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André Breton

3 of 7 portraits of Andr? Breton

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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André Breton

by Ida Kar
2 1/4 inch square film negative, 1960
Purchased, 1999
Photographs Collection
NPG x132973

Sitterback to top

  • Andr? Breton (1896-1966), Poet and critic. Sitter in 7 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Ida Kar (1908-1974), Photographer. Artist or producer associated with 1567 portraits, Sitter in 137 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Kar photographed Breton at the studio of his Paris apartment, 42 rue Fontaine, near Montmatre, where he lived at the time with his third wife Elisa. Breton moved to this address in 1922 and the flat served as the hub of surrealism. Breton is seen at his writing desk surrounded by the artefacts he collected. On the wall hangs one of his most treasured paintings, Giorgio De Chirico's The Child's Brain (1914) and a portrait by Pablo Picasso.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Freestone, Clare (appreciation) Wright, Karen (appreciation), Ida Kar Bohemian Photographer, 2011 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 March to 19 June 2011), p. 111 Read entry

    The poet and critic Breton studied medicine and psychiatry before serving in the First World War. Through his friendship with Guillaume Apollinaire, Breton met Philippe Soupault, and, together with Louis Aragon, they co-founded the review Littérature (1919-24). In 1920 Breton and Soupault published Les champs magnétiques (The Magnetic Fields), the first example of the surrealist technique of automatic writing, influenced by Freud's analyses of the human unconscious. In 1924 Breton officially inched the surrealist movement with the publication of the first Surrealist Manifesto. He was editor of La révolution surréaliste from 1924 and helped organise the first surrealist group exhibition in 1925. Important publications include critical works, such as Le surréalisme et le peinture (Surrealism and Painting, 1926), and the novels Nadja (1933) and L'Amour fou (Mad Love, 1937). Kar photographed Breton at his Paris apartment-studio, 42 rue Fontaine, near Montmartre, where he lived with his third wife, Elisa. Breton moved to this address in 1922 and the flat served as the central office of surrealism. Breton is seen at his writing desk surrounded by the artefacts he collected. On the wall hangs one of Breton's most treasured paintings, Giorgio de Chirico's The Child's Brain (1914), and a portrait by Picasso.

Placesback to top

  • Place made and portrayed: France (sitters' home, 42 rue Fontaine near Montmatre, Paris, France)

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1960back to top

Current affairs

Prince Andrew is born, the third child of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.
The Contraceptive Pill is introduced in England, dramatically changing the nation's approach to sex and relationships, and significantly contributing to the 1960s culture of liberation.

Art and science

Penguin books defend D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover against charges of obscenity by demonstrating that the novel was of literary merit. The 'not guilty' verdict was seen as a victory for free speech and marked the beginning if a new era of liberalism.
The satirical revue Beyond the Fringe launches the careers of Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller.


Harold Macmillan delivers his 'wind of change' speech to the South African Parliament in Cape Town, announcing Britain's decision to grant independence to many of her colonies. The speech recognised the emergence of African nationalism, and criticised the policy of Apartheid in South Africa.

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