London International Surrealist Exhibition

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The International Surrealist Exhibition was held from 11 June to 4 July 1936 at the New Burlington Galleries, near Savile Row in London's Mayfair, England.


The exhibition was organised by committees from England, France, Belgium, Scandinavia and Spain.

The English organising committee consisted of:

The French organising committee were:

The remaining nations had a single committee representative:

The number of exhibits, paintings, sculpture, objects and drawings displayed during the exhibition's run was around 390.

Danish painter Wilhelm Freddie's entries never made it to the exhibition, as they were confiscated by British Customs representatives for being pornographic. According to ruling law at the time, the works had to be destroyed, but this was avoided at the last minute and they were despatched back to Denmark.[citation needed]


The following artists participated in the exhibition:

The following individuals exhibited objects:

The following nations were represented at the exhibition:

Exhibition Programming[edit]

The exhibition was officially opened in the presence of about two thousand people by André Breton. The average attendance for the entire run of the Exhibition was about a thousand people per day.

Over the course of the Exhibition, the following lectures were delivered to large audiences:

  • 16 June — André Breton — Limites non-frontières du Surréalisme.
  • 19 June — Herbert Read — Art and the Unconscious.
  • 24 June — Paul Éluard — La Poésie surréaliste.
  • 26 June — Hugh Sykes Davies — Biology and Surrealism.
  • 1 July — Salvador Dalí — Fantômes paranoïaques authentiques.

The most iconic image of the exhibition is the opening day performance of Sheila Legge, who stood in the middle of Trafalgar Square, posing in a white, drop tail hemmed wedding dress ensemble inspired by a Salvador Dalí painting, with her head completely obscured by a flower arrangement.[4] In one variation of the images capturing her performance, pigeons are perched on her outstretched, gloved arms.[4]

Dalí's lecture was delivered whilst wearing a deep-sea diving suit. Nearly suffocating during the presentation, Dalí had to be rescued by the young poet David Gascoyne, who arrived with a spanner to release him from the diving helmet. During the exhibition, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas carried around a cup of boiled string, asking visitors would they rather it "weak or strong?"[5]

The exhibition's catalog (and guide) was printed by the Women's Printing Society, a British publishing house dedicated to employing women.[6][7]


  1. ^ "Composition - Leeds Art Fund". Archived from the original on 19 August 2017.
  2. ^[user-generated source]
  3. ^ Hessellund, Birgit (1995). "Rita Kernn-Larsen (1904 - 1998)" (in Danish). KVINFO. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b Penelope Rosemont (1 December 2000). Surrealist Women, An International Anthology. United States of America: The University of Texas Press. pp. 88–90. ISBN 9780567171283. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  5. ^ "Dylan Thomas". Archived from the original on 19 August 2017. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  6. ^ International Surrealist Exhibition (PDF). Women's Printing Society, Ltd. 1936. OCLC 9735630. Retrieved 27 September 2022 – via Monoskop.
  7. ^ Crawford, Elizabeth (20 October 2020). "The Women's Printing Society". The British Library. Retrieved 27 September 2022.


Coordinates: 51°30′35″N 0°08′28″W / 51.50972°N 0.14111°W / 51.50972; -0.14111