The Manless Society

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Rose of Four Winds-Yves Tanguy 1950

The son of a tailor and rabbi, Pierre Unik was one the most militant Communists of the Surrealist group and edited the Party’s journal for children. The author of two collections of poetry he also wrote the screenplay for Bunuel’s Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (Land Without Bread). Bunuel in his autobiography My Last Sigh describes Unik ‘as a marvellous young man, brilliant and fiery.’

In February 1945 Unik escaped from a concentration camp to avoid a forced march and to meet the advancing Russian troops. After avoiding re-capture Pierre Unik disappears completely.

The Manless Society

Morning trickles over the bruised vegetables
like a drop of sweat over the lines of my hand
I crawl over the ground
with stem and wrinkled mouth
the sun swells into the canals of monstrous leaves
which recover cemeteries harbours houses
with the same sticky green zeal
then with disturbing intensity there passes through my mind
the absurdity of human groupings
in these lines of closely packed houses
like the pores of the skin
in the poignant void of terrestrial space
I hear the crying of birds of whom it used to be said
that they sang and implacable resembled stones
I see flocks of houses munching the pith of the air
factories which sing as birds once sang
roads which lose themselves in harvests of salt
pieces of sky which become dry on verdigris moss
a pulley’s creaking tells us that a bucket rises in a well
it is full of limpid blood
which evaporates in the sun
nothing else will trouble this circuit on the ground
until evening
which trembles under the form of an immense pinned butterfly
at the entrance of a motionless station.

Translation: David Gascoyne

Dreams of Desire 19 (Assia)

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Assia-Emmanuel Sougez 1936
Assia features in several of Germaine Krull’s work of the 1930’s. She was also the muse of several other photographer’s including Dora Maar, Emmanuel Sougez and Roger Schall. She also posed for Andre Derain and several sculptors including Charles Despiau whom she would sit for twice a week from 1934 to 1938.

Assia Granatouroff was born in the Ukraine in 1911 of Jewish heritage. Her family fled revolutionary Russia and settled in France in 1922. After studying textile design she began working as a model in 1930. This proved so successful that it financed a theatrical and film career. With the invasion of France she fled to Marseilles but was arrested by the Gestapo. However she managed to escape and joined the Resistance. After the war she took to producing esoteric artworks inspired by the Tarot.

The photographs of Assia have an almost sculptural quality, emphasising Assia’s full, powerful figure and the statuesque nature of her Amazonian beauty.

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Dreams of Desire 14 (Nusch by Dora Maar)

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Nusch Eluard-Dora Maar
Arguably the muse of the Surrealists, Nusch Eluard (Marie Benz) was the subject of works by Man Ray, Lee Miller, Dora Maar (see above and below) and Pablo Picasso. The poet Paul Eluard spotted her doing cartwheels down the street (she was an acrobat at the Grand Guignol theatre at the time) and was enchanted. They later married in 1934 and is the subject of his collection Facile illustrated with nude photographs of Nusch by Man Ray.

Nusch is the subject of several excellent photographs by Dora Maar, Picasso’s infamous weeping woman. It is rumoured that Nusch was  also romantically involved with Picasso and that the relationship was sanctioned by Paul Eluard ; Eluard was no stranger to open relationships having previously been involved in a menage-a-trois with his first wife Gala Eluard (later Gala Dali) and Max Ernst (see A Week of Max Ernst: Wednesday).

During WWII Nusch worked for the French Resistance during the occupation. She died of a stroke at the age of 40; a tragically early death that left the Surrealists and other artists who knew her bereft.

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