André Breton (Primary Title)
André Breton (1896–1966) was the leader of the Surrealist group and a major figure in 20th-century literature. In 1924 he authored the first Manifesto of Surrealism, which launched the international Surrealist movement. For this formal portrait, which dates to the year before, Man Ray cropped an image of a wider view of Breton sitting with arms resting on a table. By focusing on Breton’s face, Man Ray was able to emphasize his unfashionably long and wavy light brown hair and “his imposing head,” which he carried “like a chip on the shoulder.” The final portrait reflects the American artist’s profound admiration and deep affection for the founder of Surrealism. Breton used Man Ray’s photographs to illustrate his subsequent writings, including the 1928 novel Nadja and the 1937 poetry collection L’Amour fou (Mad Love). These publications informed and defined Surrealism, affirming Breton’s belief in “convulsive beauty” and his quest to attain the magical reconciliation of opposites in which the freedom from societal constraints experienced in dreams is reconciled with our waking state.
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