Andre Breton

(1896 - 1966)
Andre Breton Poème Objet [Poem-Object] 1935 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017.


André Breton was the founder and chief theorist of the surrealist movement. Through his study of medicine and work with the insane, he became interested in irrational imagery. After serving as a medical auxiliary during the First World War, he discovered the work of Sigmund Freud. The subjects of psychiatry, the illogical and the unconscious mind appealed greatly to the Surrealists. By 1924 Breton had become a prominent figure in the Parisian avant garde and had gathered around him a group of poets and artists interested in exploring the subconscious. The surrealist movement was launched that year with Breton's 'Manifesto of Surrealism'.

Glossary terms

  • The term 'Avant-garde' refers to cultural practices that challenge tradition through experimentation and innovation.
  • Existing objects or images that are incorporated into an artwork. A found object that is treated as an artwork without modification is known as a readymade.

  • A literary and artistic movement founded by the poet André Breton in 1924. Many of the associated artists, such as Max Ernst and Jean Arp, had previously been involved with Dadaism. The movement sought to challenge conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, invoking the power of dreams and elements of chance. Cultural hierarchies were challenged by the combination of diverse elements in collages and sculptural assemblages. The movement is also notable for the collaborations between artists and writers evident in the Surrealists' many publications.