On seeing this imaginary group portrait in Cologne recently I was struck immediately by the self portrait of Ernst, who is number 4 in the painting’s key and is sitting on Dosteyevsky’s (number 6) knee. Although Ernst is left of centre and has no special prominence in the composition the striking features, luminescent hair and pale skin draw your attention. Perhaps this explains the fascination that Ernst exercised over a number of beautiful, talented women throughout his life, including number 16 in the painting, Gala Eluard (late to become Gala Dali). For 1924 to 1927 Ernst was to be involved in a menage-a-trois with Gala and her husband, Paul Eluard, the poet responsible for the unforgettable Surrealist poem ‘The World Is Blue As An Orange’. Eluard is also represented in the painting, number 9 in the key, standing next to Raphael.
Atop a craggy cliff, under snowy peaks during a solar eclipse (signifying revolutionary change in art, politics and society) the members of the mouvement flou and their artistic forebearers gather. Andre Breton (number 13) wearing a red magician’s cape and touching the apparition in the sky is clearly the leader of the group and therefore assumes the role of psycho-pomp guiding his followers through the previously uncharted realm of the unconscious, where they will emerge from to create a new reality, the SUR-REALITY.
In 1941 Andre Breton with his wife Jacqueline Lamba and daughter Aube left Marseilles bound for New York. Travelling on a crowded cargo freighter they arrived after a long and difficult crossing in the Caribbean island of Martinique, which was under the control of the Nazi-dominated Vichy Regime. His experiences on the island led to the book Martinique—Charmeuse de Serpents and describes his internment in a military prison camp upon arrival. After his release he was to meet, after a series of chance encounters, the Martinican poet, politician and fierce anti-colonialist theorist; Aime Cesaire and his brilliant wife Suzanne.
The encounter was to influence all parties profoundly. Andre Breton praises Aime Cesaire’s book length poem (mixed with prose) Cahier d’un retour au pays Natal (Notebook on a Return to the Native Land) as “nothing less than the greatest lyrical monument of our times.” The Cesaire’s embraced Surrealism as a potential tool to help in the struggle for black identity and self-determination worldwide. Aime was to be one of the founders of the Negritude movement and mentored the revolutionary Franz Fanon, whose The Wretched of the Earth analysed the brutalizing effect that colonialism has upon both the colonized and the colonizer and is widely considered a landmark in the literature of colonial studies.
Serpent sun eye bewitching my eye and the sea flea-ridden with islands cracking in the fingers of flamethrower roses and my intact body of one thunderstruck the water raises the carcasses of light lost in the pompless corridor whirlwinds of ice floes halo the steaming hearts of ravens our hearts it is the voice of tamed thunderbolts turning on their crack hinges a transfer of anolis to the landscape of broken glasses it is the vampire flowers relaying the orchids elixir of the central fire fire just fire night mango tree swarming with bees my desire a throw of tigers caught in the sulphurs but the stannous awakening gilds itself with infantine deposits and my pebble body eating fish eating doves and slumbers the sugar in the word Brazil deep in the marsh.