Love and surrealism: Rene Magritte and Andre Breton in 1929

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On learning of the death of André Breton, Marcel Duchamp was moved to abandon his customary stance of indifference and observe that the poet had been ‘the lover of love in a world that believes in prostitution’.1 I begin with Duchamp's epitaph as it suggests a close link between love and Surrealism, a link that has received relatively little attention as the study of Surrealism has been caught up within rhetorics of desire.2 Yet I wish to argue that love came to play a central role in Surrealism at the moment when Breton drafted the Second manifeste du surréalisme. Within this manifesto, first published in the final issue of La Revolution Surréaliste in December 1929, Breton sought to redefine the political position of the movement. And this position was given a concrete representation in a photomontage of surrealists by René Magritte, which was also included in the final issue of the review (figure 1). Whilst this montage has frequently been reproduced, I wish to argue that its force derives in large part from its first site of publication, accompanying an Enquête on love. This Enquête provides a specific and compelling context for interpreting the word-image relations presented within Magritte's montage, relations which in turn have a direct bearing on the political engagement of Surrealism. That these issues came to be intertwined within Surrealism is indicated by the coincidence of two events at the beginning of 1929: the publication of the series Le Sens propre and the circulation of a letter concerning collective action. A very brief account of these events offers one point of departure for my argument.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-222
Number of pages9
JournalWord and Image
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003

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