Artist biography

French writer. He considered that it is not possible to write for a living, but only from interior necessity; in the same way, painting must always derive from an irrepressible need for self-expression. These criteria guided Breton both in his dealings with the Surrealist group (of which he was the uncontested leader) and in his articles on painting, collected in editions of Le Surréalisme et la peinture (first published in 1928).

The review Littérature (1919–24), which he edited with Soupault and Louis Aragon, welcomed the newest talent. It then became a convert to Dada, contributing to the success of Duchamp, Picabia, Max Ernst, Arp and Man Ray. In an attempt to overcome the purely negative phase of Dada, Breton tried to organise a vast congress in Paris in 1921. Breton abandoned Dada, intending to concentrate on the writing of poetry.

By this time Breton's interest in Surrealism had led him to investigate automatic writing and the importance accorded to the subconscious by Freud. He joined the French Communist Party in 1927.

Breton's aesthetic philosophy rested on several intangible convictions. Aesthetic feeling is manifested by ‘a puff of wind on the temples'. It is linked to eroticism. He proclaimed that ‘convulsive beauty' was suspended in this movement, the role of the spectator being to disguise and to reveal it in turn.

Breton left Europe in 1941. He returned to Paris in 1946 and occupied himself for a long period on the completion of L'Art magique.

M. Bonnet: André Breton: Naissance de l'aventure surréaliste (Paris, 1975)
J. Pierre: André Breton et la peinture (Lausanne, 1987)
André Breton: La Beauté convulsive (exh. cat., ed. A. Angliviel de la Beaumelle, I. Monod-Fontaine and C. Schweisguth; Paris, Pompidou, 1991)
H. Béhar: André Breton, le grand indésirable (Paris, 1990)


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