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Surrealism, History and Revolution

Simon Baker

This book is a new account of the surrealist movement in France between the two world wars. It examines the uses that surrealist artists and writers made of ideas and images associated with the French Revolution, describing a complex relationship between surrealism’s avant-garde revolt and its powerful sense of history and heritage. Focusing on both texts and images by key figures such as Louis Aragon, Georges Bataille, Jacques-André Boiffard, André Breton, Robert Desnos, Max Ernst, Max Morise, and Man Ray, this book situates surrealist material in the wider context of the literary and visual arts of the period through the theme of revolution. It raises important questions about the politics of representing French history, literary and political memorial spaces, monumental representations of the past and critical responses to them, imaginary portraiture and revolutionary spectatorship. The study shows that a full understanding of surrealism requires a detailed account of its attitude to revolution, and that understanding this surrealist concept of revolution means accounting for the complex historical imagination at its heart.


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Acknowledgements 9 List of illustrations 11 Introduction Surrealism, history and revolution 21 Chapter One Surrealism and history 25 Chapter Two La Révolution surréaliste – the surrealist revolution 65 Chapter Three Tales from the crypt / a surrealist pantheon 107 Chapter Four Statuephobia! Surrealism and iconoclasm in the Bronze Age 147 Chapter Five The unacceptable face of the French Revolution 231 Chapter Six Surrealism in the streets 295 Appendix 339 Bibliography 349 Index 367

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