Toyen (Marie Čermínová)

Bohemian (1902-1980)
Toyen (Marie Čermínová) The Message of the Forest (Poselstvi Lesa) 1936 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2018

Biography

Born 1902
Died 1980
Nationality Bohemian

Toyen was a founder and the most celebrated member of Czech Surrealist Group. Born Marie Čermínová, the name Toyen was adopted in early adulthood. There was no explanation given for this new name, although it may be derived from the French word ‘Citoyen’ (citizen) which gave a non-gendered identity. Another suggestion is that it is a play on the Czech words ‘To je on’, which means ‘It is he’. Toyen identified using the Czech language’s masculine form and dressed in working men’s clothes. This exploration of gender stereotypes has made Toyen a cult figure. After a period in Paris, Toyen returned to Prague in 1928 and helped establish the city as a significant centre for Surrealist activity. Toyen was supported in particular by André Breton, the leading figure in the Surrealist movement, and became friendly with many of the prominent figures in the French Surrealist group, including Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy and Salvador Dalí.

Glossary terms

  • A literary and artistic movement that sought to challenge conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, invoking the power of dreams and elements of chance. It is now regarded as one of the most radical movements of the 20th century.