Although never an official member of the Surrealists, despite Breton’s efforts to coopt him, Picasso nevertheless participated in many of their exhibitions and activities in Paris. His work between 1926 and 1939 has been called surrealist because of its fanciful imagery and sexually charged motifs, but despite many shared features, Picasso’s desire to interpret the real world was at odds with Surrealism’s imaginary inner-generated visions.
Here, he was inspired by bathers on a beach that he had previously sketched, painted, and sculpted in Cannes (1927) and Dinard (1928). In these earlier works, as in this 1929 painting, Picasso ultimately transforms the human figure into a strange mutated being, part geometric masonry, part inflated balloon. The features of the female physique metamorphose into one another—the rounded buttocks also suggesting breasts, the pointed breasts suggesting sharp teeth, and the horizontal slit, a reference to both navel and genitals. The overall effect is conflicted, showing both monumentality and vulnerability, sensuality and cold detachment, as if two different sensibilities inhabit this figure. Such imagery may have been a reflection of the artist’s own anguished love life at the time. Married to Olga Khokhlova since 1918, he had been having an affair with a beautiful young teenager, Marie-Thérèse Walter, since the summer of 1927, which would last through the 1930s.
Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
My old Sandy, this burly man with the
soul of a nightingale who blows on mobiles
this nightingale who makes his nest
in his mobiles
these mobiles scraping the bark
of the orange-coloured
where my great friend Sandy lives
Poem written by Miró for their 1961 exhibition “Miró-Calder” at Perls Gallery in New York
Alexander Calder and Joan Miró first met in 1928 when the American artist visited Miró’s studio in Paris. Since then they maintained a deep and mutually inspiring friendship lasting almost 50 years during which they exchanged ideas, letters, paintings and gifts and collaborated on numerous exhibitions. There is a remarkable similarity in their creative sensibility. They were both heavily influenced by the surrealist movement, taking their inspiration from the unconscious, and applied heavy symbolism in their abstractions. They also shared a thematic interest in the circus and astrology.
Four portraits by Man Ray:
Need some help getting to grips with Surrealism? The Doctor will see you now.
Peter Capaldi, a former art student, and the latest actor to play Doctor Who, settles down on Freud’s couch to deliver his wry take on the Surrealist movement.
‘Unlock Art’ is Tate’s new short film series, offering a witty inside track on the world of art. Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi joins forces with rock duo The Kills, comedian Frank Skinner, Girls star Jemima Kirke and other celebrity art fans to introduce some of the big ideas that have shaped art history. A new film is released each month, with topics ranging from the history of the nude and the nature of the art market, to Pop art.
Thanks to Tate, Unlock Series