André Breton

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André Breton (French pronunciation: [ɑ̃dʁe bʁəˈtɔ̃]; 19 February 1896 – 28 September 1966) was a French writer, poet, and surrealist theorist, and is best known as the principal founder of Surrealism. His writings include the Surrealist Manifesto (Manifeste du surréalisme) of 1924, in which he defined surrealism as "pure psychic automatism".



Born to a family of modest means in Tinchebray (Orne) in Normandy, he studied medicine and psychiatry. During World War I he worked in a neurological ward in Nantes, where he met the devotee of Alfred Jarry, Jacques Vaché, whose anti-social attitude and disdain for established artistic tradition influenced Breton considerably. Vaché committed suicide at age 24 and his war-time letters to Breton and others were published in a volume entitled Lettres de guerre (1919), for which Breton wrote four introductory essays.

Breton married his first wife, Simone Kahn, on 15 September 1921. The couple moved to 42 rue Fontaine in Paris on 1 January 1922. The apartment at 42 rue Fontaine became home to Breton's collection of over 5,300 items: modern paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, books, art catalogs, journals, manuscripts, and works of popular and Oceanic art.

From Dada to Surrealism

In 1919 Breton founded the review Littérature with Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault. He also associated with Dadaist Tristan Tzara. In 1924 he was instrumental to the founding of the Bureau of Surrealist Research.

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