Images of Medieval Art in the French Surrealist Periodicals Documents (1929–31) and Minotaure (1933–39)

  • Tessel M. Bauduin University of Amsterdam
  • Julia W. Krikke

Abstract

The avant-garde movement Surrealism claimed historical figures as supposed ancesters, as is well known, but also interacted with the past, and especially art of the past, in other ways. This article explores the reception of the European Middle Ages in French Surrealism, in particular medieval art, by means of a case study: illustrations of medieval and early-modern Western art in the surrealist periodicals Documents (1929-1931) and Minotaure (1933-1939). The cerebral and contrary Documents challenged the canon of art by actively looking at the margins of European art, reproducing medieval art from a wide variety of periods and geographic locations, and in very differing media, including jewelry and vessels, murals, bronze church doors, and manuscript illuminations. The glossy art review Minotaure, which came with coloured inserts, was more conventional in its selection, reproducing primarily late-medieval and renaissance art works, mainly (panel) paintings. However, the intention is just as contrary, as late-medieval and renaissance art in Minotaure is framed in terms of surrealist aesthetics in a manner undermining the conventional canon. In Documents medieval art primarily serves to makes points about style and iconography, which is often posited as primitive or exotic. In Minotaure, medieval art serves to make points about Surrealism, about the oneiric qualities of form or iconography. Both periodicals offered an interesting array of medieval and renaissance art and introduced this art into the surrealist discours.

Published
2019-06-30