Biographical / Historical
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: André Breton drafts of publications and letters
Date (inclusive): 1948-1965
0.3 Linear Feet
69 sheets (70 pages)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles 90049-1688
Business Number: (310) 440-7390
Fax Number: (310) 440-7780
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.
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Language: Collection material is in
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
Tête by Pablo Picasso. He later actively collected objects from Africa
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
(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
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
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.
"André Breton" at https://www.andrebreton.fr.
Béhar, Henri. "André Breton" in Oxford Art Online (www.oxfordartonline.com).
Œuvres complètes. IV. Écrits sur l'art et autres
. 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
. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1998.
Open for use by qualified researchers.
André Breton drafts of publications and letters, 1948-1965, The Getty Research Institute,
Los Angeles, Accession no. 2022.M.32.
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
; and Don C. Talayesva, author of
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
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
Subjects - Names
Breton, André, 1896-1966 --
Subjects - Topics
Genres and Forms of Material