From 1919 to 1920, Toyen attended UMPRŮM (Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design) in Prague. He worked closely with fellow Surrealist poet and artist Jindřich Štyrský until Štyrský's death. They joined the Devětsil group in 1923 and exhibited with the group. In the early 1920s Toyen travelled to Paris, and soon returned there with Štyrský. While living in Paris, the two founded an artistic alternative to Abstraction and Surrealism, which they dubbed Artificialism. They returned to Prague in 1928.
Toyen referred to himself in the masculine case out of rejection for gender in true avant-garde fashion. He purposefully cast aside the confining trappings of femininity in order to access the almost exclusively male modernist art world. Toyen's sketches, book illustrations, and paintings were frequently erotic and he contributed erotic sketches for Štyrský's Eroticka Revue (1930–33). This journal was published on strict subscription terms based on a circulation of 150 copies. Štyrský also published books under the imprint Edice 69, some of which Toyen illustrated. For example, he illustrated the Marquis de Sade's Justine. Also of note, he contributed pieces in Die Frau als Künstlerin, Woman as an Artist, the prestigious 1928 survey of women artists in Western civilization.
Toyen and Štyrský gradually grew more interested in Surrealism. After their associates Vítězslav Nezval and Jindřich Honzl met André Breton in Paris, they founded the Czech Surrealist Group along with other artists, writers, and the composer Jaroslav Ježek.
Forced underground during the Nazi occupation and Second World War, he sheltered his second artistic partner, Jindřich Heisler, a poet of Jewish descent who had joined the Czech Surrealist Group in 1938. The two relocated to Paris in 1947, before the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948. In Paris, they worked with André Breton, Benjamin Péret, and other surrealists.
- Huebner, Karla Tonine. "Eroticism, Identity, and Cultural Context: Toyen and the Prague Avant-garde." Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 2008.