Toyen-Asleep 1937

The period immediately following the Czech avant-garde engagement with Surrealism in the mid 1930’s saw Toyen produce one masterpiece after another, including The Message Of The ForestHorror and Asleep (pictured above).

Against a bleak, featureless landscape with a nausea-inducing receding horizon a strange, spectral figure hovers in mid-air, holding a butterfly net. There is a collage-like effect to the figure that adds to the uncanny atmosphere; the bright red hair is wig-like and the stained white coat that is open at the back to reveal nothing at all produces a sensation of unbearable desolation and loneliness. Few paintings fully capture the sheer defencelessness and utter isolation that we experience nightly when we close our eyes and give over control to our unconscious as Asleep does.

31 thoughts on “Asleep

    1. Ahhh you see why Toyen speaks to me. I haven’t gone so over the top on the existential/mystic commentary since well, Horror and The Human Condition. Not a reassuring painting to be sure but powerful and brilliant.

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      1. I completely understand. This one is more troubling than the others, truth be told. Which is why art is so wonderful – its’s so personal. I adore these Toyen paintings. In a troubling way.

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      2. This is a difficult subject to research. My online searches redirect to art history programs at universities around the world. My big book of Man Ray is published with a huge list of educators and exhibition curators. I have an idea, however. If this can be extrapolated for your purposes… one of my patients’ father is American artist, Ranulph Bye, not as well known as say, Andrew Wyeth, but in smaller circles, well respected. His artwork fetches thousands at auction. His work has been collected and published so perhaps his daughter could provide some guidance. Leave it to me. I suppose you would need to first of all find out who holds the rights to publish Toyen’s images. Her estate? Her heirs, if she has such? We need a lawyer, Cake.

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  1. A quite powerful painting by Toye… The conical shape of the invisible, feet-less body turns the character into a ghostly being… The butterfly net makes me think of chasing lost dreams, or the past itself. Desolation and loneliness certainly can be seen here. ⭐


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