Angels of Anarchy, Women Artists and Surrealism

26 September - 10 January

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Artist biographies

Lee Miller

Marion Adnams

(b. 1899 Derby, England — d. 1995 Derby, England)
Although she wanted to study art, Marion Adnams instead studied modern languages in 1919 at University College, Nottingham encouraged by her parents . In 1930 she attend part-time lifeclasses at Derby School of Art whilst teaching modern languages. In the 1950s she became Head of Art at the Derby Diocesan College of Education. Her work was influenced by her drawing tutor at the School of Art, the surrealist painter Alfred Bladen, and she started to exhibit in London in 1939; her influences extend to Magritte, Paul Nash and Dalí. She later returned to live in her parents’ house where she died in 1995.

Eileen Agar

(b. 1899 Buenos Aires — d. 1991 London)
Eileen Agar’s artworks range from painting, collage and experiments with automatic techniques to photography and objects, perhaps her most famous work being Angel of Anarchy (1936–40). In 1906 her family moved to England and in 1924, against the wishes of her parents, she began to study art with Leon Underwood.

From 1925 to 1926, she attended the Slade School of Fine Art in London, and later, from 1928 to 1930 she lived in Paris, where she met Paul Éluard. She joined the Surrealist Group in England in 1933, was one of the co-signatories of the group’s inaugural declaration, and collaborated on the International Surrealist Bulletin and on the London Bulletin. In 1936 she was the only professional female painter to represent Britain in the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries in London. Subsequently she exhibited widely with the surrealists in Paris, New York and Tokyo, and her artistic practice ranged from painting and drawing to objects, collage and frottage.

During 1937 she spent time at the home of Dora Maar and Picasso in Mougins, along with Paul and Nusch Éluard, Lee Miller and Roland Penrose. Her friendship with Paul Nash fostered her interest in nature and its objects. World War II disrupted her artistic activity; she began to paint again in 1946. Later she exhibited internationally and by the 1960s was producing tachist paintings with surrealist elements.

Lola Alvarez Bravo

(b. 1907 Lagos de Moreno, Mexico — d. 1993 Mexico City)
Dolores (Lola) Martínez Vianda became one of Mexico’s first professional women photographers. She moved to Mexico City as a very young child and, orphaned at the age of eight, was raised by relatives. She married the Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo in 1925. The couple worked closely together and made the acquaintance of artists such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Lola Alvarez Bravo’s photography was influenced by Edward Weston and Tina Modotti.

Her photographs cover a wide range of subjects, from documentary images of the everyday in Mexico to portraits of leaders and artists, as well as experiments with photomontage. Although not associated with surrealism per se, surrealist elements occur throughout her career. Her intimate portraits of Frida Kahlo and María Izquierdo resonate strangely with those artists’ surrealistically influenced works. Her first one-woman exhibition was held at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City in 1944 which was followed by numerous group and solo exhibitions.

She founded her own art gallery which ran from 1951 to 1958 and which hosted the only Frida Kahlo exhibition in Mexico during Kahlo’s lifetime. She taught photography at the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City and was honoured with a major retrospective in the capital in 1992. A full archive of her work is located at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Rachel Baes

(b. 1912 Ixelles, Belgium — d. 1983 Bruges, Belgium)
As the daughter of the painter Émile Baes, Rachel Baes had an early introduction to painting. At the start she was influenced by Flemish expressionism and exhibited for the first time in 1929 at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris. She fell deeply in love with one of the main figures of Flemish nationalism, Joris Van Severen, and his death in 1940 left her heartbroken.

Her paintings are strongly focused on childhood dramas, exploring them from a specifically female perspective. They offer analyses of childhood as the cradle of women’s oppressions. In 1945 she met Paul Éluard — who wrote the preface to her first exhibition catalogue in Paris — and turned to surrealism. Magritte’s painting Shéhérazade (1947) is a portrait of Baes. In 1961 she moved to Bruges (the town whose decorative buildings often appear in her paintings) and retired from public life. Subsequent exhibitions included an exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles in 1965 and her final exhibition in 1976 at the Galerie Isy Brachot in Brussels. She published a biography on Van Severen in 1965, and was buried alongside him at Abbeville.

Elisa Breton

(b. 1906, Vina del Mar, Chile — d. 2000, Paris)
Elisa Breton (née Bindoff) was born in Chile, to a well-to-do family of French origin. She married (Claro) and had a daughter who drowned, after which she tried to commit suicide.

She met André Breton in 1943, marrying him in 1945, and together with Breton she travelled widely. She was also influential in the publication of Breton’s Arcanum 17. Her artworks were and are rarely exhibited. Her paintings are rare and her writings are few, but her 1949 conversation with Breton and Benjamin Péret on the painter Riopelle was included in Breton’s Surrealism and Painting and some of her comments and responses were included in publications such as Le Surréalisme, même no. 5 (1959).

Elisa Breton also collaborated on a number of issues of the surrealist review, Médium published during the 1950s. However, she produced a small but significant œuvre of intriguing surrealist objects, using everyday found objects and collages, and collaborated on a number of exquisite corpses and other artworks with Breton and other surrealists. Her photographs of Breton were gathered together and published in a volume by Les Éditions au Fil de l’Encre (Paris) in 1993.

Emmy Bridgwater

(b. 1906 Birmingham, England — d. 1999 Solihull, England)
Bridgwater was the daughter of a chartered accountant and a Methodist. She had an early interest in painting and drawing and studied from 1922 to 1925 under Bernard Fleetwood-Walker at the Birmingham School of Art. A visit to the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London marked her turn to surrealism: she started to explore psychoanalytic ideas and to experiment with automatic techniques. She became a member of, and important link between, the London and Birmingham Surrealist Groups.

During the 1930s and 1940s she produced mostly paintings and pen-and-ink drawings. She continued her studies in 1936 when she visited the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London for a year and started to exhibit in London and Birmingham. She had a close friendship with Edith Rimmington and a brief affair with Toni del Renzio. Bridgwater published widely in surrealist journals and reviews including Arson: An Ardent Review and Free Unions. She held her first solo exhibition at Jack Bilbo’s Modern Gallery in 1942. André Breton chose her, together with five other English artists, to contribute to the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme at the Galerie Maeght in Paris.

Her duties of caring for her ageing mother and disabled sister suspended her artistic career from the late 1940s until the 1970s, when she started to work again on collages.

Claude Cahun (pseudonym of Lucy Schwob)

(b. 1894 Nantes, France — d. 1954 Jersey, Channel Islands)
Born Lucy Renée Mathilde Schwob in Nantes, she was the niece of writer Marcel Schwob who was admired by the surrealists, and great niece of the Orientalist David Leon Cahun. From 1912, at the age of eighteen, Cahun began making photographic self-portraits which radically explored identity as a fluid concept. It should be noted, however, that her significant photographic œuvre stretches well beyond this genre.

In the late 1910s she adopted the pseudonym Claude Cahun, intentionally adopting a gender-ambiguous name, after previously using the names Claude Courlis and Daniel Douglas. She settled with her life-long partner and stepsister Suzanne Malherbe (who adopted the pseudonym Marcel Moore) in Paris during the early 1920s and collaborated with her on writings, sculptures, photomontages and collages. In 1937 the couple moved to Jersey and lived there until Cahun‘s death.

From 1914 Cahun published in a variety of periodicals including Le Mercure de France. Her thinly disguised autobiography, illustrated with photomontages, was published in 1930. In 1933 she began to collaborate with the surrealist group. During the war, she and Moore were active in the Resistance. In 1944 they were arrested and sentenced to death by the Nazis, a fate which they only narrowly escaped, but which also damaged Cahun’s subsequent health.

Leonora Carrington

(b. 1917 Clayton Green, England)
Carrington’s artistic oeuvre includes writing as well as painting. She came from a wealthy family and studied painting in Amédée Ozenfant’s London academy in her teens. Her turn to surrealism was in 1936, already being familiar with the movement via Herbert Read’s anthology Surrealism when she visited the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London.

In 1937, aged only twenty, she met Max Ernst and settled with him in Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche, in France. In 1940, she was interned in a psychiatric ward, her breakdown understandable not least as a response to Ernst’s detention in a camp for foreigners. This period is portrayed in her book En bas [Down Below] (1945).

Carrington was very active in the exiled Paris Surrealist Group in New York in 1941–42 and moved to Mexico in 1942 where, although there was no organised Surrealist group, she was in close contact with Benjamin Péret (who returned to Paris after the war), Remedios Varo and Luis Buñuel. After living in New York and then in Chicago in the 1980s, contributing to activities of the Chicago Surrealist Group, she returned to Mexico in 1992. Her writings and plays include La Dame ovale [The Oval Lady] (1939), a collection of her stories illustrated by Max Ernst, her novel The Stone Door (written in the 1940s but only published in 1976), and plays such as A Flannel Night-Shirt (1947).

Ithell Colquhoun

(b. 1906 Shillong, Assam — d. 1988 Cornwall, England)
Ithell Colquhoun was largely a self-taught artist. She grew up in India and England and was heavily influenced by alchemy, Kabbalah and a magical society called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. She was first introduced to surrealism in 1931 when she visited Paris with her fellow students from the Slade. Salvador Dalí’s art and his theories of ‘paranoic phantoms’ in particular captivated her, becoming the basis for her 1934 series of exotic plant studies.

In 1939 she took part in the Living Art in England exhibition, met Breton in Paris, and joined the English surrealist group, contributing a number of articles to the London Bulletin. However, her allegiance with the group was short-lived: she disliked the dictates and schisms and was expelled from the London Surrealist Group for not giving her unconditional support to E.L.T. Mesens in 1940.

Her work is marked by parodies of male-dominated surrealist obsessions with sexuality and eroticism. In the 1940s her work demonstrated a variety of experiments with surrealist techniques such as decalcomania, fumage and frottage and with automatism, which she discusses in her essay ‘The Mantic Stain’ (Enquiry [1949]). Significantly, Colquhoun was anti-oedipal and interested in different concepts of hybridity, and her use of the occult is often political as well as esoteric. She was also an author, playwright and poet. She lived most of her later life in Cornwall.

Nusch Éluard

(b. 1906 Mühlhausen, Germany — d. 1946 Paris)
Nusch Éluard was born Maria Benz. She worked in the 1930s as a model for sentimental postcards and as a walk-on at the Grand Guignol in Paris when she met the surrealist poet, Paul Éluard, whom she married in 1934. She was associated with the surrealists during the 1930s and collaborated in a number of group activities such as the game of exquisite corpse. She produced a series of photomontages between 1934 and 1936.

She was the subject of Paul Éluard’s Facile collection of poems which were illustrated by Man Ray’s nude photographs of her, and of a number of Picasso’s cubist portraits and sketches. She was also a model for Lee Miller and Dora Maar. During World War II she and her husband were active members of the French Resistance. She died unexpectedly in 1946 from a stroke. Her collages were published in 1978 by Editions Nadada, New York.

Josette Exandier

(b. 1944 Orléanais, France — d. 2008 Paris)
Josette Exandier was born in May 1944 and spent her childhood in a small village where her parents were school teachers. Having graduated from the École Supérieure des Arts Appliqués in Paris, and from the sculpture department of the Beaux-Arts, she became an art teacher. She taught throughout her life in different schools within the Paris region.

In the 1970s she became acquainted, through her partner Roger Renaud, with surrealist circles. During this period she began composing her first collages, using different kinds of material that she liked to gather without any pre-planned purpose, soon developing the habit of enshrining these collages in boxes. She gave a few exhibitions, mostly amongst friends, and took part in a number of others, inspired by surrealism or organised in its name. Overall she did not really aim at publicising her works, being content to show them only within a close circle of relatives.

Josette Exandier worked in a very solitary way. She showed a predilection for materials that had been rejected, objects that everyday life had pushed aside into the common graves of uselessness, worthlessness or oblivion: animal remains (bones, skulls, teeth, empty shells, feathers), fragments of dead plants, pebbles that nobody notices, broken tools, disused implements, dismembered toys, bits of scrap and many other things. The humbleness, the abandoned condition and the apparent degradation of these materials, for Josette Exandier, evoked signs of death and demise. She died on 29 May 2008.

Léonor Fini

(b. 1908 Buenos Aires — d. 1996 Paris)
Léonor Fini was the daughter of an Italian mother and an Argentinean father whom she never knew. She was raised in Trieste from the age of two, and was strongly interested in Renaissance and Mannerist paintings, as well as the Pre-Raphaelites, Aubrey Beardsley, Gustav Klimt and the German and Flemish Romantics. As an artist, she remained largely self-taught. She first exhibited at the age of seventeen in a group exhibition in Trieste, and was invited in 1927 to Milan to execute her first portrait commission. While there she made the acquaintance of the painters Achille Funi, Carlo Carrá and Arturo Tosi.

She moved to Paris in 1931 where she made friends with a number of surrealists such as Georges Bataille, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paul Éluard, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí and Victor Brauner. Despite not being a member of the group, she took part in a number of surrealist exhibitions. The focus of her artworks shifted from early portrait paintings of personalities such as Jean Genet, Anna Magnani and Jacques Audiberti to surrealist scenarios. Theatricality always played a significant part in her paintings and was complemented by her set and costume designs for opera, ballet, theatre and films. She also worked for Elsa Schiaparelli, designing the bottle for the perfume Shocking. She held her first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1939.

During the war years she lived in Monte Carlo and Rome, moving back to Paris in 1946. She illustrated many works by authors and poets such as Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire and Shakespeare as well as texts by her contemporaries, such as Pauline Réage’s erotic novel, L’Histoire d’O [The Story of O]. In the 1970s Fini wrote three novels: Rogomelec, Moumour, Contes pour enfants velu and L’Oneiropompe. A number of international retrospective exhibitions in Belgium (1965), Japan (1972) and France (1981) were dedicated to her.

Jane Graverol

(b. 1905 Ixelles, Belgium — d. 1984 Fontainebleau, France)
The daughter of the painter and symbolist illustrator Alexandre Graverol, Jane Graverol attended courses by the symbolist/monumental painters Constant Montald and Jean Delville at the Académie de Brussels. She held her first solo exhibition in 1927. She met Magritte in 1949 and was invited by him to exhibit the following year at the gallery Lou Cosyn in Brussels. She subsequently became an integral part of the group whose aim was to distance itself from Breton’s increasing tendency to mysticism. This is perhaps most explicitly depicted in Graverol’s sober group portrait of the surrealists entitled Goutte d’eau [Drop of Water] (1964).

During the organisation of a Magritte exhibition in 1953 she made the acquaintance of Marcel Mariën, who became her partner of ten years and who, like Magritte and Paul Nougé, became a major influence on her art. She experimented and worked in a variety of media ranging from oils and pastels to gouache and collage. She was a co- founder of two significant surrealist publications; in 1952, together with André Blavier, she founded the review ,Temps mêlés, and in 1954 she founded, along with Mariën and Nougé, the avant-garde review Les Lèvres nues (which emerged out of an important conference on the surrealist icon Majakovskij, organised by Graverol and Mariën).
She subsequently also became director of the avant-garde publishing house Les Lèvres nues.

In the 1960s, she made the acquaintance of André Breton, and later Marcel Duchamp in New York. Even though she subsequently moved to France, she stayed in close contact with the Belgian surrealist artists and exhibited in Belgium every year.

Valentine Hugo

(b. 1887 Boulogne-sur-Mer, France — d. 1968 Paris)
Valentine Hugo was born Valentine Gross. She studied painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1907 and had a rich professional and social life. She collaborated with her husband Jean Hugo, whom she married in 1919 and who was the great-grandson of Victor Hugo, on designs for ballets including Cocteau’s Mariés de la Tour Eiffel (1921).

In 1928 she became acquainted with the surrealists, and was an active participant in the surrealist group between 1930 and 1936, taking part in their collective games such as exquisite corpse. She was particularly close to René Crevel and Paul Éluard. She first exhibited with the surrealists at the Salon des Surindépendants in 1933. She was a leading illustrator for texts by René Char and Paul Éluard and she illustrated Achim von Arnim’s Strange Tales (prefaced by Breton) in 1933. Her œuvre contains a wide range of portrait drawings and paintings of surrealists and other historical personalities, such as Arthur Rimbaud.

After the war she returned to her focus on stage design for choreography, but also continued painting. She exhibited widely and a retrospective exhibition of her work was held in 1977 at the Centre Culturel Thibaud de Champagne, Troyes.

Frida Kahlo

(b. 1907 Coyoacán, Mexico — d. 1954 Coyoacán, Mexico)
Kahlo’s parents were of German, Indian and Spanish descent. Datings of her birth in 1910 emerge out of Kahlo’s claims that she was born at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. In fact she was born in 1907. Kahlo contracted polio at the age of six. In 1925 she was seriously injured in a bus accident, where her spinal column was broken and an iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus. The accident, together with other traumatic events such as miscarriages and subsequent operations, are a recurring image in her oeuvre, which also offers complex and political meditations (her affiliation was communist) on identity and nationhood.

The accident left her in pain and disabled throughout her life and led to many subsequent operations. But while convalescing, she taught herself to paint. She married the Mexican artist Diego Rivera in 1929. André Breton discovered her work in 1938 and wrote the introduction to her first exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1939, describing her as ‘surrealist’, but Kahlo actually never saw herself in such terms. Breton, together with Marcel Duchamp, also arranged her first exhibition in Paris at the Pierre Colle Gallery. Kahlo’s first major exhibition in her home country was belatedly held in 1953, a year before her death, at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Mexico City.

Kahlo died in 1954 after a variety of illnesses, including the gangrene that necessitated the amputation of her right leg a year earlier.

Greta Knutson

(b. 1899 Stockholm — d. 1983 Paris)
Greta Knutson studied at the School of Fine Arts in Stockholm and moved to Paris in the early 1920s. There she became a student of the artist André Lhote. In 1924 she met the artist Tristan Tzara, whom she married a year later (they divorced in 1939). Like Tzara, Knutson adopted surrealism in the 1930s, the decade in which she was actively engaged in surrealist games. She eventually broke with surrealism to pursue her interest in phenomenology and specifically in the philosophers Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. Her paintings were in the post-cubist abstract tradition and she also became known as an art critic. Knutson was a prolific writer, producing an œuvre of novellas, prose and poetry and played a key-role in translating Swedish literary works into French. Her own poetry was never collected into a single volume during her lifetime.

Jacqueline Lamba

(b. 1910 Paris — d. 1993 La Rochecorbon, France)
Jacqueline Lamba studied decorative arts in Paris. She became André Breton’s second wife in 1934 and many of his poems of this period focus on her. She was mainly a painter, but also produced photographs (her plates were published in the first issue of the journal Du Cinéma in 1928). She also produced objects and collages, and was represented in a number of surrealist publications such as Trajectoire du rêve [Trajectory of the Dream], VVV, and other publications. She separated from Breton in 1943 and married the American sculptor David Hare. She held her first solo exhibition at the Norlyst Gallery in New York in 1944 and also exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1946. After the International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris in 1947, her art distanced itself from surrealism.

Dora Maar

(b. 1907 Tours, France — d. 1997, Paris)
Dora Maar was born Henriette Theodora Markovitch into a Jewish family; her mother was French and her father Croatian, and Maar grew up in Argentina. She studied painting in Paris and visited the École des Arts Décoratifs, Académy de Passy and Académie Julien, as well as studying with André Lhote in 1925. During this period she modelled for a number of photographers, including Man Ray. She had a photography studio in Neuilly from 1931 to 1934, working on reportages and publicity material, and gave up painting in the mid-1930s, in the period when her association with the surrealists was at its closest.

Maar was a friend of Georges Bataille and joined the short-lived anti-fascist revolutionary movement Contre-Attaque, as well as contributing through her disconcerting photographs to surrealist activities. Paul Éluard introduced her to Picasso: she became his muse and model, but also produced important documentary evidence on him, for example by photographing the stages in the production of Guernica. She had her first photography exhibition at the Galerie de Beaune in Paris in 1937 and her first solo exhibition of painting at the galleries of Jean Bucher (1943) and Pierre Loeb (1945). After the split with Picasso around 1944 she withdrew from public life, but began exhibiting her paintings again during the 1950s, renouncing her earlier associations with the surrealist movement.

Emila Medková

(b. 1928 Ústí nad Orlicí, Czechoslovakia — d. 1985 Prague)
Emila Medková was born Emila Tláskalová. Her mother was a seamstress and her father was a printer, and, during World War II, a photographer. From 1942 onwards, she trained in photography under Josef Ehm at the School of Graphic Arts in Prague and took part during this period in the artist group Jantar. In the late 1940s Medková produced her Shadowplay cycle of photographs which explore disturbing resemblances between objects and bodies.

Medková met the painter Mikuláš Medek at the School of Graphic Arts in 1942. Their artistic productions are significantly informed by each other, and consisted of numerous and fruitful collaborations until Medek’s death in 1974. In 1951 the pair married. The same year they also joined the revived activities of the Czech Surrealist Group around the writer, artist and designer Karel Teige. From 1974 until her death she was an integral part of the surrealist group in Czechoslovakia.

Medková’s post-war photographs are documentary and yet surrealist; their reality reveals the absurdity of the political status quo. Her photography ranges from early arrangements of ‘phantom-objects’ and scenes to her later works which explore the uncanny in the everyday, often seeking out anthropomorphic features. Her photography often draws on and is influenced by literary and painterly traditions, including figures such as the artists Toyen, Enrico Baj and Arcimboldo and the fictional hero of Kafka’s Metamorphosis Gregor Samsa.

Lee Miller

(b. 1907 Poughkeepsie, New York — d. 1977 Chiddingly, England)
Lee Miller’s mother was a Canadian of Scottish and Irish descent and her father was of German descent. Her father often used her as a model for his amateur photography. Her discovery by the founder of Vogue magazine, Condé Nast, at the age of nineteen, launched her career as a model. For the following two years she was one of the most sought-after models in New York. She was photographed by Edward Steichen and others: her advert for Kotex, a female sanitary product, caused a scandal in 1928. She studied at the Art Students League before moving to Paris in 1929 where she worked and was the partner of Man Ray until 1932. Together they discovered solarisation. Her close circle of friends included Picasso, Paul Éluard and Jean Cocteau. In 1932 she returned to New York where she opened her own photo studio in the same year. Her only solo exhibition was held the following year at the Julien Levy Gallery.

In 1934 she abandoned her studio, marrying Aziz Eloui Bey, a wealthy Egyptian businessman with whom she lived in Cairo. Becoming bored with her marriage, she moved back to Paris in 1937 where she rejoined the surrealist circle and met the surrealist painter Roland Penrose. They moved to England in 1939. Miller became Vogue’s war correspondent, documenting the Blitz. She was accredited into the US Army as a war correspondent for Condé Nast Publications from 1942, travelling, together with the photographer David E. Scherman, to France. She recorded the first use of napalm at the siege of Saint-Malo, the liberation of Paris, the battle for Alsace and the horrors of Nazi concentration camps, making her oeuvre one of the most important documentary accounts of World War II and of the collapse of the Third Reich.

She returned to England after the war and married Roland Penrose after discovering that she was pregnant. The traumatic experiences of the war, however, caused severe depression. Her photography, as well as being art, is also a key documentary resource of surrealism.

Meret Oppenheim

(b. 1913 Berlin — d. 1985 Basel, Switzerland)
Oppenheim was raised in Switzerland and South Germany. She travelled at the age of eighteen to Paris and enrolled there at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. The following year she was introduced by Alberto Giacometti and Hans Arp to the Parisian surrealists. She earned a living from making costume jewellery. A feminist eroticism is a major element in most of her artistic production, which includes drawings, paintings, and objects such as the famous Déjeuner en fourrure (1936). Her first solo exhibition was at the Galerie Schulthess in Basel in 1933. Her first exhibition with the surrealists was in the same year at the Salon des Surindépendants and she actively participated in surrealist meetings and exhibitions until 1937.

She returned to Basel in 1937 and entered a period of artistic crisis which would last eighteen years. After the war she continued to exhibit with the surrealists until 1966, albeit to a lesser extent. She contributed to surrealist exhibitions until 1960. Her first major retrospective was held at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1967. Since then, a number of other retrospectives have offered significant insights into her œuvre.

Grace Pailthorpe

(b. 1883 St Leonards-on-Sea, England — d. 1971 Hastings, England)
Pailthorpe studied medicine at Cambridge and became a surgeon in Australia during World War I. She travelled the world, returning to England in 1922. There she began studying psychological medicine and published Studies in the Psychology of Delinquency in 1932. This publication was followed by another study on What We Put in Prison and in Preventive and Rescue Homes. Both publications caused a scandal in the profession as they suggested that people could learn from delinquents, children and ‘madmen’. In 1928 she founded the first worldwide institute devoted to the scientific treatment of delinquency which was later named the Portman Clinic; its vice-presidents included Alfred Adler, Otto Rank, C. G. Jung, H. G. Wells and Sigmund Freud himself.

In the 1930s Pailthorpe contributed to a number of surrealist exhibitions and participated in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London, where her drawings attracted a lot of attention and were greatly admired by Breton. In 1935 she met the surrealist artist Reuben Mednikoff whom she married and with whom she researched into the psychology of automatism, which she saw as a truly liberating art form. She contributed to the London group’s events, published drawings in the surrealist review London Bulletin and published her article ‘The Scientific Aspect of Surrealism’ in 1939. The couple left the group in 1939 to continue with their research on their own. Most of her work has disappeared.

Mimi Parent

(b. 1924 Montreal, Canada — d. 2005 Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland)
Marie (Mimi) Parent was born the eighth of nine children of architect Lucien Parent. She studied art at the École des Beaux-Arts and at the studio of the non-conformist artist, Alfred Pellan, in Montreal from 1942 to 1947. Her first solo exhibition was in 1947 at the Dominion Gallery in Montreal. She met the artist Jean Benoît during her studies and married him in 1948, moving to Paris permanently. Although she was involved with surrealism earlier, she officially joined the surrealists in Paris in 1959 and was a key figure in the organisation of the EROS (Exposition inteRnatiOnale du Surréalisme) exhibition which was held in Paris from 15 December 1959 to 15 February 1960. For this exhibition she designed both the poster and the catalogue, which was presented as a green letter-box, and which is often erroneously attributed to Marcel Duchamp.

A large part of her oeuvre consists of eerie three-dimensional fairy-tale-like scenes arranged in boxes. She took part in all subsequent major surrealist exhibitions in Milan (1960), São Paolo (1967) and Czechoslovakia (1968) and other surrealist events.

In 1966 she had a solo exhibition at the Maya gallery in Brussels. She also illustrated texts by Guy Cabanel, Pierre Dhainaut and José Pierre.

Valentine Penrose

(b. 1903 Mont-de-Marsan, France — d. 1979 Chiddingly, England)
Valentine Penrose was born Valentine Boué. She grew up in a small town in France and her father was an army officer. She studied drawing at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1916 and got to know the poets and painters of Montparnasse. While on holiday in Cassis in 1924 she met the surrealist artist, Roland Penrose who had a studio there with Yanko Varda, and married him soon after. She modelled for Man Ray and appeared in Luis Buñuel’s L’Âge d’or in 1930. She had a close friendship with the Belgian explorer, anarchist and spiritualist Alexandra David-Néel.

Penrose was highly interested in Eastern philosophy, studied Sanskrit and lived for extended periods in India. In 1936 she joined the workers’ militia in Spain, and she fought in the French Resistance during World War II. She collaborated on a wide range of surrealist publications throughout her life, ranging from London Bulletin and VVV to Dyn and Free Unions. Paul Éluard prefaced her first book of poems, Herbe à la lune [Grass on the Moon], published in 1935.

Whilst Penrose is best known for her poetry, she started making collages in the 1940s and published the collage-novel Dons de féminins in 1951. She also published a study of the medieval vampiric countess Erzsebet Bathory entitled The Bloody Countess in 1962.

Edith Rimmington

(b. 1902 Leicester, England — d. 1986 Bexhill-on-Sea, England)
Edith Rimmington married the English surrealist artist, Robert Baxter in the 1920s and moved in 1937 from Manchester to London. In 1939 she was introduced by Gordon Onslow-Ford to the London Surrealist Group and E. L. T. Mesens. She became a key figure in the group, attending most weekly meetings in the Barcelona Restaurant in Soho and the Horseshoe Pub in Tottenham Court Road, and struck up a close friendship with Emmy Bridgwater (whose main affiliation was with the Birmingham group). She showed her works in major surrealist exhibitions, most notably at the International Surrealist Exhibition at the Galerie Maeght in 1947. She practiced automatic writing and drawing with Emmy Bridgwater and occasionally also with Ithell Colquhoun.

Although she painted little during World War II, her production of automatic texts increased, producing pieces such as Timetable and Leucotomy.

Her interest focused on photography from the 1950s onwards. She contributed a large number of drawings and writings to surrealist publications such as the London Bulletin, Arson, Fulcrum, Message from Nowhere and Free Unions.

Kay Sage

(b. 1898 Albany, New York — d. 1963 Woodbury, Connecticut)
Katherine Linn Sage came from a wealthy family; her father was a New York senator. After her parents separated she moved abroad with her mother, a morphine addict. She studied art in America and in Milan, Italy and in 1925 married Prince Ranieri di San Faustino in Rome. She lived in Rome as well as in Rapallo for the next ten years with her husband whom she then divorced, devoting her time to painting.

She had her first solo exhibition at the Galeria del Milione in Milan in 1936. In 1937, she moved to Paris where she exhibited one painting at the Salon des Surindépendants where she was discovered by the surrealists. The meeting with the surrealists transformed her abstractionist painting style significantly, without, however, her leaving it behind. During her stay in Paris, she met the surrealist artist Yves Tanguy whom she married. They returned to America after the outbreak of World War II and settled in Woodbury, Connecticut. During the war period, their home was often frequented by exiled surrealists from New York.

Sage exhibited regularly, had a number of solo exhibitions, and also contributed to the international surrealist exhibitions in New York in 1942 and in Paris in 1947. She wrote poetry in Italian, English and French, and prepared and prefaced her husband’s catalogue raisonné Yves Tanguy: A Summary of His Work (1963). Failing eyesight, illness and her husband’s death in 1955, led Sage to shoot herself in 1963. Mordicus, her last volume of poems was published posthumously in 1963 and included drawings by Jean Dubuffet.

Penny Slinger

(b. 1947 Middlesex, London)
Penny Slinger studied at the Chelsea College of Art from 1966 to 1969. During her research on Max Ernst she met Roland Penrose who, together with Lee Miller, encouraged her work during the 1960s and 1970s. She exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts the year she left college, and went on to exhibit in a number of exhibitions in London, Europe and New York. Slinger’s œuvre spans a wide array of media — her early work, including sculpture, objects and collages, is most strongly connected to surrealism. In 1980 she moved to the West Indies where she lived until 1994. Her work of this period focused on Trinidad, Tortola and Anguilla.

She co-authored, illustrated and wrote a number of books such as 50% The Visible Woman (1971) and An Exorcism — A Photoromance (1977) which featured an introduction by Roland Penrose. She moved to America in the 1990s where she continues to work as an artist.

Eva Švankmajerová (born Eva Dvořáková)

(b. 1940 Kostelec nad Černými lesy – d. 2005 Prague)
Eva Švankmajerová’s art ranges from painting and ceramics to poetry and prose (which regularly appeared in the surrealist review Analogon). However, she was also strongly involved in film – as designer and animator she collaborated with her husband, the director Jan Švankmajer. Her interest in different artistic media extended to the production of Otesánek in the early 1970s, an animated short film which she previously also produced as a children’s book. Otesánek is based on a folk tale, and elements of folk art are also strongly present in her other artistic production.

In 1958, she moved to Prague where she studied at the Prague School of Interior Design and later the Academy of Performing Arts in the theatre department. From 1970 she took part in the surrealist group in Prague. Her early works often focused on artforms which were out-of-fashion, such as rebuses; later, feminist topics are strongly present in her œuvre.

Dorothea Tanning

(b. 1912 Galesburg, Illinois)
Dorothea Tanning was born to Swedish parents. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago in 1932. She moved to New York where a visit to the exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, held in 1936 at the Museum of Modern Art, significantly changed her painterly style. In 1939 she travelled to Europe to meet the surrealist artists, but was deeply disappointed, as the surrealist circle was no longer present due to the outbreak of World War II.

Returning to New York, she exhibited in 1942 in Peggy Guggenheim’s landmark exhibition of thirty-one women painters. It was only then that she met surrealist artists, including Max Ernst (at the time, Guggenheim’s husband) with whom she moved to Sedona, Arizona and whom she married in 1946. The couple moved to Paris in 1955 where they stayed until Ernst’s death in 1976, after which Tanning returned to America. She contributed as both writer and painter to the surrealist publication VVV and also took part in the 1947 International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris. She had numerous one-woman exhibitions from 1944, as well as a number of retrospective exhibitions in Knokke-le-Zoute, Paris and, most recently in 2000, in Philadelphia.

Tanning is also the author of two books, The Abyss, written in 1947 and self-published in 1977, and an autobiography entitled Birthday, published in 1986. She lives in New York.


(b. 1902 Prague — d. 1980 Paris)
Toyen is a gender-neutral pseudonym for Maria Čerminová. She attended the School of Applied Arts in Prague and in 1922 met the Czech poet Jindrich Štyrský in Yugoslavia. Her artistic career began with her participation in the short-lived, radical Czech avant-garde group Devětsil which drew together constructivists, Dadaists and others. From 1925-1929, she lived with Štyrský in Paris where they defined ‘poetic artificialism’ – an alternative to both abstraction and surrealism. She had her first exhibition there, together with Štyrský, in 1927. Although she already knew some of the surrealists, it was only later that she actively took part in surrealist group activities.

In 1928 Toyen and Štyrský moved back to Prague where she produced as series of erotic publications and was a founding member of the Czech surrealist group.

During the occupation Toyen went underground; her political opposition to Stalinism and fascism is strongly present in her cycles of drawings (such as Cache-toi guerre! [1944]) during this period. In 1947 she fled with Jindrich Heisler to Paris, where she became a key figure in the surrealist movement.

Remedios Varo

(b. 1908 Anglès, Spain — d. 1963 Mexico City)
Remedios Varo spent her childhood travelling with her father in Spain and North Africa. Her father’s occupation as a hydraulic engineer stimulated her lifelong interest in mathematics, mechanics and locomotives. She attended convent schools and studied at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid. She moved to Barcelona in 1935, exhibiting there with the ‘logicophobist’ group which was influenced by surrealism, and became close friends with the painter Esteban Francès.

In 1936 she met the French surrealist poet Benjamin Péret, at the time a Trotskyist volunteer in the anarchist militia during the Spanish revolution. Together they moved to Paris in 1937 where she became active in the Paris Surrealist Group until 1942. Varo and Péret were forced to emigrate in 1942 to Mexico due to the Nazi occupation where they were key figures in the Mexican émigré surrealist community which also included Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Wolf- gang Paalen and others. Péret returned to Paris in 1947; Varo stayed in Mexico and married Walter Gruen. She began to focus strongly on painting due to her friendship with Carrington. Varo also wrote a manuscript entitled De Homo Rodans which was published posthumously in 1970.

Francesca Woodman

(b. 1958 Denver, Colorado — d. 1981 New York)
Francesca Woodman was the daughter of the ceramicist Betty Woodman and the painter George Woodman. She attended a public school in Boulder, Colorado between 1964 and 1971 and completed her Second Grade in Florence (Italy) in 1965–66. She made her first haunting self-portrait at the age of thirteen in 1971. From 1972 to 1974 she visited the private Abbot Academy and the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and then completed high school in Boulder, Colorado in 1974–75.

At the beginning of 1975 she attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, Rhode Island. She not only focussed on photography there, but also produced videos related to her photo- graphs. She studied in Rome between 1977 and 1978 in the course of a RISD honours programme — a period in which she produced the series “On Being an Angel” (1977–78). Woodman graduated from RISD in 1978 and moved to New York in 1979. Whilst trying unsuccessfully to break into fashion photography, she became an artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough.

Even though she used different cameras and film formats during her career, she took most of her photographs with a Yashica camera given to her by her father. Woodman’s photography is anchored in surrealism, being heavily influenced by Man Ray’s photographs and Breton’s writings. She created a number of artists’ books, however the only one published during her lifetime was Some Disordered Interior Geometries which was published shortly before her death. In late 1980 Woodman suffered depression, and in 1981 she committed suicide by jumping out of her New York apartment window.

Image credit
Lee Miller, Self Portrait with sphinxes, Vogue Studio London, 1940
© Lee Miller Archives 2009