Surrealism, the early 20th century international avant-garde movement concerned with exploring the subconscious through experimental art and literature, is well represented in the Museum of Modern Art Library collection.

Surrealist material constitutes two founding collections of the Library. The first was acquired from Paul Éluard (1895-1952), French poet and central figure of the Surrealist group, and Camille Dausse, a Parisian doctor closely associated with group members. The Eluard-Dausse Collection of almost 700 books, magazines, pamphlets, and ephemera represents rare and essential documentation of the movement’s early years.

Max Ernst. Bookplate for Paul Éluard. n.d.
Max Ernst. Bookplate for Paul Éluard. n.d.

A unique work that captures the spirit of the movement is a scrapbook assembled by Eluard. Featuring a book plate designed by Max Ernst, the material is arranged roughly chronologically between the covers of the journal Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution (1930-1933). In addition to his Association des Écrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires membership card, the scrapbook includes manifestos, formative exhibition catalogs, historic announcements, and several statements signed by artists including Tristan Tzara, Luis Bunel, Marcel Duchamp, Yves Tanguy, Rene Crevel, and Max Ernst, among others.

Association des Écrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires. Membership card for Paul Eluard. 1930
Association des Écrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires. Membership card for Paul Eluard. 1930

Building upon this foundation, the Library’s collection on Surrealism has grown over time. This guide lists primary source highlights in the form of artists’ publications (manifestos, statements, journals, literature) and secondary materials such as major historical exhibition catalogs and related material. Digital facsimiles are included where available.

To discover materials on Surrealism by category (such as exhibitions, catalogues raisonnes, or centers of activity), search Dadabase, the Library catalog, by subject. To focus on a specific person, search the name as a subject: Example: Andre Breton.

Artists’ publications

Manifestos

André Breton. Qu’est-ce que le surréalisme? 1934. Cover illustration by René Magritte
André Breton. Qu’est-ce que le surréalisme? 1934. Cover illustration by René Magritte

Statements

Journals

André Breton, editor. Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution 1, 1930
André Breton, editor. Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution 1, 1930

The Library holds these major journals, among many others devoted to Surrealism:

Literature

Literary forms–poetry, novels, plays, and automatic writing–were central to Surrealist practice. The Library holds first editions of major works such as Paul Eluard’s Répétitions (1922), Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi (1897) and related publications, Leonora Carrington’s La maison de la peur (1938), and René Crevel’s Mr. Knife, Miss Fork (1931), among over 300 additional literary works.

Additional highlights include Max Ernst’s novels-collages Les malheurs des immortels (1922), La femme 100 têtes (1929), Rêve d’une petite fille que voulut entrer au Carmel (1930), and Une semaine de bonté; ou, Les sept éléments capitaux (1934).

The Library also holds works by Robert Desnos, including a manuscript related to Man Ray’s film Etoile de la mer (1927), and Night of Loveless Nights (1929), composed of original automatic drawings.

Secondary materials

Major historial exhibitions

José Corti. Livres et publications surréalistes. 1931. Cover illustration by Max Ernst
José Corti. Livres et publications surréalistes. 1931. Cover illustration by Max Ernst



Jennifer Tobias, August 2019