Due to the installation of the expansive special exhibition Jo Baer, some collections in the Museum Ludwig are temporarily closed.
The Picasso-Collection and the Surrealist rooms are closed for one week from April 22, 2013.
Afterwards, a selection of the collection will be on view again. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.
In 1915, as battle raged on the fronts of the First World War, the war exiles Hans Arp, Hugo Ball, Richard Hülsenbeck, Marcel Janko and Tristan Tzara founded the artists group "Dada". Beginning at their "Cabaret Voltaire", throughout the war and in the years after the young artists and poets poured scorn and heaped nonsense and irony on the empty pathos of the old political classs - making above all its mainstays, the church and the monarchy, responsible for the millions of dead. Hülsenbeck went as far as to declare that (academic) art was dead, and Marcel Duchamp desecrated a reproduction of the Mona Lisa by adding a painted-on moustache. Dada also rose up simultaneously in New York around Francis Picabia, Man Ray and Duchamp, where the French artist had already created a provocative anti-art protest in 1914 with his readymades. The same happened in Hanover, where Kurt Schwitters constructed his Merz building, and made Merz collages and poems. When Tristan Tzara moved to Paris in 1919, a number of other young poets had already flocked round the new Dada periodical Littérature founded by Louis Aragon, André Breton and Philippe Soupault, who wanted to plumb the creative potential of the unconscious with their recently discovered method écriture automatique, spontaneous automatic writing.
In 1921 Breton and Philippe Soupault published the first automatic text, Les Champs magnétiques (English, The Magnetic Fields). Especially at its beginning, the Dada and subsequent Surrealist movements were predominantly literary by nature, but the Surrealist periodicals, such as the richly illustrated Minotaure, also offered a broad platform to visual artists and guest authors. It was Guillaume Apollinaire who first coined the word "surreal" in its poetic, compositional sense to describe his own play from 1917, The Breasts of Tiresias. Inspired particularly by Giorgio de Chirico's Pittura metafisica, in 1919 Max Ernst and Alfred Gruenwald - better known as Johannes Theodor Baargeld - formed the Dada group "Zentrale W/3" in Cologne. The periodical edited by Baargeld, Der Ventilator, only appeared in one issue. In 1920 Max Ernst, Hans Arp and Baargeld published their celebrated series of collages entitled "Fatagaga" (Fabrication de Tableaux Garantis Gasométriques). After spending the summer in the Tyrol with Arp and Tzara and receiving a visit by Paul Éluard and his wife Gala in Cologne, Max Ernst moved in the autumn of 1922 to the Éluards in Paris, where he did his celebrated painting The Friends' Rendezvous. It shows almost all of the future Surrealists on glacial Olympian heights. Gala is also depicted as the sole woman of the group. She soon embarked on a love affair with Ernst, which Paul Éluard initially tolerated, and from 1929 on she was Salvador Dalí's muse. In this anti-bourgeois arts community, which set out to experiment with and win over new methods of composition and new dimensions of consciousness, daring explorations of the erotic and psychological spheres were no rarity. Dada-Max, who had already made trail-blazing achievements during his Cologne days in the field of collage and managed to make seemingly incongruent images merge together, invented in 1925 the technique of frottage, which he used for instance for his portfolio Histoire naturelle: after placing a piece of paper on a piece of wood and rubbing over it with a crayon, he augmented the resulting grained structures by adding associative drawings. Later Ernst added décalcomanie to his techniques, in which he produced hallucinogenic structures by pressing objects onto damp paint. These are strongly indebted to "directed chance". Chance, as an immanent phenomenon in automatic writing and drawing, also proved astonishingly effective in the children's game which the Surrealists adopted under the name cadavre exquis, in which each participant writes or draws on just one section of a folded sheet of paper without looking at what the person before had done. When the sheet of repeatedly folded paper was opened at the end, "we revelled in the joy of seeing creatures appear that were beyond all suspicion, but that we ourselves had created", as Simone Breton-Collinet recalled.
Another means that the Surrealists discovered for diving into the human psyche was the dream, both somnabulistic and in waking reveries. In particular the poets René Crevel and Robert Desnos proved to be talented mediums, and once put into a state of sleep they gave astonishing replies from the depths of their psyches. "The mind that plunges into Surrealism relives with glowing excitement the best part of its childhood," as André Breton recognised in 1924 in his First Surrealist Manifesto before referring to the writings of the Viennese Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. And yet "the dream ... is a lie that tells the truth, as is painting", warned René Passeron, who distinguished two forms of psychoanalytic dream painting: the "clear" images of the Belgian surrealist René Magritte, and the "chaotic" ones of Spanish painter Salvador Dalí. For Magritte, who only briefly lived among the Paris Surrealists (from 1927 to 1930), "the dream is not so much the source of poetry as there as a means to grasp the mystery of the visible" (Passeron). Dalí, on the other hand, developed his paranoiac-critical method to draw on his own compulsive ideas and Freudian Psychoanalysis, as well as on Jacques Lacan's 1932 medical dissertation "On Paranoid Psychoses in Relation to the Personality". Lacan recognised paranoia as an ongoing interpretative delusion in which the intellectual faculties remain intact. Shortly after the celebrated scandal of the Surrealist film Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog), which Dalí filmed with Luis Buñuel, as well as the first visit by his subsequent wife Gala in 1929 to Cadaqués, Dalí dedicated himself in his work to the paranoid battle with the menacing father figure Wilhelm Tell, which around his his Oedipus and castration complex.
In 1948, after returning from several years in the United States to Franco's Spain, Dalí's paranoiac-critical Surrealism fueled by spontaneous associations gave way to a historifying hyperrealism illumined by Spanish Catholic mysticism, conservative traditions, and the religious painting of the Renaissance and Mannerism. In his efforts to create "painting in three-dimensions", he oriented himself from the 1950s on to the hyperrealist "pompier" paintings of the French artist Ernest Meissonier and the Op Art of his day, while simultaneously experimenting with holographic and stereoscopic effects.
Salvador Dalí, La gare de Perpignan, 1965, oil on canvas, 295 x 406 cm, Ludwig Donation 1990 description of the image
By the 1930s, the Paris Surrealist group around their chief André Breton, who the year before had published his Second Surrealist Manifesto, constituted the movement's undisputed international centre. Joan Miró had moved to Paris in order to "assassinate painting", and in 1929 had introduced his young fellow Catalonian Dalí to the group. Pablo Picasso was close to the movement for a while when he went through his "surrealist phase". Apart from the already mentioned artists and poets, the Paris group also included the visual artists Man Ray, Francis Picabia, Hans Arp, André Masson and Alberto Giacometti, as well as the poets Louis Aragon, René Crevel, Jacques Prévert and René Char. Some members were excommunicated from the group by rival members who in some cases subscribed to an ideal form of Communism, while others left of their own free will. The Surrealists, who spanned two generations at least - even Dalí was from the younger generation - were by now considerably larger in number, more international, and more diverse in style, ranging as they did from abstraction to hyperrealism, than comparable momvements. Yves Tanguy, the Chilean Roberto Matta, the Belgian Paul Delvaux and the New Yorker Joseph Cornell are further famous examples. Likewise the young German Surrealist Richard Oelze was inspired by Max Ernst to live for several years in Paris from 1932 on. His frottages and décalcomanies were only able to catch on after 1945, because previously the ruling national Socialists had vilified Surrealism as "degenerate art" and its military aggression and racist persecution had led many artists to emigrate to the USA. But by the time the war had ended, Surrealism's avant-garde period was oer. One of the Surrealists' most important, trail-blazing international exhibitions was the show in 1938 at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, which Breton and Éluard curated in consultation with Dalí and Ernst. Among of the sensations was Dalí's Taxi pluvieux (Rain Taxi) with a shop window mannequin in the back of the car complete with a population of snails crawling over her, and Duchamp's street in which he installed 1200 coal sacks hanging from the ceiling and a floor covered in moss and leaves. Both the Dada as well as the Surrealist performances and installations, as well as the painterly aspects of Surrealism found their continuation several decades later through the inspiration they gave to American Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Fluxus and Nouveau Réalisme.