Critics’ Picks

Max Ernst, unpublished collage for Une Semaine de bonté (A Week of Kindness), 1934, collage of engravings on card, 8 x 5 1/2”.


“Another World: Dalí, Magritte, Miro and the Surrealists”

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
75 Belford Road
July 10–January 9

Drawing on the outstanding holdings of Edinburgh’s modern museums, and divided into seven tightly curated subsections, this exhibition presents nothing short of a comprehensive inventory of Surrealism, from its origins in Dada, Duchamp, and de Chirico to its afterlives in various European and American postwar trends.

The Surrealist writer Pierre Naville famously contended that there could be no such thing as “Surrealist painting.” And indeed, there is one entire gallery in this show that is devoid of painting, dedicated instead to a range of other media used by Surrealist artists: photography and collage, frottage and decalcomania, Hans Bellmer’s poupées and the collective cadavres exquis. But painting nevertheless receives the lion’s share of room here. The exhibition bills Dalí, Magritte, and Miró as the lodestars of its proverbial alternative universe. Yet it is really Max Ernst whose work forms the unspoken axis around which much of the show––and the fitful history of the Surrealist movement––turns. From his early de Chirico–inspired lithographic series “Fiat Modes,” 1919, to his later experiments with frottage, to his romantic engagements with several Surrealist leading ladies, Ernst was one of the few artists to weather the storm of André Breton’s fickle allegiances. The range of Ernst’s work––whether biomorphic painting or the searing precision of elliptical collage narratives––finds ample echo in the exhibition’s impressive survey.

Every room is rounded out by an attendant range of journals, notes, and ephemera, much of it drawn from the bequest of Roland Penrose––himself among the United Kingdom’s main adherents to the movement. Indeed, one of the exhibition’s most striking sections is that dedicated to the (relatively late) flowering of Surrealism in Britain, featuring Penrose, Edward Burra, and Marion Adnams. While somewhat belated and derivative in their efforts, British Surrealists offered renewed energy to a movement that came soon to recede on the Continent.