André Breton (1896-1966)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE LANDSCAPE OF A MIND: A PRIVATE COLLECTOR'S SURREAL VISION
André Breton (1896-1966)

Le torrent automobile (Poème-assemblage)

Details
André Breton (1896-1966)
Le torrent automobile (Poème-assemblage)
signed and dated 'André Breton 26-12-34.' (lower right); inscribed 'château de Fougères Pour Valentine.' (on a card attached to the reverse of the mount)
handwritten poem in ink on paper with twine-bound penknife mounted on card
4 x 5 1/8 in. (10.1 x 12.8 cm.)
Executed on 26 December 1934
Provenance
Valentine Hugo, Paris, a gift from the artist, in 1934.
Jean Petithory, Paris, by whom acquired from the above.
Private collection, Paris, by whom acquired from the above.
Timothy Baum, New York, by whom acquired from the above.
Acquired from the above, on 4 November 2013.
Literature
L. Rochon, 'Humour Noir et Surréalisme, in Europe, vol. 46, nos. 475-476, Paris, November - December 1968, p. 66 (illustrated).
J.H. Matthews, The Imagery of Surrealism, Syracuse, 1977, p. 182 (illustrated).
O. Paz, Je vois, j'imagine, Poèmes-objets, Paris, 1991, p. 170 (illustrated fig. 5, p. 20).
P. Powrie, 'The Surrealist Poème-Objet', in S. Levy, ed., Surrealism: Surrealist Visuality, Keele, 1996, pp. 63-66 (illustrated fig. 5.2, p. 64).
S. Alexandrian, Les Peintres Surréalistes, Paris, 2009, p. 126 (illustrated).
J.C. Stout, Objects Observed: The Poetry of Things in Twentieth Century France and America, Toronto, 2018, pp. 50-51.
Exhibited
New York, La boetie, A Selection of Objects by Artists, 1915-1965, October 1981 - January 1982, no. 7, n.p. (illustrated n.p.).
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, The Dada & Surrealist Word-Image, June - August 1989, pp. 50, 53 & 126 (illustrated fig. 49, p. 52); this exhibition later travelled to Connecticut, Wadsworth Atheneum, October - December 1989; and Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, February - May 1990.
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, André Breton: La beauté convulsive, April - August 1991, p. 482 (illustrated p. 294); this exhibition later travelled to Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, André Breton y el surrealismo, October - December 1991, p. 254 (illustrated).
Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, Surreal Objects. Three-Dimensional Works from Dalí to Man Ray, February - May 2011, p. 219 (illustrated fig. 1; illustrated again p. 150; with incorrect dimensions).
New York, Blain Di Donna, Dada & Surrealist Objects, October - December 2013, pp. 52 & 138 (illustrated p. 53).
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Keith Gill
Keith Gill

Lot Essay


Le torrent automobile (Poème-assemblage) is one of the finest of a very small series of rare poèmes-objets or assemblages that the poet, writer and indomitable founder and leader of Surrealism, André Breton, created in the 1930s and 40s. These works, part assemblage, part-readymade, part poetry, saw the artist combine words and objects to create strange and unexpected juxtapositions, serving as a unique contribution to the concept of the Surrealist object which had come to prominence in the 1930s. As Breton stated: ‘The poème-objet is a composition which combines the resources of poetry and plastic art, and thus speculates on the capacity of these two elements to excite each other mutually’ (Breton, Surrealism and Painting, trans. S. Watson Taylor, London, 1972, p. 284). Indeed, it was the fascinating and often fantastical encounters and relationships between word and image that lay at the heart of Breton’s artistic outlook and his vision of Surrealism as a whole.
While sometimes Breton accompanied his poèmes-assemblages with a written interpretation, or used the words to illustrate the accompanying object, the present work remains inscrutable and brilliantly bizarre, serving as the epitome of Breton’s desire to attain the marvellous and absurd through chance discoveries and unexpected juxtapositions. The work consists of a three-line poem under which a pen-knife is affixed with string to the piece of card:
‘The speeding automobile made of candied sugar
Takes a sharp a long vegetal thrill
Spewing debris in the Corinthian way.’
Together the surreal imagery conjured in Breton’s lines combines with the potential meaning or symbolism of the knife to create a plethora of possible meanings. Added to this playful ambiguity is the inscription on the reverse, which dedicates the work to the Surrealist artist and for a short time, Breton’s lover, Valentine Hugo. The pair had enjoyed a short, tumultuous relationship which begun in 1931 and ended abruptly in 1932. They remained in the same Surrealist circles however, and this Poème-assemblage, which Breton gave to Hugo in 1934, serves perhaps as a poignant, conciliatory memento of their relationship.

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