[<<] 1936 [>>]
Key work of art: Lobster Telephone, black and red (1936) - Salvador Dalí Google gallery
Films: Rose Hobart (1936) - Joseph Cornell - Reefer Madness (1936) - Louis J. Gasnier - Things to Come (1936) - William Cameron Menzies - Modern Times (1936) - Charlie Chaplin
Butler House (1936) - George Kraetsch and E.E. Butler [Des Moines, Iowa]
Rose Hobart (1936) - Joseph Cornell
The International Surrealist Exhibition
Surrealism came late to Britain, but when it came, it was with a bang.The International Surrealist Exhibition of 1936 was, beyond dispute, the biggest artistic sensation London had ever seen: thousands of curious spectators defied the soaring temperatures to cram into the Burlington Gallery, traffic was snarled up for hours, and the newspapers had a glorious time filling their columns with (mostly) derisive or outraged commentary. Curiously, one of the very few reviewers to treat the show sympathetically was John Betjeman, later Poet Laureate and national teddy-bear.
It's easy to see why Londoners were so amused and perplexed. Quite apart from the sheer novelty and oddness of the art on display, the Surrealists provided all sorts of other enticements. A woman known as the "Surrealist Phantom" drifted through the proceedings in a long gown, her head encased in a cage of flowers, holding a raw chop in one hand and a wooden leg in another; the poet Dylan Thomas offered visitors cups of boiled string, asking politely whether they preferred it weak or stong; and Salvador Dali lectured inaudibly from inside a deep-sea diving suit, holding a brace of Borzois on a lead and brandishing a ceremonial sword, until the heat overcame him and he had to be rescued. Happy days.
There is still only one full-length critical study of British Surrealism, written by Michel Remy - a sorry lacuna, since its early membership included the likes of Henry Moore, Paul Nash and Humphrey Jennings (see below). The main British Surrealist group disbanded in 1940, but a number of rival or "continuity" groups sprang up in its wake, and the roster of post-war British surrealists includes, among others, the zoologist Desmond Morris and the entertainer George Melly. --Kevin Jackson, http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/speech/surrealazg.shtml, accessed Mar 2004
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