Multiple artists

Cadavre exquis [Exquisite Corpse] (9 February 1938)

About this artwork

The Cadavre Exquis (Exquisite Corpse) was a favourite surrealist game from the mid-1920s onwards. It usually involved three or four participants who added to a drawing, collage or sentence, without seeing what the others had already done. This work is one of several made by Breton, his second wife Jacqueline Lamba, and Yves Tanguy, while on a weekend holiday together in February 1938. However, this piece might have been made collaboratively rather than by folding the paper to hide the previous contribution, since there are no fold lines on the paper.

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Andre Breton

Yves Tanguy

Jacqueline Lamba

Andre Breton

André Breton was the founder and chief theorist of the surrealist movement. Through his study of medicine and work with the insane, he became interested in irrational imagery. After serving as a medical auxiliary during the First World War, he discovered the work of Sigmund Freud. The subjects of psychiatry, the illogical and the unconscious mind appealed greatly to the Surrealists. By 1924 Breton had become a prominent figure in the Parisian avant garde and had gathered around him a group of poets and artists interested in exploring the subconscious. The surrealist movement was launched that year with Breton's 'Manifesto of Surrealism'.

Yves Tanguy

Tanguy was born in Paris. He had no formal art training but decided to become a painter in 1923 after seeing two paintings by the Italian metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico in the window of an art gallery, while riding on a bus. He had previously been in the merchant navy until 1922. Tanguy became a member of the surrealist group in 1925 and had his first solo exhibition just two years later. By this time he had already developed a distinctive style of painting, which featured strange landscapes inhabited by cell-like shapes. In 1939 Tanguy moved to America and became an American citizen eight years later.

Jacqueline Lamba

Jacqueline Lamba married André Breton, the leader of the Surrealist Group, in 1934. A talented artist in her own right, Lamba participated in many Surrealist activities and her paintings appeared in group exhibitions from 1934 to 1948. The Bretons moved to New York in the early years of the Second World War, joining a number of Surrealists who were already exiled there.