming layer) was anomalous
  • autograph Caravaggio by Mahon precisely by virtue of its revisions-light painterly fluency
  • further reports that traces of this pigment had been found on another Caravaggio, his Martydom of St Ursula
  • self-evident
  • pictures are made to be looked at
  • i
  • It is certainly the case that the presence of a modern, manufactured pigment within the fabric of a supposedly old painting can safely be considered fatal to an attribution.
  • most reliably and completely documented works so there can be no question about its authenticity
  • he fabric of a supposedly old painting can safely be considered fatal to an attribution. However, Naples Yellow is not a product of a known and precisely dated modern manufacture – such as Prussian Blue of 1704 – it is ancient and greatly pre-dates Christ. Harr acknowledges that the pigment is found on a painting of 1615 by Orazio Gentileschi – just five years after Caravaggio’s death. Harr further reports that traces of this pigment had been found on another Caravaggio, his Martydom of St Ursula, which is owned by Banca Intesta in the Palazzo Zevallos, Naples. He reports a suggestion that the offending material might have come from an 18th century restoration that had subsequently been removed. Such hypothetical exculpation would only be necessary if claims that Naples Yellow could not have been used by anyone before 1630 were Gospel and if the painting’s attribution was insecure. Neither is the case. The Martyrdom is one of Caravaggio’s most reliably and completely documented works so there can be no question about its authenticity. Further, it was almost certainly his last work. It was recorded as still being wet in May 1610. If this painting contains antimony, and unless evidence exists to support the former existence of a now entirely disappeared 18th century restoration, we should accept that this material has now been found in two Caravaggio paintings and adjust the technical literature chronologies accordingly. In this episode, we see that negative hard “scientific evidence” can be discounted on the basis of assumptions, hunches, and suspicions. We also see that the claimed chronologies of materials within the literature of technical analysis are moveable and, only ever, provisional feasts. (For such chronologies to be considered reliable it would be necessary for every painting in the world to be analysed at the same time by the most advanced technologies – and even then, subsequent technical advances would require further examinations: it is common for old formerly “advanced” tests to be re-run in conservation departments when new and improved apparatus become available.) We have asked Seracini, in the light of Harr’s comments, if “it is still the case that the presence of antimony is considered an absolute technical disqualification in paintings made before 1630?” Meanwhile, Jacques Franck, the Consulting Expert to The Armand Hammer Center for Leonardo Studies at The University of California, Los Angeles, advises that: “The best scientific bibliographic reference concerning the history and chemistry of pigments over here is: J. Petit, J. Roire, H. Valot, “Des liants et des couleurs pour servir aux artistes peintres et aux restaurateurs”, EREC éditeur, Puteaux, 1995. Regarding Naples yellow, it says: ‘(Lead antimonate yellow) was rediscovered in Europe at the end of the Middle-Ages and was later mentioned in a document dating from 1540, “Pirotechnia”. The oldest recipes, written in 1556-1559, were supplied by Cipriano Piccolpaso…who was a painter of ceramics” Although those recipes were indeed written primarily in connection with ceramics, given that they existed before Caravaggio’s birth (1571) it should never have been insisted that knowledge of them could not have been obtained by contemporary painters. As it happens, a study on Lorenzo Lotto’s pigments was made in connection with the exhibition “Lorenzo Lotto” (Venezia, 1480 – Loreto, 1556-57) at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome in spring 2011. On that occasion, more than fifty Lotto paintings spanning from 1505 to around 1556 were studied using non-invasive techniques by Maria Letizia Amadori, Pietro Baraldi, Sara Barcelli and Gianluca Poldi. The authors’ report (pages 2 and 19): “About yellows, he uses both lead-tin and lead-antimony (Naples yellow) pigments, the latter found by XRF, in works starting from 1530 to the last years: it can be related to the ‘zalolin da vasarj’ cited by Lotto in 1541 in his account book (Libro di spese diverse)”, and, “As XRF analyses show, in some works, starting from 1530 to the last years of the century, also lead-antimony (Naples yellow) pigments, can be found, together with the previous yellow or almost alone: they can be related to the “zalolin da vasarj” cited by Lotto in 1541 in his account book (Libro di spese diverse).” Thus, the presence of antimony would seem not to have given grounds for dismissing the Florence/Rome version of the Taking in the courts. Perhaps we can see that it might have been more to the point for the courts to require the production of the best possible photographs of as many of the versions as possible to permit visual comparisons of the two rival versions. There are many indications of the limitations of modern conservation practices to be had in Harr’s fascinating account. On page 169 he describes an encounter between the Dublin National Gallery of Art’s two picture restorers, Andrew O’Connor and Sergio Benedetti (who had re-attributed the Hontorst Taking to Caravaggio, and who had experienced “a fleeting moment of doubt” about his attribution while cutting ever larger ‘windows’ through the painting’s varnish): “One day, about three weeks after the painting’s arrival, O’Connor and Benedetti crossed paths in the studio. Benedetti was staring at the painting. He stood with his arms crossed, his eyes narrowed in concentration, his mouth compressed into a frown. ‘Look at the arm of Judas’, Benedetti said to O’Connor. ‘What do you think?’ O’Connor studied the painting. ‘What are you getting at?’ he asked. ‘It seems too short, doesn’t it?’ said Benedetti. It did…O’Connor realised that Benedetti was wrestling with his doubts. ‘Well’, said Benedetti finally, ‘he wasn’t a perfect anatomist. He made other errors like this. In the Supper at Emmaus, the apostle’s hand is too large.’” In this recollection we might be witness to a double failure of art critical methodology. Given his doubts, Benedetti might have assembled all available photographs of the many versions of this painting to determine whether or not the short-coming that concerned him was unique or common to (some or all) other versions. A greater lapse may be evident in the fact that while Benedetti expressed anxiety over the arm of Judas, he seems not to have done so over the compositionally and emotionally more important advancing left arm of the fleeing St John who is seen behind Christ and Judas. In the Dublin version, the arm of St John is cropped above the elbow and not above the wrist as it is in the Florence/Rome version. (On the compositional function of the arm in the Florence/Rome version, see comments at Figs. 21 and 22.) To repeat what should be self-evident: pictures are made to be looked at. When, as with this Caravaggio, multiple versions exist we should make hard detailed visual comparisons of each against the others, if necessary (and it could hardly be otherwise when so many versions exist) by photographic means. When later copies or engravings exist we should make careful comparative estimations of their relationships to the various contenders. Whenever there are cut-down versions of more expansive compositions, we should always consider which state is likelier to have been the primary and which the secondary one. Visual comparisons in attributions, as in restorations, are of the essence. They should never be neglected, let alone discounted, on the authority of some technical evidence that may or may not be soundly framed; that may or may not be selective or loaded in its presentation; and, that will, in any event, soon be rendered obsolete by more up-to-date equipment. The informed human eye is our best “diagnostic tool” in the study of art and will remain so no matter how much money and resources might be thrown into technical studies. It remains the greatest tragedy that Bernard Berenson so badly debased his own critical currency with his shady Duveen dealings. On the primacy of the visual in visual art forms he was peerless: “I am here concerned with names in painting. When I pronounce the words Giotto, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Giorgione, Durer, Velazquez, Vermeer, Ingres, Manet, Degas and hundreds of others, each stands for certain qualities which I expect to find in a painting ascribed to them. If the expectation fails, then no argument, no documentary evidence, be it biographical, historical, psycho-analytical, or radiological and chemical will persuade me.” That was and is how it should be. Michael Daley ENDNOTES: 1 The Times, letter, 13 August 2014: “Sir, Gerald Fitzgerald (letter, Aug 12), misses an important point when calling for a tiny levy on art sales to fund an independent centre for provenance research. Although such a levy might cost only .05 per cent of annual art sales, currently standing at some $60 billion, if effective, such a centre would reduce the supply of works on the market by something like 40 per cent – at least in the view of the late Thomas Hoving, a former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The art world is very quick on its feet: when calls were made in the 1930s for an independent centre of art restoration research, then director of the National Gallery in London, Kenneth Clark, promptly established a department of conservation science in order, as he later confessed, to ‘have in the background what purported to be scientific evidence to “prove” that every precaution had been taken’. Although self-policing may be an unrealistic ambition, governments could help considerably and at little cost by making it a statutory requirement that vendors should disclose all that is known and recorded about the provenance and the restoration treatments of works of art. As things stand, it can be safer to buy a second-hand car than an old master painting.” Michael Daley, Director, ArtWatch UK, London 2 The Massacre of the Innocents which came up at Sotheby’s on 10 July 2002 as a very recent Rubens upgrade is a case in point of misleading assurances and over-ridden technical evidence. In a long sale catalogue entry it was said that technical analyses and condition reports had been commissioned and that these were available on request. The implication was clear: we have exercised all possible due diligence and this painting has emerged with flying colours. That implicit reassurance evaporated on a close reading of the material – as we reported in the October 2002 Jackdaw (“Is this £49.5 million painting by Rubens?”). The reports were, by their nature dense and couched in technical language. Nonetheless they clearly contained information that was highly injurious to the attribution and to the picture’s claimed early dating of c. 1609-11. One technical fact alone should have sunk the attribution. It was found in the last paragraph of the last report. As we put it: “The author of a report on the tree-ring dating…concludes that a date of execution for the picture only becomes ‘plausible from 1615 upwards’.” In other words, the panel on which this picture was painted could not have been manufactured at the time the picture is said to have been painted – and this dating could not be amended because, like the Samson and Delilah, the picture was only remotely credible on stylistic grounds if seen as the product of a (fancifully claimed) brief stylistic abberation in Rubens’ oeuvre said to have occurred on his immediate return from Italy in 1608. As well as being on wood that was too recent, the picture contained the wrong materials: “A pigment, orpiment, that is found in no Rubens is present here. A second pigment, smalt, said to have been in use ‘mainly in the mid-seventeenth century’ and which seems only to be found in Rubens’ later works is also present. The orpiment yellow is anomalous not only in its presence but in its manner of application – it is mixed with lead-tin yellow. Such a combination is said to be ‘unusual since it was considered unstable’ and, even, to be a practice ‘not encountered in 17th century works’”. This was not just a twice-over dead attribution: “Speaking of Rubens’ debt to classical sources, the anonymous author of the catalogue entry correctly concedes, ‘one of the background figures appears to derive from the Borghese Gladiator’. There follows immediate self-disavowal: ‘it cannot’ so derive, he/she contends, because ‘though famous in subsequent centuries, the Borghese Gladiator was not excavated until late in 1611”. This painting on the wrong (too recent) wood, with what would normally be considered disqualifying (out of period)materials, and which contained a miraculous allusion to a future event, was presented to the world as a major art historical discovery. That “discovery” had taken place very shortly before the sale. The upgrading of this centuries old studio work had been made by just five experts only three of whom were identified. We put the question: “Can it be right that we are all being asked to share this leap of faith when the experts, displaying a seeming ignorance of – or disregard for – so much germane material evidence, have yet to declare their hands or publish accounts of their vital endorsements?” 3 Jonathan Harr reports in his 2005 account of the upgrading of a Honthorst to Caravaggio (“The Lost Painting” p. 222) that when the picture, The Taking of Christ, was examined at the National Gallery in London it was found that its ground (priming layer) was anomalous: Ashok Roy, the head of science, observed, as Harr reports, that “the composition of this particular ground was strange – ‘bizarre’ was the word used. It contained reds and yellows and large grains of green earth, a pigment composed of iron and magnesium. Grounds usually contained lead-based pigments and calcium, which dry quickly. Green earth dries slowly. This primer looked to Roy like a ‘palette-scraping’ ground – the painter had simply recycled leftover paints from his palette board to make the priming layer.” Well, yes, someone evidently had – but what in Roy’s detailed technical analysis of the ground might have suggested that on this occasion Caravaggio had departed from his own habits in order to do so? When the painting was exhibited in a special exhibition (“Caravaggio ~ The Master Revealed”) at the National Gallery of Ireland in 1993, the catalogue gave a different spin to Roy’s research: “Analyses have shown that the ground is composed of a brown pigment, heterogeneous and unevenly applied. Several pigments were mixed with it: lead white, red and yellow ochre, umber and large granuli of green earth.” On a casual reading: impressive and reassuring technical detail and expertise. No mention of bizarreness. No acknowledgement of what was for Dr. Roy, a perplexing departure from Caravaggio’s known practices. On page 160 Harr reports that Sergio Benedetti (the Dublin National Gallery of Art restorer who first made the attribution)“saw immediately that the painting had been relined at least once before” and judged the present lining canvas to be at least a hundred years old. In the National Gallery catalogue Benedetti reported that “the picture has undergone at least three interventions, probably accompanied each time by a relining of the canvas. One of these linings caused a shrinking of the surface in some limited areas.” What is not said is that Benedetti two of the three-plus hypothecated linings had been made by Benedetti himself the first having caused cracking. Harr reports that after the first lining “There is much dispute about what happened next. For Benedetti, restoring the Taking of Christ was the greatest moment in his professional career, and to this day he adamantly denies that he had any problem relining the painting. O’Connor and others at the gallery, however, tell a very different story. According to them, he came close to ruining the painting.” Andrew O’Connor, the Gallery’s chief restorer, said that Benedetti had elected to use a densely-woven Irish canvas rather than wait for an appropriately matching loose-weave canvas to arrive from Italy. When Michael O’Olohan, the gallery’s photographer, who had made detailed photographic records of every inch of the picture’s surface, saw the painting immediately after its first relining, he could not believe his eyes and recalled “There were areas that had hairline cracks, like a sheet of ice that has started to melt, a flash of cracks all over it. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it.” O’Connor explained that because the Irish canvas was densely woven, “it did not absorb the [water-based] glue at the same rate as the old Italian canvas. It had not dried properly and had contracted, pulling with it the Italian canvas and raising ridges, small corrugations, in the paint surface. Along these corrugations, the paint layer had cracked and lifted.” 4 In the ArtWatch UK Journal No. 21, (“The ‘Samson and Delilah’ ~ a question of attribution”), Kasia Pisarek wrote: “Dr. Ludwig Burchard was an active Rubens attributionist in Berlin before the Second World War and in London afterwards. Several paintings formerly attributed to Rubens’s school or studio or even to another artist (such as Sampson and Delilah), were reinstated by Burchard as by the master. I traced many of his attributions – he was not infallible in his judgement and changed his mind. Surprisingly, over 60 pictures attributed by Burchard to Rubens were later down-graded (in Corpus Rubenianum) to studio works, copies or imitations.” 5 The principal challenges to the attribution came from two artist/scholars, Euphrosyne Doxiadis, author of the award-winning 1995 book “The Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Ancient Egypt”, and Kasia Pisarek whose 2009 doctorate dissertation was entitled “Rubens and Connoisseurship ~ On the problems of attribution and rediscovery in the British and American collections (late XIX – XX c.)”. In 1986 Euphrosyne Doxiadis began researching the painting’s credentials with fellow art students Steven Harvey and Siân Hopkinson. Their findings were compiled in a report submitted to the National Gallery in 1992 and which is now held in the painting’s dossiers. (It is also available online at this site: www.afterrubens.org.) Their challenges to the attribution were covered in reports in the Times (“Artists raise fresh doubts on gallery’s Rubens masterpiece”, 22 September 1996, and “Expert denounces National Gallery’s Rubens”, 25 November 1996), and in The Independent on Sunday (“Tell-tale sign that £40m Rubens could be a copy”, 21 May 2000). Researches begun in 1990 by Kasia Pisarek prompted two articles on 5 October 1997 by the Sunday Times’ art critic, Waldemar Januszczak (“A Rubens or a costly copy?” and “National’s £40m Rubens could be fake”). In the latter article, the then director of the National Gallery, Neil MacGregor, conceded that “the scholar raises some serious questions that I cannot easily answer”. 6 As Dr. Pisarek put it in the ArtWatch UK Journal 21 (“The ‘Samson and Delilah’ ~ a question of attribution”): “Both the rediscovery and the sale of this early Rubens masterpiece should have been well publicised in the press, yet there are no records of it in any art magazine (I checked most art journals published in 1929-30). However, other, even minor, Rubens discoveries could easily be traced (‘Forgotten Rubens found in Austria’ – Art News, 1930; ‘Van Diemen sells notable Rubens’ – Art News, 1931 etc.) Strangely, the Samson and Delilah was not even included in Valentiner’s ‘Unknown Masterpieces’, co-edited with Burchard, and published in 1930, which presented important little-known and rediscovered paintings. Dr. Burchard only wrote about it briefly in 1933, and only in a short note.” Comments may be left at: artwatch.uk@gmail.com Printer-friendly PDF version of this article Above, Fig. 1: A chalk drawing that originated with the firm R.W.P. de Vries of Amsterdam in 1929 and sold as a Veronese for 750 florins (guilders) or some €6,801.91 at today’s exchanges. Below, Fig. 2: An ink and wash drawing that originated with the firm R.W.P. de Vries of Amsterdam in 1926 and sold the following year as a van Dyck for 26 florins (guilders), or some €235.80 at today’exchanges Above, top, Fig. 2: The ink and wash drawing sold on 10 July 2014 as a preliminary ink sketch for Rubens’ Samson and Delilah painting. Above, middle, Fig. 3: An oil painting on panel that sold at Christie’s for £24,000 in 1966 as Rubens’ oil sketch (or modello) for what is now the National Gallery’s Samson and Delilah painting. Above, Fig. 4: The oil painting on panel sold for £2.53m at Christie’s in 1980 to the National Gallery as Rubens’ original Samson and Delilah. The three works above are claimed to comprise an entirely autograph suite of successive stages of Rubens’ treatment of Samson and Delilah. Above, top, Fig. 5: An engraved copy (here as a mirror image) made in c. 1611-14 of Rubens’ (now lost) original Samson and Delilah painting. Above, Fig. 6: A detail of a painting (made before 1640) by Frans Francken of the original Rubens Samson and Delilah as it was displayed in the home of his friend and patron Nicolaas Rockox. This painting and the engraving above both show that Samson’s right foot was originally intact and set comfortably away from the edge of the painting. Above, top, Fig. 7: A larger detail of Frans Francken’s c. 1630-35 oil painting A Feast in the House of Nicolaas Rockox, showing the original Rubens Samson and Delilah in pride of place in Rockox’s home. Above, Fig. 8: The National Gallery Rubens’ Samson and Delilah when on loan in 2007 to what is now the Rockoxhuis museum, Antwerp. Above, top, Fig. 9: Rubens’ painting Cimon and Pero – “Roman Charity” of 1611-13 (here as a mirror image) in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Above, Fig. 10: The National Gallery Samson and Delilah painting. Comparison of the two works shows in the former, the exceptional grace, composure of design and warmth of colouring for which the artist is revered, while the latter asserts an uncharacteristic stridency that required the National Gallery to posit a “special-but-brief” stylistic Rubens interlude. Above (left) Fig. 11a: Cimon’s feet, as painted by Rubens. Above (right) Fig. 11b: The right-hand edge of the National Gallery Samson and Delilah. It is not credible to suggest than an artist so brilliantly attentive to feet and hands might have painted the foot encountered in the National Gallery. Above, top, Fig. 12: The version of Rubens The Massacre of the Innocents that is owned by the Musée des Beaux-arts in Brussels. Above, Fig. 13: The version of Rubens The Massacre of the Innocents loaned to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Just as the National Gallery’s The Virgin of the Rocks (below) is a cut-down replica version of the Louvre’s Leonardo original, so the Ontario Massacre of the Innocents is a cut-down version of the larger canvas at the Musée des Beaux-arts in Brussels. Although now said to be a “studio replica” the latter was judged original by such eminent Rubens authorities, as Gluck, Held, Van Puyvelde and Michael Jaffé. The cropping of motifs in the Ontario version seems particularly insensitive as it includes the two murdered infants who, in the Brussels version, were depicted whole and set (like Samson’s original toes) comfortably inside the edge of the painting. How likely is it that Rubens would have cropped his figures in this manner or, if by chance he had, that a copyist would presume to extend and make whole his composition ? Above, Figs. 14a and 14b. The regretably unequal photographic quality of this comparison does not mitigate the disturbing cropping of the infants in the Ontario version (left) which, like the National Gallery Samson and Delilah, spent many years as studio copy in the Liechtenstein Collection. Above, top, Figs. 15a and 15b: Left, the Louvre’s original Leonardo da Vinci The Virgin of the Rocks; right, the National Gallery’s later version of the painting. Above, Figs. 16a and 16b: The infant St. John in Leonardo’s The Virgin of the Rocks (left) and (right) the infant in the National Gallery’s later version of the painting. In the latter we encounter an uncharacteristic indifference to design, sloppiness of treatment and iconographic brutality in the depiction of an infant saint. While the securely autograph Louvre painting has never been in question, considerable argument has arisen over the extent to which Leonardo’s hand is present in the National Gallery version. In the catalogue to the National Gallery’s 2011-12 exhibition “Leonardo da Vinci ~ Painter to the Court of Milan”, the gallery’s head of restoration, Larry Keith, (who had restored the Virgin of the Rocks prior to the exhibition), was in no doubt that the London version was entirely autograph. He wrote of “discoveries” made in the course of restoration: “…What we discover is a painter firmly grounded in traditional practice who was able to stretch his methods and materials to express unprecedented intellectual and artistic concerns. However, these painterly interests were only a part of a larger pursuit; he believed that careful observation of all manner of natural phenomena was essential for both new knowledge and a deeper understanding….The National Gallery Virgin of the Rocks is a painting that is at once unique and highly representative of how Leonardo worked. Produced in fits and starts over the last 15 or so years of a commission that took 25 years to complete, it is a composition of the most artful complexity and an image where local colour was sublimated to the newer demands of tonal unity…The National Gallery Virgin of the Rocks…is manifestly uneven in finish and execution but, perhaps, paradoxically, this quality allows us to explore key issues in his painterly practice – methods, materials, collaboration, delegation and finish – and thereby understand better the larger question of the relationship between his painting techniques and his artistic intent…” Needless to say, this conviction that the picture is an entirely autograph, unique-but-representative Leonardo is not universally accepted. Even at the National Gallery, Leonardo’s authorship has not always been accepted. In 1947 the curator Martin Davies took issue with the picture’s very many doubters (who included the recently former director of the gallery, Kenneth Clark): “It has to be admitted at the outset that the identification of Leonardo da Vinci’s pictures is by no means the sure and simple thing one might think. It is a fact that there exists no picture of his Milanese period that has not at one time been rejected by famous critics; except for the Cenacolo, which is ruined, and hardly suitable for stylistic criticism at all! The whole subject of Leonardo’s style is therefore somewhat doubtful; but in the particular case of the Virgin of the Rocks in the National Gallery, there has been a good deal of agreement that Leonardo himself painted little or none of it…” Davies believed the critics to be wrong, but in making his case he conceded many things germane to our concerns here. He acknowledged that this painting was a replica and that it was “quite likely under these circumstance that he [Leonardo] had no great interest in the work”. Although a replica in the sense that Leonardo had been obliged to paint a second version of a commission, Davies draws an ingenious distinction: “the picture is not simply a replica” because so much time had passed that Leonardo had left one artistic era and entered another, making “the picture […] the replica of a work in an older and different style”. Leonardo’s new style “was perhaps expressed rather imperfectly, because the picture is a replica.” The National Gallery’s suggestion that its “Rubens” Samson and Delilah does not look like any of its twenty-odd secure Rubens’s because he had worked for a brief period in a style like none of his others was a desperate denial of the fact that its “out-of-style” traits stem from its true status as a replica. A more frank acceptance of the Virgin of the Rocks’ acknowledged replica status might might have spared decades of convoluted apologias. Where Larry Keith sees in the Virgin of the Rocks material evidence throughout that “careful observation of all manner of natural phenomena was essential for both new knowledge and a deeper understanding”, another student of Leonardo and Nature, Ann Pizzorusso (who trained as a geologist before becoming an art historian) took an entirely contrary view. For Pizzorusso, the gallery’s claims of some radical shift of style as a means of accounting for the London picture’s problems were entirely and demonstrably without foundation. She was clear on this site that no shift of style could account the picture’s problems because none had occurred: “Using a date of 1510 for the Virgin and St. Anne and a date of 1483-86 for the Virgin of the Rocks, both in the Louvre, we have proof that Leonardo did not change his style, and that, if anything, he became more fanatical in his quest for geologic accuracy, developing new paints and techniques for natural depiction and driving his students to deliver the most accurate depiction of nature in their own works. So we must ask the question ‘How and why could Leonardo have changed his style to produce a work so lacking in geological and botanical accuracy as the Virgin of the Rocks in the National Gallery in London?’ There is no evidence Leonardo changed his style and now, with the recently cleaned Virgin and St. Anne, we have that proof. We also know that his students were inculcated with his passion for accurate depiction of natural objects so we must also exclude his students as authors of the National Gallery work.” Writing nearly a decade earlier than Davies, Kenneth Clark, discussed the head of the angel in the London Virgin of the Rocks in his 1938 book of (marvellous black and white comparative photographs) “One Hundred Details from Pictures in the National Gallery”. Of the angel’s head, he wrote “This is the one part of our Virgin of the Rocks where the evidence of Leonardo’s hand seems undeniable…” For Clark, changes in Leonardo’s work over the years were evident, but unlike Davies later and Keith much later, he seems not to have seen evidence of the Later Leonardo equally and everywhere across the painting. For Clark, this curate’s egg of a picture was, in only select parts, very, very good indeed. Of the angel’s head: “Beautiful as it is, this angel lacks the enchantment of the lighter more Gothic angel in the Paris version. It embodies the result of Leonardo’s later researches in which ideal beauty and and classic regularity of chiarascuro were combined, with a certain loss in freshness, but with an expressive power which almost hypnotized his contemporaries.” Clark was onto something interesting when speaking of Leonardo’s “hand” – the characteristic touch and surface of his paintwork. It so happens that there was a tool to hand that could have been the greatest boon to those charged with making attributions: high quality micro-photography. Clark, as his own two books of National Gallery details show, was certainly alert to the potency of high quality photographs but he used his comparisons of details to flag up differences between artists in their treatments of similar subjects. That was a perfectly interesting and instructive application. He overlooked, however, the possibility (and the great profitability) of taking, assembling and collating many thousands of details from the most secure, “Gold Standard” paintings, so as to create visual benchmark indicators of artists’ distinctive methods. (Just imagine Morelli and His Ears in an era of digital photography and computers.) If the failure to pursue such programmes in the immediate impoverished years after the Second World War might be excusable, what excuse exists in today’s digital era? The pioneering photographs (shown here at Figs. 18 and 19) by Professor A. P. Laurie in his 1949 book “The Technique of the Great Painters” constituted a perfect template for a means of more accurate visual appraisals – we surely have fewer excuses today than any generation in history for stumbling as if half-blind through the minefield of attribution? Below, Fig. 17: Martin Davies’ 1947 large format essay on the gallery’s Virgin of the Rocks carried 16 highly informative plates (including this one below of the infant St. John which appears to suggest multiple but vain attempts to keep the toes within the picture? Above: an unexplained cropped foot DOGS THAT DON’T BARK Below: an almost never-used photographic method of comparing brush strokes Above, Fig. 18: Professor A. P. Laurie explained the significance of this pair of spliced photographs in his 1949 book “The Technique of the Great Painters”: “This illustration is a photomicrograph of the highlight on the shoulder of [Rembrandt’s] Woman Bathing, National Gallery, No.54. The patch pasted on is from a photomicrograph of a picture whose attribution had to be tested. It will be seen that the brushwork is identical in both cases. It is possible for a skilled forger to imitate a signature, but it is quite impossible to combine the quality of the paint, the nature of the brush, and the handling of the painter, so as to reproduce this complete identity.” Below, Fig. 19: Prof. Laurie explained the significance of the brushwork below in these terms: “There is a very interesting portrait of Verdonck [in the National Gallery of Scotland] holding in his hand the jawbone of an ass. It was known from an engraving that such a picture must have existed, but it had apparently disappeared. The Edinburgh gallery possessed a picture by Frans Hals of a man holding a wine glass in his hand. An X-ray revealed that underneath the the wine glass was a painting of the jawbone of an ass which had been painted out by some restorer and replaced by the wine glass. On careful cleaning, the restorer’s work was removed…[this photomicrograph reveals] the rapidity with which Frans Hals laid in stroke after stroke with absolute certainty. In fact the painting seems to be alive, and one can almost see the brush moving over the surface. it would be impossible to mistake this work for the brushwork of Rembrandt…” Above, Fig. 20:“From Duccio to Raphael ~ Connoisseurship in Crisis”, James H. Beck, Florence, Italy, 2006 In this his last book, the late Professor James Beck of Columbia University, and the founder of ArtWatch International in 1992, wrote: “Two paintings, a mini aspiring Raphael da Urbino Madonna and an equally tiny aspiring Duccio di Buoninsegna Madonna were sold for record prices in 2004. The first was bought by London’s National Gallery and the second by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. These objects and the mode in which their attributions to their famous presumed authors were achieved document a breakdown in modern connoisseurship. The two objects represent a total expenditure of public money exceeding 100 million dollars for pictures the size of a sheet of paper. These remarkable sales could not have transpired without the participation of art experts whose role was indispensable in offering authentifications of the pictures. This book will seek to define the system of attributing works of art, examine the methodology, treat in depth case studies of recent connoisseurship including the two pictures just mentioned. In addition to what is regarded as a monumental failure on the part of the experts, the use and misuse of public funds is an issue that lies just beneath the surface.” Above, top, Fig. 21: The version of Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ in the National Museum of Art, Odessa. Above, top, Fig. 22: The version of Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ that was formerly in the Ladis Sannini collection in Florence; was then restored in Rome and authenticated by Sir Denis Mahon; and, is presently being held during legal proceedings. This small pair of photographs from 1967 is sufficient to show the profound compositional consequences of an extension of one work or a truncation of another. Regardless of the photographs’ poor quality and regardless of the paintings’ relative merits, (both of these, incidentally, have been supported as autograph), the question can be posed in the abstract: Which of the two compositional formats is likelier to be the prime version? Further, if Caravaggio had painted in the truncated format, would he or a copyist then likely have added an extension to the arm of the fleeing disciple in another version? Our feeling is that the Florence format has to be considered to be superior compositionally; more dynamic dramatically; less like a stiff and claustrophobic tableau; and, altogether more expressive of the magnitude of the pandemonium and horror that attended Judas’ fateful act. Whether the Florence picture is the original autograph version has to be established but reports of its pronounced revisions weigh in its favour. Desperately needed is a collation of high quality photographs of all the versions of the paintings, along with detailed photographs of the same, or greater, quality of those published by Prof. Laurie. Above, Figs. 23 and 24: The Dublin and Rome/Florence versions of Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ, as reproduced in the Daily Telegraph. Sir Denis Mahon deemed both of these works – at the same time – to be the Caravaggio original. Above, Figs. 25 and 26: The Prado’s Annibale Carracci’s Venus, Adonis and Cupid, of c. 1588-90, top, as photographed in 1965 (by Hauser y Menet) and before restoration; and, above, as seen after a restoration funded by The Fundación Reale. Of the two versions (see a detail of the rival Vienna picture below at Fig. 28b) Mahon has supported both as the authentic original work – but this time did so consecutively, not simultaneously, as with the Caravaggio Taking. He championed the Vienna picture until the Prado one emerged. Unabashed, he saw merit in his own mistake, saying (in the 2005 exhibition catalogue) of his critical re-positioning : “When I first wrote about this composition, some fifty years ago, my observations on style and chronology were based not on the Prado painting, since this was as yet unknown, but on the excellent early copy in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and on the preparatory drawings for the figure of Adonis in the Uffizi. When the Prado painting was first published in 1965, by Pérez Sánchez, it was gratifying to realize that, although all those of us who concerned ourselves with Emilian painting had mistakenly assumed that the Vienna picture was Annibale’s original, one’s intutitions about the importance of the work and where it fitted in the artist’s evolution were confirmed.” This was dissimulation: had Mahon been alert to what might be called The Problem of Arbitrary and (otherwise) Bizarre or Inexplicable Croppings, he would have spotted the tell-tale warning in the cropped nose of the hound on the right of the Vienna version. This would have been the more likely had he consulted, as well as figure studies in the Uffizi, the etched copy of the original made in of 1655 by Luigi Scaramuccia (see Fig. 27, below). This delightful record shows not only that the hound’s head (like Samson’s toes elsewhere) had been set comfortably inside the picture, but, also, that the landscape at the top right was more extensive and contained an architectural feature (doubtless of some iconographic significance). Curators and restorers too often disregard the testimony of graphic artists, when, within their limits and styles, they are essentially respectful of the works they were paid to copy. (A copyist inclined to go his own way would likely get less not more employment.) Below, Fig. 27: Luigi Scaramuccia, Venus, Adonis and Cupid, 1655, second state, The British Museum (here mirrored). Above, Figs. 28a and 28b: Details of the Prado’s Carracci Venus, Adonis and Cupid (left), and the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum version (right). If Mahon corrected one error with this painting, he perpetuated others. The catalogue to the exhibition that celebrated the Prado’s restoration, produced the customary self-congratulatory sponsor’s waffle (here The Fundación Reale). Less forgivable was Mahon’s claim that the restoration helped establish the date of the original work. Mahon had been a belligerent champion of National Gallery restorations when at their worst in the post-war years, mocking, in tandem with the gallery’s head of science, the objections of scholars like Sir Ernst Gombrich (who had to wait a third of a century for a full technical vindication of his objections – see How the National Gallery belatedly vindicated the restoration criticisms of Sir Ernst Gombrich and 24 November 2011) What is unsaid in the hype of big business-sponsored restorations, is that a restorer can never recover what has been lost and that by cosmetically dressing up degraded works, imparts a spurious simulation of health and historical veracity. No restoration exhibition should ever take place without the inclusion of all extant visual records of the work(s) in question. If we disregard the testimony that exists in this area, we enter a world of “art conservation” make-believe. In doing so, we leave ourselves ill-quipped to address the most urgent questions of attribution and condition. Sadly, with this Carracci painting, the two versions have experienced what restorers euphemistically call “different conservation histories”. Which means is that they have suffered to varying and unequal degees, physical assaults on their fabrics and their pictorial skins. We are all obliged to acknowledge and address these terrible truths. Not least because all the inherent difficulties of making attributions are exacerbated by these various histories of “treatments”. On the testimony of the etching, it would seem that the Vienna hound lost considerable shading to the side of his head, while his elaborately jewelled collar survived much better than that seen in the Prado version. This tells us that neither work remains a true witness to its own original self and that, therefore, theories and judgements made on the basis of the pictures’ present selves should come with careful qualifications and health warnings, and not with some facile celebration of glorious recoveries. The differences that restorations make to individual pictures can be as great or greater than the differences that might originally have existed between an authentic original work and an extremely high quality copy of it. It should be accepted that one of the consequences of past restorations is that making sound appraisals of the merits of once closely related versions of paintings is made the more difficult. Some indication of how dramatically transforming restoration treatments can be can be might be gauged by the pair of details below (Figs. 29 and 30) from the Prado’s records of the same painting. Properly read, their inclusion, and that of the two states of the Scaramuccia etching in the Prado exhibition catalogue might constitute a most useful contribution to knowledge and understanding in this arena. Click on the images above for larger versions. NOTE: zooming requires the Adobe Flash Plug-in.
  • photographic mea
  • e expansive compositions, we should always consider which state is likelie
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 visual art and design 657
  • genealogy
  • Picabia’s Le Double Monde (1919) recalls its dadaist ‘prehistory’ ; Miró, described by Breton in 1925 as ‘the most surrealist of us all’
  • Breton has summed up his critical and programmatic project, aimed at a new definition of the work of art.
  • . A work acquires a ‘magical’ dimension when its meaning dominates, exceeds and opposes its ‘formal’ dimension, its realisation as a ‘beautiful’ object
  • The ‘magical’ work is neither particularly ‘beautiful’ nor ‘true’.
  • protected him against the prohibitions on which we commonly model ourselves,
  • those from Oceania best embody the qualities of ‘magic’ art:
  • dedicated to ‘a being, a category of beings or an object likely to be endowed with mythical life’.
  • t the composition of the ‘wall’ dates from the mid-1950s at the earlies
  • f Miró’s Tête (1927)
  • A pebble
  • flowering
  • A painting by the Douanier Rousseau
  • other than what we know,
  • visual arts
  • Against science it promotes the arbitrary nature of poetry.
  • René Duvillier (Fleur d’écume)
  • Katchina dolls, Eskimo masks and sculptures from the North Pacific Coast
  • Jean Degottex (Pollen noir)
  • Picabia’s painting (Le Double Monde, 1929)
  • dates from after World War II.
  • the ‘wall’ map Breton’s travels.
  • The ‘wall’ encapsulates the history of surrealism
  • three paintings
  • recall the three artistic phases of the movement
  • represents its flowering; while Degottex’s Pollen noir (1955) marks the renewal of automatism in postwar surrealist painting.
  • . Its repercussions are still present in Breton’s ‘wall’
  • surrealism’s enduring suspicion towards the modern western conception of the work of art as represented by painting.
  • a subversive gesture, a critical counterpoint to the current values
  • the enigma of the world
  • flowering
  • ‘magic’
  • Breton dreams his ‘wall’ as a microcosm and weaves a cloth of complex meanings and harmonies.
  • irrepressibly opposed to the founding values of western culture
  • the historical perspective
  • t surrealist painting could not exist, since everything about it contradicts the revolutionary and collective values of the movement.
  • The aim of Breton’s collecting activity is to hunt down works and objects capable of linking the real and the imaginary, leading him for example to collect stones from the bed of the River Lot and transform them into a « Souvenir du paradis terrestre ».
  • the marvelous
  • an astonishing assortment of objects
  • ‘magic’ has got a simple ‘use value’, it is a polemical tool with many facets
  • s, paintings, sculptures, montages, etc.
  • ‘magic art’ turns the work into a bridge between the different elements of a unified cosmos.
  • The magical work is also ‘religious’
  • The ‘wall’ is the stinging denial of such a conception of art.
  • forms a harmonious whole
  • In the context of the museum, that temple of culture, the ‘wall’ celebrates the virtues of ignorance and madness.
  • symptomatically placed in the exact centre of the wall
  • ‘primitive
  • the sign of a radical questioning of the aesthetic and cultural values of the modern western world.
  • This sparkling quality is characteristic of surrealist works
  • A giant’s bone, the fragments of a mummy, a two-headed cat, bezoars, a sea-cucumber, a pebble, vases, engravings, a thermometer, sixeen miniature paintings
  • ‘cabinets of curiosities’ are named less after the nature of the objects they contain than after the ‘science’ which determined their content and meaning.
  • “simplicity”
  • The excesses and blindness to which he may have yielded, sometimes complicitously, were proportional to the forces he wanted to fight.
  • Oceanic art
  • Amerindian and African works
  • unable to totally eradicate
  • André Breton rejects such a vision of art, which tends to transform works into documents illustrating the stages in a ‘progression’.
  • according to affinities of origin, matter, or structure.
  • Rationalism
  • it promotes comme
  • testify
  • all the marvelous effects linked to magic
  • spark
  • image is a pure creation of the mind
  • from the bringing to
  • ‘Spark’, ‘absolute disparity’, these are the only laws that Breton’s ‘wall’ obeys.
  • fought it
  • genealogy
  • Signe ascendant.
  • ent of a polarisation of the terms and object which it brings together. It magnetises t
  • harmony of opposing tensions
  • from the bringing together of two more or less distant realitie
  • more emotive power and poetic reality
  • Similarities and differences transform the ‘wall’ into a vast magnetic field.
  • . Similar collections
  • miniature world
  • André Breton’s ‘wall’ challenges the modern art museum,
  • e bizarre, underlining the links with doubt (assumed non-knowledge) and passion.
  • The antimuseum of postwar avantgardes is the deliberately derisory temple of a subjective position which overturns the contested values of the modern art museum
  • between
  • Breton’s ‘wall’ has had to renounce it
  • Joseph Cornell,
  • Marcel Duchamp
  • ‘magic’
  • irrational powers is to be considered as a rhetorical device.
  • s cosmological dream in favour of a subjective exploration
  • mark the transformation of the Wunderkammer from a cosmological to a subjective dimension.
  • . Fantasy, the arbitrary of egotism against ‘technique’, against the scientific model which governs the modern museum.
  • demonstrating that on the one hand modern scientific and rational thought is not as free from fetishism as it would wish to be […] and on the other hand that it is just as functional to use objects as fetishes, relics or amulets, as to consider them from a technical perspective
  • André Breton’s ‘wall’ challenges the modern art museum,
  • personal memories with the respect due to occult powers, the laws of magnetism or the vagaries of chance
  • Home Page > Works > The Wall Comments Wikis Portfolios Bookmarks Print RDF Click here to enlarge Click to order the image Image The Wall Various Objects Author Author André BretonText by Didier Ottinger Description‘Isn’t the real significance of a work, not the meaning we think we give it, but the meaning it is likely to take in relation to what surrounds it?’1 A carved whale bone, a box of mumified cicadas, an Egyptian amulet, a Tatanua mask, a fossilized sea-urchin, a painting by Joan Miró, a Mayan doll, pebbles from the bed of a river, a painting by Francis Picabia, an Iriquois mask, a box of butterflies… André Breton’s collection, selected according to a bizarre whim, a paradoxical order, combines personal memories with the respect due to occult powers, the laws of magnetism or the vagaries of chance. André Breton’s ‘wall’ challenges the modern art museum, like the still warm heart of a high energy reactor.   I. A selfportrait Breton’s ‘wall’ as we know it dates from after World War II. There are no documents to record its existence in the fourth floor appartment at 42 rue Fontaine in the 9th arrondissement, where the poet had moved to on 1 January 1922. The first photographs record Alain Jouffroy’s visit to Breton in 1960.2 The photos were taken by Sabine Weiss in the third floor appartment in the same building, which Breton had moved to in 1949, a move explained by Breton’s need to find an extra bedroom for his daughter Aube arriving from the United States. These first photographs of the ‘wall’ are evidence of its mobility. The Papua New Guinea shields are missing, while Picabia’s painting (Le Double Monde, 1929) hangs to the right of Miró’s Tête (1927). The dating of certain objects confirms that the composition of the ‘wall’ dates from the mid-1950s at the earliest. The paintings by Jean Degottex (Pollen noir) on the upper part of the wall and René Duvillier (Fleur d’écume) date from 1955. A pebble (Souvenir du paradis terrestre) is dated 1953 by Breton himself. The objects composing the ‘wall’ map Breton’s travels. Jacqueline Lamba recalls that in 1938, at the end of their stay in Mexico, her luggage was crammed with masks, pottery, decorated frames, dolls, whistles, ex-votos, sugar skulls, wooden boxes, and other Mexican popular art objects acquired by Breton. In the United States during the war years, another of his travelling companions, Claude Lévi-Strauss, recalls that they would frequent the antique shop of Julius Carlebach, a specialist in primitive art objects, Katchina dolls, Eskimo masks and sculptures from the North Pacific Coast.3 The ‘wall’ encapsulates the history of surrealism. The three paintings dominating the wall recall the three artistic phases of the movement: Picabia’s Le Double Monde (1919) recalls its dadaist ‘prehistory’ ; Miró, described by Breton in 1925 as ‘the most surrealist of us all’4, represents its flowering; while Degottex’s Pollen noir (1955) marks the renewal of automatism in postwar surrealist painting. Those familiar with surrealism and its images are sure to look for the woman hidden in this forest of symbols and objects. In its geometric centre they will find a photograph of Elisa, the last of Breton’s companions. Those interested in genealogy will enjoy comparing the descriptions of Breton’s studio with his descriptions of Guillaume Apollinaire’s lair: ‘You tack between bookshelves, rows of African and Oceania fetishes, paintings of the most revolutionary kind, like a sailing ship driven by a strong wind towards the adventurous horizons of the mind’.5 As if echoing these words, James Lord has described André Breton’s studio as follows : ‘I have rarely found myself in such an extraordinary place. The room is quite large with a high window at one end. It is stuffed with an astonishing assortment of objects, paintings, sculptures, montages, etc. I have never seen so many things piled up in such a restricted space. And yet, what is most surprising is that it forms a harmonious whole’.6   II. Construction as manifesto In the third issue of Révolution surréaliste7, Pierre Naville states that surrealist painting could not exist, since everything about it contradicts the revolutionary and collective values of the movement. Painting is doomed to perpetuate the myth of the genius and egotistical creation. Its material nature restricts it to private use, predisposes it to becoming the fetishised object of all sorts of speculations. André Breton, keen to defuse the violence of Naville’s attacks, embarked on the writing of Surréalisme et la peinture in order to refute his arguments. Beyond their immediate target (painting) Naville’s attacks expressed surrealism’s enduring suspicion towards the modern western conception of the work of art as represented by painting. The repeated calls for a collective form of art, the supposed model of non-european art, perpetuates the suspicion introduced by Naville. Its repercussions are still present in Breton’s ‘wall’, which becomes a subversive gesture, a critical counterpoint to the current values of our museums. Thanks to the complex and highly ambiguous term ‘magic’, Breton has summed up his critical and programmatic project, aimed at a new definition of the work of art. Because of the recurrent use of the term by Breton in the postwar years he was accused many times of witchcraft and constantly suspected of obscurantism. These accusations bypassed the fact that, for Breton himself, L’Art magique was highly problematic. It took several years between his first drafts and the final publication of the work (co-written with Gérard Legrand), during which time he wrestled with the term ‘magic’ which he wanted to use for its critical dimension, its dialectical opposition to a form of rationalism considered stifling, while wishing to dispel any link to superstition. Breton’s attitude towards this form of ‘magic’ is clarified by an anecdote. In 1934 he presented to Roger Caillois the case of Mexican ‘jumping beans’. The beans leapt wildly around the table. The reactions triggered by this spectacle reflected clearly distinct positions. Caillois, adopting a ‘scientific’ attitude, suggested the beans should be dissected. Breton, preferring to enjoy the mystery rather than dissipating it by looking for a cause, was resolutely opposed to dissecting the beans. Finally, Caillois reproached Breton for choosing the ‘option of intuition, poetry, art – and their privileges’.8 Such divergent points of view led to an irreparable break between the two men. Was it necessary to get to this point? The difficulties faced by Breton when he was writing his Art magique suggest a subtle approach to the problem. For him ‘magic’ has got a simple ‘use value’, it is a polemical tool with many facets. A work acquires a ‘magical’ dimension when its meaning dominates, exceeds and opposes its ‘formal’ dimension, its realisation as a ‘beautiful’ object. The ‘magical’ work is neither particularly ‘beautiful’ nor ‘true’. Evoking the obects and works which he brings together in his work, Breton states: ‘Considered as aesthetic objects these works present very variable qualities’.9 While the museum promotes ‘unique’ and authentic works of art, Breton does not hesitate to integrate into his ‘wall’ tourist knick-knacks. 10 While the museum celebrates the cult of the individual and the solitary genius, or the avant-garde’s fearless questioning of traditional values, ‘magic’ art defends the merits of collective action and poetry. If the term was not liable to misunderstanding (including for surrealism itself), the term ‘religious’ would readily replace ‘magic’ to qualify the art promoted by André Breton. Modern art is identified with a secular process, with a formalist approach which leads to the autonomous work of art. On the contrary, ‘magic art’ turns the work into a bridge between the different elements of a unified cosmos. Declaring that ‘we are in touch with every part of the universe’, Novalis (quoted by Breton) defines the function of art as linking things with each other in order to assert a belief in the continuity of the world. Breton dreams his ‘wall’ as a microcosm and weaves a cloth of complex meanings and harmonies. The aim of Breton’s collecting activity is to hunt down works and objects capable of linking the real and the imaginary, leading him for example to collect stones from the bed of the River Lot and transform them into a « Souvenir du paradis terrestre ». The magical work is also ‘religious’ insofar as, like the ‘naïve’ and the ‘madman’, the sorcerer or the shaman, it draws from a common source of universal values. In the context of the museum, that temple of culture, the ‘wall’ celebrates the virtues of ignorance and madness. A painting by the Douanier Rousseau (Nature morte aux cerises, ca 1907) is symptomatically placed in the exact centre of the wall. In L’Art magique, Breton praises ‘the “simplicity” of [the Douanier] Rousseau, a simplicity which protected him against the prohibitions on which we commonly model ourselves, and transformed him into the primitive “son of the sun” that Rimbaud and Lautréamont had hoped to find at the cost of a radical revolt and that Gauguin – perhaps more naively – had gone in search of in the Polynesian Islands’.11 The ‘naive’, the ‘madman’ or the shaman bring back from their exploration of the depths ‘shared by all men’12 a poetry which they share with their community in the form of myth. For André Breton this mythical quest was the main objective of postwar surrealism. After the New York exhibition (First Papers of Surrealism, 1942), the exhibition he curated in 1947 at the Maeght Gallery in Paris was organised around a room with twelve ‘altars’ dedicated to ‘a being, a category of beings or an object likely to be endowed with mythical life’. Among the objects collected by Breton, those from Oceania best embody the qualities of ‘magic’ art: an unfettered creation, a ‘collective’ and mythical art. Promoted as art that ‘opens the sluice-gates of our emotions’13, Oceanic art is, par excellence, associated with ‘the marvelous, with all it entails of surprise and splendour, and a dazzling view of something other than what we know, which the visual arts have never revealed with the same success’.14 The great number of Oceanic objects on the wall (79) testify to their importance within the surrealist poetic pantheon. The preponderance of ‘primitive’, Oceanic. Amerindian and African works on the wall is the sign of a radical questioning of the aesthetic and cultural values of the modern western world. The caricatural image to which certain individuals have all too often reduced Breton, does not take into account the rhetorical, dialectical dimension of his poetic or political models. The excesses and blindness to which he may have yielded, sometimes complicitously, were proportional to the forces he wanted to fight. If the ‘wall’, by its form and its content, appears so irrepressibly opposed to the founding values of western culture, it is because never had the forces of cultural imperialism and those of the stupefying of the masses through degenerate consumer culture, appeared as threatening as in postwar France when Breton created the wall. ‘The development of civilisation and constant technical progress have been unable to totally eradicate from the human soul the hope of resolving the enigma of the world and redirect to its advantage the forces which govern it’.15 In the decades to come, the historical perspective of André Breton’s ‘wall’ will remind us that it was contemporary with colonial wars, the invention of television and the supermarket.   III. The wall as a magnetic field André Breton developed his conception of the image in Signe ascendant, written in 1947. He repeatedly voiced his aversion for the word donc [therefore], which he referred to as that ‘most detestable word’. Donc implies a consequence, leading to a conclusion, the most effective lubricant of an argument. Donc fills the void that separates one work from the next on the walls of a museum, filling the space between an object and those surrounding it. In a museum each work heralds the next one. The donc which connects them is one of filiation and genealogy (works of the same artist, stylistic school or movement…). Work after work the museum unrolls its long ribbon of History, legitimised by its ‘scientificity’. André Breton rejects such a vision of art, which tends to transform works into documents illustrating the stages in a ‘progression’. The ‘wall’ is the stinging denial of such a conception of art. Against science it promotes the arbitrary nature of poetry. At the heart of the temple of donc, it promotes comme [like], ‘the most exciting word we have’, declared Breton in Signe ascendant.16 The surrealist comme challenges its everyday meaning. Rather than a means of comparison, it underlines difference and disparity. It is the agent of a polarisation of the terms and object which it brings together. It magnetises the space crossed by a shower of sparks, the electric arc of a relationship which defies rationality. A bosom like a cabinet, teeth like a flock of sheep. (Note: examples taken from quotations used by Breton to illustrate his poetic use of comme. ‘Ta gorge triomphante est une belle armoire’, by Charles Baudelaire ; ‘Tes dents sont comme un troupeau de brebis remontant du lavoir’, Song of Songs.) The first ‘spark’ of comme dates from 1913. In the April issue of his journal Nord-Sud, Pierre Reverdy recorded an exchange he had just had with Breton : ‘The image is a pure creation of the mind. It cannot be created from a comparison but from the bringing together of two more or less distant realities. The more distant and just the relations between the two realities brought together, the more powerful the image – the more emotive power and poetic reality it will have’.17 Six years later, the image of the ‘spark’ is used by Paul Valéry responding to Breton’s gift of Mont de piété : ‘Monsieur V […] is surprisingly pleased with your anthology, who would have thought so? Is he becoming mad like the young men of Littérature ? But believe it or not, he is very much at ease between Mallarmé and Rimbaud, the two poles of your universe. It’s because of comparisons. He sees himself closing the chain of electricity, and points his loaded finger towards the other body, in the expectation of sparks’.18 André Breton takes up the image of the ‘spark’ in a text written in 1921 for the exhibition of Max Ernst’s collages (at the Sans Pareil bookshop in Paris). For him the collages possess the ‘marvelous quality […] of bringing together two distant realities, and producing a spark’.19 This sparkling quality is characteristic of surrealist works. The works of Giorgio De Chirico were among the first to explode in a shower of sparks.20 Juxtaposing the emblematic forms of classical culture (arcades, roman buildings) with the symbols of modernity (locomotives, stations…), or fusing disparate objects (a rubber glove and the copy of an antique sculpture in Chant d’amour), his paintings create ‘certain unexpected combinations which awaken in us a new feeling of joy and surprises’.21 Les Champs magnétiques also resemble electric arc generators. Written jointly by André Breton and Philippe Soupault, the text juxtaposes incoherent sentences, the meeting of two subjective voices, challenging the lightning conductor of reason. Again in 1965, at the exhibition L’Écart absolu, Breton tracks down the appearance of this spark : ‘harmony of opposing tensions… like those of the arc and the lyre according to Heraclitus. Poetry occurs when the mind throws a bridge between extremes through analogy’.22 ‘Spark’, ‘absolute disparity’, these are the only laws that Breton’s ‘wall’ obeys
  • which has become the Holy Grail of the modern artist.
  • egotistical museums
  • Daniel Spoerri
  • The Musée sentimental is contemporary with the international development of modern art museums, with a ‘darwinian’ history of art, progressive and formalist, that tends to become dogma.
  • The opposition between science and ‘curiosity’ prefigures the dialogue between Breton’s ‘wall’ and the modern art museum.
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