SURREALISM IN EXILE: And the Beginning of the New York School by Martica Sawin

SURREALISM IN EXILE: And the Beginning of the New York School

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An enlightening history of the later, transatlantic phase of the Surrealist movement (1938--1947), which, when caught in the throes of WW II, inadvertently came in close contact with a new generation of vanguard American painters. The influence of the Surrealist painters on the burgeoning Abstract Expressionist movement is one of the commonplaces of art history. Standard histories of art tell the story of the exiled Surrealists who, having fled war-torn Europe in the 1940s, arrived in the US and proceeded to spoon-feed the fledgling American painters a steady diet of Freud, Jung, and automatic painting, imparting to them, as well, a taste for the irrational and an interest in nontraditional art. The role of the Surrealists is generally seen as having been instrumental in bringing about the so-called ""triumph of American painting."" Art historian and critic Sawin investigates this exciting yet grossly mythologized era of cultural cross-fertilization. Taking a documentary approach, she charts the course of the Surrealists' activities, simultaneously keeping us informed of events on both sides of the Atlantic. She also provides new information on the nature of the European/American connection, suggesting, for example, that the Surrealist influence on vanguard American painting was not merely an aesthetic one. As she points out, the Surrealist movement had a literary and political agenda in addition to a visual one. From the Surrealist presence in New York, American artists learned to negotiate the entire art machine, learning as much about the promotion of art as about its production, and made some critical art world connections. Even more momentous was WW II itself, an event that rendered Surrealism obsolete while lending a certain gravity to the new American painting. A first-rate cultural history, of interest to both the art historian and the general reader.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
Page count: 460pp
Publisher: MIT