André Breton Poème Objet [Poem-Object] 1935 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022


Born 1896
Died 1966
Nationality French

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

Glossary terms


Works of art constructed from pre-existing materials as opposed to work that is drawn, painted or carved. A broad term, invented by French artist Jean Dubuffet in the 1950s, it includes collage, sculptural objects and installation art.


The term refers to cultural practices that challenge tradition through experimentation and innovation, and is used in the context of modern and particularly twentieth-century art. From the French for ‘vanguard’ or ‘advance guard’ it dates back to the Middle Ages and was strictly a military term referring to those on the front-line, closest to conflict.


An image constructed from found materials, such as photographs, paper or fabric, glued to a surface, sometimes with additional painted or drawn elements. It is an art form particularly associated with Dada and Surrealism.


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 twentieth century.


A painting, drawing or writing process that aims to suppress rational thought, allowing the subconscious to take control. This spontaneous approach is associated with Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.


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