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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - In The Words Of . . . .

From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.

André Breton

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The Savage Eye
1928 - Surrealism

At the time of its inception four years ago, surrealism was primarily a literary movement. But, before long, painters such as Max Ernst, André Masson, Yves Tanguy, and Joan Miró, who shared similar preoccupations regarding dreams, Automatism, and the unconscious, became involved in it. The questions raised by their participation moved André Breton to write Surrealism and Paintings. The work had a profound impact on the avant-garde. It is written in a lively, scathing, and often partial style. The excerpt below is taken from it.


One can, under the pretense of having to jump off a bridge, learn to swim by hanging increasingly large rocks from one's neck. After all, no one has bothered to weigh them. One can also, for example, learn to draw a sword skillfully, even if only to say at the appropriate moment "here is my card," and be assured the battlefield is of one's choosing. I must concede that, on his battlefield, Miró is unbeatable. No one comes as close to associating the unassociable as he does, nonchalantly shattering what we dare not break.

The cicada, scanning the fields of southern France with his eyes as big as saucers, offers his cruel song as the sole accompaniment to this traveler who, not knowing where he is headed, continues all the more hurriedly. This cicada is the ambiguous, delicious, and disconcerting genie that proceeds before Miró, introducing him to the higher powers with whom the great primitives have had little to do. Perhaps he alone is the necessary talisman, the indispensable fetish that Miró has brought with him on his trip in order to keep from losing his way. Through this creature, he has learned that the Earth shoots nothing more than wretched snails' antennae toward the sky, that the air is an open window to rockets and huge mustaches, that, to speak reverentially, one must say "Open the parenthesis, life; close the parenthesis," that, literally, "Our hearts hang together from the same tree," that the mouth of the smoker is but a part of the smoke, and that the ghost of the sun, a good omen for painting, announces his entry like any other ghost, by the noise of clanging chains.

I must emphasize that Miró ought not to have conceived such a delirious pride, that he ought not to have trusted himself alone, however gifted he may be, however faithful inspiration has been for him thus far, however original his manner may be, to take the unchanging elements or appearance and establish the conditions for a balance that overwhelms the observer. Delirium has nothing to do with this. Pure imagination alone is the master of what it appropriates from day to day, and Miró ought not forget he is only the instrument of that imagination. His work, whether he likes it or not, involves a certain number of general notions to which others adhere. It would be useless to hold these notions, in their current state, as simple, subjective concept as incapable of taking on a new, objective reality independent of the consciousness that conceived them. I submit that Miró has other concerns besides providing free pleasure for the eyes and mind of the casual observer.

André Breton Surrealism and Painting [Excerpt]

[An Excerpt From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988. p. 273]




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