Birthday: February 19, 1896
Died At Age: 70
Sun Sign: Pisces
Born in: Tinchebray, Orne, France
Famous as: Founder of Surrealism
Spouse/Ex-: Elisa Claro, Jacqueline Lamba, Simone Kahn
children: Aube Breton
Died on: September 28, 1966
place of death: Paris
Who was Andre Breton?
Andre Breton was a distinguished writer and poet from France. He was one of the few personalities who reinforced and led the Surrealist movement along with other avant-gardes. He is best-known for his ‘Surrealist Manifesto’, encouraging free expression and release of the subconscious mind. He is also known for his volumes of essays and poetry. After a brief stint in the army during World War I, he joined the Dadaist group and began delving into ‘surrealistic automatism’. He studied a number of psychoanalytical theories and studied the concept of the ‘unconsciousness’ that helped him with his writing. Through most part of his career, he wrote radical and metaphysical tracts, one of them being ‘Nadja’. The recurrent themes in most of his novels indicate a sort of ‘liberation of the mind’ and include the hackneyed as well as fantasy elements. In addition to his career, he mentored many budding Surrealists and continued to advocate the Surrealist movement through literature and art. Career apart, he married thrice, indulged in Freudian psychology and was known for his idiosyncratic dressing habits.
Childhood & Early Life
Andre Breton was born into a working-class family in Tinchebray, Normandy, France.
He studied medicine and psychiatry as a young boy and started to take a particular interest in the study of mental sicknesses. He never qualified as a psychoanalyst because his education was disturbed by the imminent World War I.
During the war, he worked in a number of neurological/psychiatric wards in Nantes. At the same time, he studied the works of Sigmund Freud, whom he would meet later in his life.
In his early years, he was extremely influenced by the works of poets, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud and writers like Guillaume Apollinaire. In 1916, he joined the Dadaist movement in France along with Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp.
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In 1919, he established the journal ‘Litterature’ along with Philippe Soupault and Louis Aragon. The subsequent year, he authored his work of literary ‘Surrealism’ titled ‘Les Champs magnetiques’ (Magnetic Fields). This work introduced the surrealist automatic writing practice.
In 1924, he founded the Bureau of Surrealist Research and also published one of his literary masterpieces, the ‘Surrealist Manifesto’. The same year, he also became the editor for the magazine, ‘La Revolution surrealiste’, during which he was associated with numerous writers such as Robert Desnos, Louis Aragon, Philippe Soupault and the like.
From 1927 to 1933, he served the French Communist Party, after which he was debarred from the group. It was during this time he penned one of his greatest novels, ‘Nadja’.
In 1935, he attended the ‘International Congress of Writers for the Defense of Culture’, where he got into a tiff with other Surrealists. As a result, all the Surrealists were removed from the Congress.
His poem, ‘Fata Morgana’ was published in 1939 after collaborating with artist Wifredo Lam, who was given the responsibility to illustrate his poem.
At the onset of World War II, he was enlisted in the medical corps of the French Army. The Vichy government disqualified his writings, during which time; he escaped from France to the United States, in 1941.
He wrote ‘Arcane 17’, in 1944 after he traveled to the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, Canada. Two years later, he returned to Paris, where he openly opposed French expansionism and also mentored a second group of up-and-coming Surrealists.
From 1953 to 1958, he penned numerous works including ‘La Cle des Champs’, ‘Farouche a quatre feuilles’, ‘Manifestos of Surrealisms’ and ‘L’Art Magique’ and ‘Constellations’.
From 1959 to 1965, he organized a display in Paris, authored the book, ‘Le la’ and published the last of his works, ‘La Surrealisme et la Peinture’.
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‘The ‘Surrealist Manifesto’ was published in both, 1924 and 1929. Considered one of his ‘largest’ works, the manifesto defines surrealism as ‘pure psychic automatism’. Penned with a lot of absurdist comicality, the publication also outlined the influence of the Dada movement, which heralded the ‘Surrealist’ movement. The two books became popular among Surrealist circles and his writing even spawned a third manifesto, which was never published.
‘Nadja’, his second novel, published in 1928, is regarded as one of his most iconic works. This novel was based on his private exchanges with a woman called ‘Nadja’. A semi-autobiography, the book came to be known as one of his best-works in his career and was also featured in Le Monde’s list of ‘100 Books of the Century’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Breton married Simone Collinet on September 15, 1921. He divorced her after ten years.
He married his second wife, Jacqueline Lamba, a painter. She was the theme of a number of his poems and he loved her dearly. He had his only child with Jacqueline; a daughter called Aube.
He married a Chilean woman, Elisa Claro, whom he met during his exile in the United States. She stayed with him till his death.
He passed away at the age of 70 and was interred at the Cimetiere des Batignolles, in Paris.
After his death, Elisa and Breton’s daughter, Aube, permitted pupils and investigators with the right to use his personal library and collections at home.
A number of his writings and works were published posthumously, carrying forward his legacy and his ideologies on Surrealism. Works such as ‘Selected Poems’, ‘Perspective Cavaliere’ and ‘Poems of Andre Breton’ were published after his death.
Nine of his unpublished texts and the famous ‘Manifeste du Surrealism’ were auctioned, in 2008.
This famous French Surrealist author and poet was an avid collector of art and other relics, collecting over 5,300 items over his lifetime, including paintings, furniture, drawings, photographs, scripts and Oceanic art.