Sade's influence on Surrealism  

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 This page Sade's influence on Surrealism is part of the Marquis de Sade series  Illustration: Portrait fantaisiste du marquis de Sade (1866) by H. Biberstein
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This page Sade's influence on Surrealism is part of the Marquis de Sade series
Illustration: Portrait fantaisiste du marquis de Sade (1866) by H. Biberstein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Marquis de Sade's influence is keenly perceived and felt in the works of the Surrealists of the 1920s and '30s, which — post-Freud and post-Marx — sought to liberate and give expression to the mysterious and aggressive drives lurking within the unconscious mind. Surrealist artists and scenarists like Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, and Luis Buñuel had all made use of ideas, themes, and scenarios based on Sade's writings. In the fictive realm of art, they attempted to emulate Sade — as well as other, later écrivains maudits of the nineteenth century like Lautréamont and Rimbaud — by giving free rein of expression to all manner of psychopathological impulses and wanton paraphilia, including rape, murder, sodomy, coprophilia, and blasphemy.

The subject was the object of Sade / Surreal, a 2001 exhibition in Zurich and was most recently explored in the book Sade: Sex and Death: The Divine Marquis and the Surrealists (2011) by Candice Black.

In the early 20th century Guillaume Apollinaire discovered rare manuscripts by Sade in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. He published a selection of his writings in 1909 in L'œuvre du Marquis de Sade, where he introduced Sade as "the freest spirit that had ever lived." Sade was celebrated in surrealist periodicals.

The first Manifesto of Surrealism (1924) announced that "Sade is surrealist in sadism." In the eighth issue of La Révolution surréaliste (December 1926), Paul Éluard revealed the Surrealists' growing fascination with sexual perversion in a piece celebrating the writings of the Marquis de Sade. According to Éluard, the Marquis "wished to give back to civilized man the strength of his primitive instincts." He wrote of Sade as a "fantastique" and "revolutionary."

Maurice Heine pieced together Sade's manuscripts from libraries and museums in Europe and published them between 1926 and 1935. Extracts of the original draft of Justine were published in Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution.

The surrealist artist Man Ray admired Sade because he and other surrealists viewed him as an ideal of freedom. According to Ray, Heine brought the original 1785 manuscript of 120 Days of Sodom to his studio to be photographed. An photo by Man Ray entitled Monument à D.A.F. de Sade, depicting a pair of buttocks framed within an inverted cross, appeared in Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution. Ray also drew Imaginary Portrait of the Marquis de Sade.

Buñuel was arguably the most pessimistic and nihilistic (as well as the most vociferously anti-clerical) of Sade's Surrealist legatees, as he did not see the liberation of the unconscious mind and its repressed impulses as a guaranteed route to human freedom and (perceived) utopian happiness — or even a satisfactory deliverance or diversion from the banal frustrations of bourgeois life. This negative position stood in stark contrast to the more hopeful attitudes taken by the progressive-minded followers of the French poet and principal theoretician of the Surrealist movement, André Breton.

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