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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


9 Acknowledgements The research that forms the basis of this book was undertaken with a three-year doctoral scholarship from the Arts and Humanities Re- search Board, and its publication subsequently made possible by a post-doctoral fellowship from the Henry Moore Foundation. I am sincerely grateful to both of these institutions, their directors and staff, for a degree of support without which this project would certainly not have been impossible. Earlier versions, or parts, of Chapters 3, 4 and 6 appear in the Subject/Object: New Studies in Sculpture series, published by the Henry Moore Institute. 1 Both doctoral and post-doctoral work was undertaken at the Department of History of Art, University College London. For this author, as for many art historians in recent years, it was an academic home in the best sense of the word, and it is impossible to overstate the extent to which the culture of the department has influenced this book. It was a great place to work and it is in the spirit of time spent at UCL that I offer my sincere thanks to all the staff and students there, past and present, for maintaining something very special. I would like, in the first instance, to thank my thesis supervisors. Briony Fer was, and continues to be, an immense source of inspiration and encouragement, and Helen Weston contributed enormously to both my knowledge and enthusiasm for the history and art history of the French Revolution. It is in the nature of the History of Art...

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