February 20, 2019 - The Baltimore Museum of Art - Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s
February 20, 2019

The Baltimore Museum of Art

Salvador Dalí, Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War), 1936. Philadelphia Museum of Art: The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Artists Rights Society.

Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s
February 24–May 26, 2019

Opening celebration: February 24, 1–5pm, Free admission, performances, art activities

The Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive
Baltimore, Maryland 21218
USA
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 10am–5pm

T +1 443 573 1700
F +1 443 573 1582
bmasocial@artbma.org

www.artbma.org
Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s
February 24–May 26, 2019

Opening celebration: February 24, 1–5pm, Free admission, performances, art activities

The Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive
Baltimore, Maryland 21218
USA
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 10am–5pm

T +1 443 573 1700
F +1 443 573 1582
bmasocial@artbma.org

www.artbma.org
Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

During the pivotal years between the world wars, European and American avant-garde artists responded to the rise of Hitler and the spread of Fascism by creating some of the most compelling images of the Surrealist movement. Monstros­ities in the real world bred monsters in paintings and sculpture, on film, and in the pages of journals and artists’ books. Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s is the first major exhibition to examine how 20th-century European and American artists used monsters and mythic figures to depict their experiences of war, violence, and exile. On view February 24–May 26, 2019, this groundbreaking exhbition includes 90 masterworks by Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, André Masson, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Dorothea Tanning, and others who were deeply affected by the political turmoil caused by the Spanish Civil War and World War II. 

The Surrealists first came together in 1924 in response to the carnage of World War I. Many of the artists had served in that conflict and became extremely antinationalistic and antimilitary. They were interested in the new field of psychology and drew inspiration from Sigmund Freud’s theories of the unconscious, dream analysis, and free association. Images from mythology with demons and other menacing creatures were often employed as metaphors for the threat of violence and the experience of war. Many European Surrealist artists sought refuge in the United States and artists like Masson and Ernst began combining mythological figures with images of the animal and plant life they encountered during their travels around the country. The work of the exiled Europeans influenced young American artists such as Jackson Pollock, Rothko, and Tanning, who began experimenting with some of the same subjects and artistic techniques.  

The BMA's exhibition is organized thematically on prominent subjects such as the Minotaur, as well as the artists’ responses to social and political upheavals, including Premonition of War, The Spanish Civil War, World War II, and Surrealism in the Americas.  Exhibition highlights include Picasso’s Minotauromachy (1935), Dalí’s Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of a Civil War) (1936), Ernst’s Europe After the Rain II (1940–42), and Masson’s There Is No Finished World (1942). Among the works by American artists responding to the war are Rothko’s The Syrian Bull (1943) and Tanning’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1945/46). The exhibition concludes with two films: Un Chien Andalou (1929) by Luis Buñuel and Dalí and Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) by Maya Deren. 

Both the BMA and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art were at the forefront of promoting Surrealist art in the United States. The Wadsworth presented the first U.S. exhibition of Surrealist art in 1931. One of the BMA’s most generous donors, Saidie Adler May, collected works by Surrealist and other European and American avant-garde artists and gave many of them to the museum. She also provided the funds to rescue artist André Masson and his family from Nazi-occupied France in May 1941. Six months later, the BMA presented the first U.S. retrospective of Masson’s work, which opened on October 31, 1941.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by Rizzoli Electa with essays by exhibition curators Oliver Shell, BMA Associate Curator of European Painting & Sculpture, and Oliver Tostmann, Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Art at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Other contributors are Robin Adèle Greeley, Associate Professor of Modern & Contemporary Latin American Art History at the University of Connecticut and the author of Surrealism and the Spanish Civil War, and Samantha Kavky, Associate Professor of Art History at Pennsylvania State University-Berks and co-editor of the Journal of Surrealism and the Americas.

Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s is co-organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. The Baltimore presentation is curated by BMA Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture Oliver Shell. 

For exhibition tickets and information, visit artbma.org or call T 443 573 1701.

This exhibition and related programs have been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and by generous funding from Transamerica, The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Exhibition Endowment Fund, and The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

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