From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
André Breton (February 19, 1896 – September 28, 1966) was a French writer, poet, and surrealist theorist, and is best known as the main founder of surrealism and defender of l'amour fou. His writings include the Surrealist Manifesto and the invaluable Anthology of Black Humor.
Have professed abolute surrealism
What is Surrealism? is a 1934 lecture by André Breton.
Born into modest origins in Tinchebray (Orne) in Normandy, he studied medicine and psychiatry. During World War I he worked in a neurological ward in Nantes, where he met the spiritual son of Alfred Jarry, Jacques Vaché, whose anti-social attitude and disdain for established artistic tradition influenced Breton considerably. Vaché committed suicide at age 24 and his war-time letters to Breton and others were published in a volume entitled Lettres de guerre (1919), to which Breton wrote four introductory essays.
From Dada to Surrealism
In 1919 Breton founded the review Littérature with Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault. He also connected with Dadaist Tristan Tzara. In 1924 he was instrumental to the founding of the Bureau of Surrealist Research.
In The Magnetic Fields (Les Champs Magnétiques), a collaboration with Soupault, he put the principle of automatic writing into practice. He published the Surrealist Manifesto in 1924, and was editor of La Révolution surréaliste from 1924. A group coalesced around him — Philippe Soupault, Louis Aragon, Paul Éluard, René Crevel, Michel Leiris, Benjamin Peret, Antonin Artaud, and Robert Desnos.
Anxious to combine the themes of personal transformation found in the works of Arthur Rimbaud with the politics of Karl Marx, Breton joined the French Communist Party in 1927, from which he was expelled in 1933. During this time, he survived mostly off the sale of paintings from his art gallery.
Under Breton's direction, surrealism became a European movement that influenced all domains of art, and called into question the origin of human understanding and human perceptions of things and events.
In 1938 Breton accepted a cultural commission from the French government to travel to Mexico. This provided the opportunity to meet Trotsky. Breton and other surrealists sought refuge a long boat ride from Patzcuaro in the surreal town of Erongaricuaro. Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were among the visitors to the hidden community of intellectuals and artists. Together, Breton and Trotsky wrote a manifesto Pour un art révolutionnaire indépendent (published under the names of Breton and Diego Rivera) which called for "complete freedom of art", which was becoming increasingly difficult in the world situation of the time.
Breton was again in the medical corp of the French Army at the start of World War II. The Vichy government banned his writings as "the very negation of the national revolution" and Breton sought refuge in the United States and the Caribbean in 1941. Breton made the acquaintance of Martinican writer Aimé Césaire, and later penned the introduction to the 1947 edition of Césaire's Cahier d'un retour au pays natal. During his exile in New York City, he met Elisa, the Chilean woman who would become his third wife.
In 1944, he and Elisa traveled to Gaspésie in Québec, Canada, where he wrote Arcane 17, a book which expresses his fears of World War II, describes the marvels of the Rocher Percé and the northeastern end of North America, and celebrates his newly found love with Elisa.
Breton returned to Paris in 1946, where he intervened against French colonialism (for example as a signatory of the Manifesto of the 121 against the Algerian war) and continued, until his death, to foster a second group of surrealists in the form of expositions or reviews (La Brèche, 1961-1965). In 1959, Andre Breton organized an exhibit in Spain to celebrate the Fortieth Anniversary of Surrealism called the Homage to Surrealism which exhibited works by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Enrique Tábara and Eugenio Granell.
André Breton died in 1966 at 70 and was buried in the Cimetière des Batignolles in Paris.
- Mont de piété, 1919
- S'il Vous Plaît, 1920 – If You Please
- Les Champs magnétiques, 1920 – The Magnetic Fields
- Manifeste du surréalisme, 1924 – The Surrealist Manifesto
- Les Pas perdus (Breton), 1924 – The Lost Steps
- Poisson soluble, 1924 – Soluble Fish
- Un Cadavre, 1924 – A Corpse
- Légitime Défense, 1926 – Legitimate Defense
- Le Surréalisme et la peinture, 1926 – Surrealism and Painting
- Nadja, 1928 – Nadja
- L'Immaculée Conception, 1930 – The Immaculate Conception
- Deuxième Manifeste du surréalisme, 1930 – The Second Manifesto of Surrealism
- Ralentir travaux, 1930 – Slow Down Works
- L'Union libre, 1931
- La Revolver à cheveux blancs, 1932 – The Revolver Has White Hair
- Les Vases communicants, 1932 – The Communicating Vessels
- Le Message automatique; 1933 – The Automatic Message
- Qu'est-ce que le surréalisme, 1934 – What Is Surrealism
- L'Air de l'eau, 1934 – Looks Like Water
- Point du Jour, 1934 – Break of Day
- Position politique du surréalisme, 1935 – The Political Position of Surrealism
- Notes sur la poésie, 1936 (with Paul Éluard) – Notes on Poetry
- L'Amour fou, 1937 – Mad Love
- Point du jour, 1937
- Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme, 1938 (with Paul Éluard) – Abridged Dictionary of Surrealism
- Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art, 1938 (with Leon Trotsky)
- Fata Morgana, 1940Template:Citation needed
- Anthologie de l'humour noir, 1940 – Anthology of Black Humor
- Arcane 17, 1945 – Arcane 17
- Jeunes Cerisiers garantis contre les lièvres, 1946 – Young Cherry Trees Secured against Hares
- Ode à Charles Fourier, 1947 – Ode to Charles Fourier
- Yves Tanguy, 1947
- Poèmes 1919–48, 1948
- La Lampe dans l'horloge, 1948 – The Lamp in the Clock
- Martinique, charmeuse de serpents, 1948
- Entretiens, 1952 – Discussions
- La Clé des champs, 1953 – The Key of the Fields
- Farouche à quatre feuilles, 1954 (with Lise Deharme, Julien Gracq, Jean Tardieu) – Wild to Four Leaves
- Les Manifestes du surréalisme, 1955 – Manifestoes of Surrealism
- L'Art magique, 1957 – The Magic Art
- Constellations, 1958
- Le la, 1961
- Le Surréalisme et la Peinture, 1965
- Pas-de-preuve(non-lieu), 1966
- Selected Poems, 1969
- Perspective cavalière, 1970
- What is Surrealism? Selected Poems, 1978
- Poems of André Breton, 1982
Life outside art
He married three times
- His first wife was the former Simone Kahn.
- His second wife was the former Jacqueline Lamba, with whom he had his only child, a daughter named Aube.
- His third wife was the former Elisa Claro.
Breton was an avid collector of art, ethnographic material, and unusual trinkets. He was particularly interested in materials from the northwest coast of North America. When faced with a financial crisis in 1931, most his collection (along with his friend Paul Eluard's) was auctioned off. He subsequently rebuilt the collection, which was preserved by family members from the time of his death until 2003, at which time his books, art, and ethnographic materials were auctioned by CamelsCohen.
He was a homophobe