Convulsive Beauty

The Lovers' Flower-From Nadja 1928-Leona Delcourt
The Lovers’ Flower-From Nadja 1928-Leona Delcourt

Andre Breton had ended Nadja with the bold statement that: “Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or will not be at all.” In L’Amour Fou (Mad Love) from 1937 he further expands on the theme with the declaration: “Convulsive beauty will be veiled-erotic, fixed-explosive, magic-circumstantial, or won’t be at all.” Accompanying the text are three photographs illustrating the types of convulsive beauty: Man Ray‘s Veiled-Erotic, a stunning nude study of the Swiss artist Meret Oppenheim, Fixed-Explosive also by Man Ray and Brassai‘s strange Magic-Circumstantial. All the images had previously appeared in the Surrealist magazine Minotaure.

26 thoughts on “Convulsive Beauty

    1. Thank you Miss Heart. I am not sure that I fully grasp what Breton is up to here. There is a tension in the terms used, almost contrary states. A dialectic of desire? Do read Nadja, a very strange little volume.

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      1. They are intriguing photographs made even more intriguing by their inclusion in the book as example of convulsive beauty. Definitely wished to challenge rationality and conventional morality.

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      1. This certainly merged with that philosophy. Yes, a shame that the reality of the world cannot be overcome with enchantment. We must try to imbue it upon our personal experience. At least part of the time…

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      2. Which is exactly what Breton thought. One of his early important essays was called Discourse on the Paucity of Reality. Most of Surrealism is aimed at re-enchantment. Though Breton would have said all the time and for that social structures would have to be completely transformed, and that it had to re-enchanted collectively, not just by the alienated individual. Hence the political engagement.

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      3. Interesting that surrealist ‘enchantment’ had (for the most part) such a deeply disturbing aesthetic. It very well reflects our darker natures and that unexplainable subconscious mind. I wonder how a surrealist revolution would have looked in practice? A fascinating idea to contemplate!

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