This week our artist in focus is Marie Čermínová (1902-1980), more famously known as Toyen. Toyen was a Czech painter, illustrator and co-founder of the Surrealist Group in Prague in 1934, alongside other Devětsil artists including Karel Teige, Jindřich Štyrský and Vítězslav Nezval.
The artist adopted the name Toyen as a young adult. There has been much discussion as to the significance of this. It has been argued that this is an abbreviation of the French term ‘citoyen’ which means ‘citizen’, a genderless and enigmatic name that would help Toyen to withdraw from social stereotypes.
The image on the far left shows Toyen’s lithograph frontispiece for André Breton’s book ‘La Lampe dans l'horloge’ (1948). Toyen became a great ally for Breton in his efforts to reignite the Surrealist Movement after the devastation of the Second World War.
Bird imagery reoccurs often in Toyen’s work, and can be seen in the painting The Message of the Forest (above left), as well as the accompanying collage Toyen produced for Breton’s ‘Spojité nádoby’.