Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Breton (André) drafts of publications and letters
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: André Breton drafts of publications and letters
    Date (inclusive): 1948-1965
    Number: 2022.M.32
    Creator/Collector: Breton, André, 1896-1966
    Physical Description: 0.3 Linear Feet 69 sheets (70 pages)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    Business Number: (310) 440-7390
    Fax Number: (310) 440-7780
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The archive consists of 37 drafts of publications and letters dating from 1948 after Breton had returned to France from his exile in the United States to 1965, several months before his death. The draft writings, primarily texts for exhibition catalogs and exhibition reviews, document his intense activity to promote artists in the last two decades of his life.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record   for this collection. Click here for the access policy  .
    Language: Collection material is in French

    Biographical / Historical

    French writer André Breton (1896-1966) was the main founder, theorist, and promoter of surrealism. Born in Tinchebray in Normandy, Breton first studied medicine and during World War I was stationed in psychiatric wards at several hospitals. From this period dates his study of psychiatry and his discovery of Freud's theories on the unconscious and dreams, which would later be fundamental to his development of surrealism. He corresponded with Guillaume Apollinaire, who later introduced him to many of his collaborators, became friends with Paul Éluard, and began collecting artworks, such as in 1913 an object from Easter Island, in 1918 a drawing by Amedeo Modigliani, in 1920 a painting by André Derain and in 1921 Tête by Pablo Picasso. He later actively collected objects from Africa and Oceania.
    In 1919, along with Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault, Breton created the journal Littérature which initially supported Dada and the activities of Tristan Tzara. From 1920 dates the publication Les Champs magnétiques (Magnetic Fields) written with Soupault and which included examples of the techniques of automatism, in which the writer suppresses conscious control. In 1921, Breton married Simone Kahn, a writer, artist, art patron, collector and the following year moved with Kahn at 44, rue Fontaine in Paris. In 1924, Breton published Le Manifeste du surréalisme, which marked the official launch of the surrealist movement and further exposed his doctrine on "pure psychic automatism." Breton was instrumental to the founding of the Bureau of Surrealist Research and a group gathered around him: Philippe Soupault, Louis Aragon, Paul Éluard, René Crevel, Michel Leiris, Benjamin Péret, Antonin Artaud, and Robert Desnos. Several painters were associated with the group and Breton expanded his doctrine on surrealism to painting in 1928 in Le Surréalisme et la peinture, which he published and revised several times.
    From 1927 to 1935, Breton was a member of the French Communist Party. He was a fervent critic of Stalinism, which eventually contributed to his leaving the political party, but he remained committed to Marxism. This was particularly evident when in 1938 he accepted a mission from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to give a series of conferences in Mexico where he met Diego Rivera and Leon Trotsky and wrote the manifesto Pour un art révolutionnaire indépendent (For an Independent Revolutionary Art) with Trotsky.
    After the breakout of World War II, Breton moved with Jacqueline Lamba, his second wife and a painter, and their daughter, Aube, to the south of France before fleeing in 1941 to the United States. There he was involved in numerous publications and exhibitions and traveled to Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona with Elisa Bindhoff Enet (Claro), his third wife, a pianist and artist from Chile. Their visit of Hopi and Zuni pueblos during this trip had a profound impact on them.
    In 1946, Breton returned with Elisa to Paris, where he continued to be involved in numerous exhibitions and political actions. In 1947, he organized with Marcel Duchamp, Benjamin Péret, Victor Brauner and Henry Miller the exhibition Le surréalisme en 1947 : Exposition internationale du surréalisme at the Galerie Maeght, which featured artists from different countries, such as the Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins, the Algerian painter Baya Mahieddine, the Scottish painter Scottie Wilson, the Haitian painter Hector Hypolite and the Canadian painter and sculptor Jean-Paul Riopelle. During the last two decades of his life, Breton wrote extensively on art and fostered until his death in 1966 a second group of surrealists through exhibitions and publications.
    Sources consulted:
    "André Breton" at https://www.andrebreton.fr.
    Béhar, Henri. "André Breton" in Oxford Art Online (www.oxfordartonline.com).
    Breton, André. Œuvres complètes. IV. Écrits sur l'art et autres textes . Édition de Marguerite Bonnet. Édition publiée sous la direction d'Étienne-Alain Hubert avec la collaboration de Philippe Bernier et Marie-Claire Dumas. Paris: Collection Bibliothèque de la Pléiade (no. 544), Gallimard, 2008.
    Chilvers, Ian. "André Breton" and "Surrealism" in Dictionary of 20th Century Art . Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1998.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    André Breton drafts of publications and letters, 1948-1965, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2022.M.32.

    Processing Information

    Karen Meyer-Roux processed the archive and wrote this finding aid in August 2022.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The archive consists of 37 drafts of publications and letters dating from 1948 after Breton had returned to France from his exile in the United States to 1965, several months before his death. The draft writings, primarily texts for exhibition catalogs and exhibition reviews, document his intense activity to promote painters and to a lesser degree sculptors and printmakers in the last two decades of his life. Several manuscripts refer to exhibitions that were held at the art gallery À l'étoile scellée, founded in 1952 (11, rue du Près-aux-Clercs, Paris), with which Breton was closely associated.
    The texts are focused on the artists Jean-Marie Albagnac (1931-); Enrico Baj (1924-2003); Augustín Cárdenas (1927-2001); Jorge Camacho (1934-2011); Fabio de Sanctis (1931-); René Duvillier (1919-2002); Max Ernst (1891-1976); Simon Hantaï (1922-); Jim Dine (1935-); Hector Hyppolite (1894-1948); Gerome Kamrowski (1914-2004); Konrad Klapheck (1935-); Yves Laloy (1920-1999); Jacques Le Maréchal (1928-2016); Yahne Le Toumelin (1923- ); Marcelle Loubchansky (1917-1988); René Magritte (1898-1967); Johannes Hendrikus Moesman (1909-1988); Judit Reigl (1923-2020); Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2001); Endre Roszda (1913-1999); Henri and No Seigle; Ugo Sterpini (1927-2000); Max Walter Svanberg (1912-1994); Remedios Varo (1908-1963); Miguel Garcia Vivancos (1895-1972); and Aloys Zötl (1803-1887).
    One manuscript is a preliminary draft of "L'Art des fous, la clé des champs," which is considered one of Breton's fundamental texts on art and was incorporated into Le surréalisme et la peinture in 1965, along with many of the texts written on artists. The manuscripts also attest to Breton's interest in the work of the writers, Michel Butor, author of La peinture se repeuple; Karel Kupka, author of Dawn of Art: Painting and Sculpture of Australian Aborigines ; and Don C. Talayesva, author of Sun Chief: The Autobiography of a Hopi Indian . There is a draft of a letter by Breton to Max Walter Svanberg and two letters dating from several months before his death in which Breton further explained which artists he considered to be the most important since World War II.
    These manuscripts were featured in the 2003 auction sale André Breton, 42, rue Fontaine, Drouot-Richelieu, Paris, auctioneers Calmels-Cohen. The lot numbers from the sale are listed in each entry.


    The manuscripts are arranged by lot number from the 2003 Calmels-Cohen auction sale. Each manuscript is filed with its Calmels-Cohen folder that gives the lot number from the 2003 sale.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Breton, André, 1896-1966 -- Archives

    Subjects - Topics

    Authors--History--20th century--Archives.

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Drafts (documents)


    Breton, André, 1896-1966