Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined teacup is a quintessential Surrealist object. To produce it, Oppenheim purchased a cup, saucer, and spoon from a Paris department store and covered these otherwise unremarkable household items with fur. In doing so, she transformed common, utilitarian things into something simultaneously attractive, disturbing, and sexually charged.
Beginning in the 1930s, many artists associated with Surrealism turned to object-making with vigor. They were captivated by the notion that certain objects possessed mystical, magical, or talismanic powers. Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories—which suggested objects could function as projections of unconscious sexual desires—served as an important touchstone. Painting, collage, photography, and film were also enlisted to defamiliarize the familiar and, in the words of René Magritte, to make “everyday objects shriek out loud.”