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Manuscript of the ‘preface-manifesto’ for the exhibition Dessins symbolistes (Symbolist Drawings), organised by Breton at the Bateau-Lavoir in March 1958.

The ‘preface-manifesto’ for the Dessins symbolistes [Symbolist Drawings] exhibition, organised by Breton at the Bateau-Lavoir in March 1958, makes an attack upon the recurring polemic against so-called ‘literary’ painting, because there is more at stake than simply brightening up a dining room. Breton prefers to draw a line between painting as ‘idle discourse’, which simply comments on the world, and painting as ‘revelation". Surrealism is thus seen as the legitimate guardian of an unjustly neglected heritage, that of Symbolism - a Symbolism in which Breton increasingly avowed an interest since the 1953 radio interviews, which provided him with an opportunity to look back on his youth. [Atelier André Breton website, 2005]

Signed autograph manuscript, Paris, 25 March 1958.

- 2 pages in-4° handwritten, titled, dated and signed in ink, with numerous erasures and corrections of André Breton's preface for the catalogue of the 1958 Dessins symbolistes [Symbolist Drawings] exhibition at the Bateau-Lavoir.

- 1 large in-4° page on yellow card, handwritten in red ink by Breton, comprising a table which shows the contemporaneity of poets and painters from 1844 to 1944, such as [Henri] Rousseau, Ducasse, Gauguin, Rimbaud, Seurat, Jarry, Filiger, Roussel, Münch, and Sérusier. This synoptic table is followed by the handwritten text of the first paragraph for the preface to the exhibition of Symbolist drawings:

"If there is a commonplace nowadays capable, in itself, of epitomizing those who do not disregard it, it is indeed that which consists of affixing the epithet 'literary' to any painting whose ambition goes further than offering us an image of the external world or, failing that, claiming in the final analysis to provide only visual pleasure." [Auction Catalogue, 2003]



André Breton (Édition publiée sous la direction d'Étienne-Alain Hubert avec la collaboration de Philippe Bernier et Marie-Claire Dumas), « Du Symbolisme », in Le Surréalisme et la Peinture, Œuvres complètes, tome IV, Écrits sur l'art et autres textes, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, Gallimard, 2008, pages 777 à 784, notes p. 1369-1371.


Creation date25/03/1958
Date of publication 1958
Physical descriptionMs - encres de couleur
Number of pages2 - 1
Breton Auction, 2003Lot 2457
Keywords, ,
CategoriesAndre Breton's Manuscripts
Set[AB's Manuscripts] Manuscripts 1958-1966
ExhibitionDessins symbolistes
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