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The Lives of the Surrealists

Desmond Morris


A biographical survey of the principal Surrealists by one of the last surviving members of the movement, bestselling author and artist Desmond Morris, who knew many of the key participants personally

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Also available as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon


No other art movement in history has contained two artists as different as Magritte and Miró. This is because Surrealism was not in origin an art movement, but a philosophical strategy. It was a way of life – a rebellion against the establishment that had given the world the hideous slaughter of the First World War. Instead of trying to analyse the work of the Surrealists, bestselling author and Surrealist artist Desmond Morris concentrates on them as people – as remarkable individuals. What were their personalities, their predilections, their character strengths and flaws? Did they enjoy a social life or were they loners? Were they bold eccentrics or timid recluses?

Drawing on the author’s personal knowledge of the Surrealists, this book captures their life histories, idiosyncrasies and often-complex love lives, vividly illustrated with images of the artists and their works. The arts of Surrealism were both spectacular and international, shaped by the darkest, most irrational workings of the unconscious. Shocking, witty and always entertaining, Morris's tales illuminate the striking variation in approaches to the Surrealist philosophy, both in the artists’ work and in their lives.

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'Morris’s eye for detail is a delight. He writes with a pleasingly conversational tone and a dry humour and affection that undercuts the more preposterous behaviour described here … Juicy little nuggets litter the book'
The Times

'Gossipy, waspish, biased, score-settling and very entertaining'
Literary Review

'Uproariously funny … [Morris’s] anecdotes are all told with a dry but good-natured humour … these figures make for highly entertaining company'

'Vastly entertaining … Morris has all the scrupulousness of a scientist but he also has the eye of a novelist'
Financial Times

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Further Details


Format: Hardback

Size: 24.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 272 pp

Publication date: 3 May 2018

ISBN: 9780500021361

Contents List

Foreword • Introduction • Eileen Agar • Jean (Hans) Arp • Francis Bacon • Hans Bellmer • Victor Brauner • André Breton • Alexander Calder • Leonora Carrington • Giorgio de Chirico • Salvador Dalí • Paul Delvaux • Marcel Duchamp • Max Ernst • Leonor Fini • Wilhelm Freddie • Alberto Giacometti • Arshile Gorky • Wifredo Lam • Conroy Maddox • René Magritte • André Masson • Roberto Matta • Edouard Mesens • Joan Miró • Meret Oppenheim • Wolfgang Paalen • Roland Penrose • Pablo Picasso • Man Ray • Yves Tanguy • Dorothea Tanning • Major Surrealist Group Exhibitions

About the Author

Desmond Morris is one of the last surviving Surrealists. His first solo exhibition was held in 1948 and in 1950 he shared his first London show with Joan Miró. He has since completed over 2,500 Surrealist paintings, and eight books have been published about his work. He has also written several books, one of which – The Naked Ape – ranks among the top 100 bestsellers of all time, with over 12 million copies sold.