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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Surrealism is a survey of the twentieth century's longest lasting and, arguably, most influential art movement. Championed and held together by Andre Breton for over forty years, Surrealism was France's major avant-garde artistic tendency from 1924 onwards, rapidly spreading around the globe to become an international phenomenon. During World War II Surrealism's exiled artists and writers had a major impact on American art and were a primary influence for the Abstract Expressionist generation. The official surrealist movement continued to the end of Breton's life in 1966, and its legacy is still pervasive today, in contemporary art as well as in numerous quotations from surrealist imagery in cinema, advertising and the media.

The Survey essay by Mary Ann Caws - a distinguished scholar, translator and associate of the Surrealists - describes in clear, perceptive and lively prose the essential characteristics that define Surrealism, as well as tracing a concise path through the chronology of this prolific and wide-ranging movement. The text also demonstrates how surrealist art and writing are interdependent. The Works section follows the movement from its beginnings in the 1920s up to the 1940s and 1950s. Its six sections trace the themes which predominated at different stages: Chance and Freedom - the earliest work, characterized by complete automatic spontaneity; Poetics of Vision - the strategies of surrealist image-making, reflecting the mind's inner visions; Elusive Objects - the fascination with objects of all kinds from which emerged artworks such as Meret Oppenheim's celebrated fur-lined cup and saucer; Desire - the investigation of desire, eroticism and 'mad love' which is central and unique to the movement; Delirium - Surrealism's high-risk engagement with extreme mental states and disturbing, uncanny visions; and, the Infinite Terrains of later Surrealism, ranging from Joseph Cornell's magical assemblages in box frames, like 'theatres of the mind', to the infinite fields and dynamic energy of late surrealist painting at the dawn of Abstract Expressionism.

Book News Annotation:

In this lavishly illustrated compendium, Caw (comparative literature, Graduate Center, City University of New York) covers the whole period of Surrealist art: painting, poetry, sculpture, novels, installation and film. She begins with a history of the movement along with critical responses to it. The body of the book consists of the works of the artists, presented by theme: chance and freedom, poetics of vision, elusive objects, desire, delirium and infinite terrains. Caw provides a commentary on each work shown. The artists include stalwarts of Surrealism, such as André Breton, Salvador Dali, Luis Buñuel, René Magritte and Man Ray as well as lesser known Surrealists and artists such as Picasso, Duchamp and Giacometti who dallied with Surrealism at some point in their careers. Caw also explores the relationship between Surrealism and Dada in this wonderful overview of a remarkable artistic movement. Oversize 10 x 11.5 " Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

About the Author

Mary Ann Caws is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature, English and French, at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her many publications include writings on surrealist and modernist art and literature and translations of writers and poets such as Andre Breton, Rene Char, Stephane Mallarme and Tristan Tzara. Her books include Robert Motherwell: What Art Holds (Columbia University Press, 1995); The Surrealist Look: An Erotics of Encounter (MIT Press, 1997) and Picasso's Weeping Woman: The Life and Art of Dora Maar (Little, Brown/Thames and Hudson, 2000). Books she has edited include Joseph Cornell's Theatre of the Mind: Selected Diaries, Letters and Files (Thames and Hudson, 2000); Manifesto: A Century of Isms (University of Nebraska Press, 2000); and Surrealist Love Poems (Tate/University of Chicago Press, 2002).

Product Details

Caws, Mary Ann (edt)
Phaidon Press
Caws, Mary Ann
Caws, Mary Ann
History - Contemporary (1945- )
Art-History and Criticism
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 7 up to 17
11.36x9.84x.64 in. 2.35 lbs.
Age Level:
from 12 up to 99

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Arts and Entertainment » Art » Early 20th Century
Arts and Entertainment » Art » General
Arts and Entertainment » Art » History and Criticism

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