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This report is taken from PN Review 81, Volume 18 Number 1, September - October 1991.

Dancing With Danger: André Breton and La Beauté Convulsive Geoffrey Ward
La Beauté Convulsive, the Pompidou Centre's hommage to André Breton, is as lively, ambitious and exhausting as its subject must have been in life. André Breton (1896-1966), poet, leader of the Surrealist movement, and a philosopher of liberation along lines proposed but never circumscribed by Marxist and Freudian theory, was not of course an artist (barring a few sketches and collages garnered faithfully for this exhibition). Breton did however write about, collect, and develop his thinking in relation to painting, throughout a long career. This enormous and fabulously detailed exhibition brings together over four hundred paintings and sculptures which were owned by Breton at one time or another, or which bear closely on his own work. There are copious amounts of pre-Columbian, African, Tibetan and other sorts of 'primitive' sculpture; the poet clearly had an insatiable appetite for these half-charming, half-menacing figures. The various Breton ateliers were crammed to the ceiling with artefacts, and in the many photographs of the writer taken at home in his Aladdin's cave, it is hard at first to distinguish his own extremely statuesque head from the various wooden masks and terra-cotta shamen with whom he liked to share his living space. The paintings are mostly from the modernist period, and include canvasses by Matisse, Derain and Picasso (always a friend and guardian to Breton) alongside the expected Surrealist signatures of Dali, Magritte, Ernst and Tanguy. Breton's career as poet and polemicist is also amply documented; as well as looking at paintings on the wall, one ...


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