slide Toyen

Toyen (1902-1980)Czech

Toyen, who rejected her name and chose to pursue her career as an artist under an assumed name, was the leading Czech surrealist and one of the many women who played important roles in the International Surrealist movement. A feminist before the name (and in Czech, her assumed name, does not have a gender), she rejected any suggestion that she play a woman ‘s role and endorsed the anarchist movement. She and the Czech poet, Jindrich Styrsky went to Paris in the early 1920 s and announced their own alternative to both Abstraction and Surrealism, Artificialism. By the mid – 1930 s, however, her work had become sufficiently Surrealist that, back in Prague, they became founding members of the Czech Surrealist group. In 1935, Andre Breton and the poet, Paul Eluard, came to Prague and began a lifelong friendship with Toyen, interrupted only by the Nazi invasion and conquest of Czechoslovakia. During the years of the occupation, Toyen ‘s art went underground: Surrealism was another of the Degenerate art movements banned by the Nazis, and Toyen, though she worked throughout the war years, showed nothing. After the war, she showed her work briefly in her homeland before fleeing to Paris to escape the Stalinist takeover of her country. Back in Paris she worked until the end of her life with Breton and the French poet Benjamin Peret as well as with Czech poets, Jindrich Heisler and Jindrich Styrsky. After her death, a retrospective of her work and of her collaborations with her Czech poet – colleagues was shown at the Centre Georges Pompidou, and in the intervening years, a number of important retrospectives have been held, the most important in the summer of 2000 in Prague

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