Exquisite Corpse in ink and black pencil, created May 17, 1927.
Authors' names written on the back by André Breton
"The Exquisite Corpse, if we remember correctly—and if we dare say it—originated around 1925 in the old house, since destroyed, at 54 rue du Château. Before he devoted himself to the study of American literature, Marcel Duhamel worked in the industry of fanciful (but high-style) hotels, and this is where he used that position to host his friends Jacques Prévert and Yves Tanguy. Those two excelled in the art of living . They could enliven a room with their sallies. Benjamin Péret stayed there for a while, too. Absolute non-conformity and general disrespect were the fashion there, and good humor reigned. It was a time for pleasure, nothing else. Almost every evening, we would gather around a table, mixing mellow Château-Yquem with other, more tonic wines.
When the conversation began to lose its vigor concerning the events of the day and proposals of amusing or scandalous interventions we could make in our lives, we would turn to games. We started with writing games, devised so that the normal elements of conversation were distorted and made as paradoxical as possible. In that way, human communication, twisted from the start, led us as much as possible toward adventure. From that time on, no one was prejudiced against children's games, for we found we felt the same zeal for them as we had felt in childhood, and more. Seeing that games could turn our meetings upside down, we had no trouble agreeing that the Exquisite Corpse method is not significantly different from the methods of "good books". Nothing was easier than to transpose this method from writing to drawing, using the same folding and hiding system."
"EXQUISITE CORPSE.—A game in which several people compose a phrase or drawing together, folding the paper so that no one can see the previous collaboration or collaborations. The now-classic example, which gave the game its name, was the first phrase created in this method: the exquisite-corpse-drank-the new-wine." (Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme)
"The malicious critics of the years 1925 to 1930 simultaneously complained that we were caught up in puerile games and suspected us of having individually (and laboriously) produced the game's “monsters” in full sight—yet further proof of the critics’ carelessness. What excited us about these games is that no single mind could have made what they created, and that they had a great deal of the power of drift, which poetry too often lacks. With the Exquisite Corpse we found a way—finally—to escape our self-criticism and fully release the mind’s metaphorical activity.
All this holds equally true for visual creations as for verbal ones. Let me add that the game raises a considerable enigma: the frequent agreement and similarity of elements in a single phrase or drawing. This agreement not only emphasizes the occasional extreme discordances, it suggests a tacit—though only mental—communication between the participants. Though we should test the connection with calculus and controls of probability and deflate it to its proper limits, it will ultimately, we think, prove its existence.
In their proclivity for composition and subject, Exquisite Corpse drawings bring anthropomorphism to its extreme. They emphasize chance relationships, that which unites the interior and exterior worlds. They negate the frantic, derisory imitation of physical appearances, which is still the most prominent—and most contestable— part of contemporary art, and to which art remains anachronistically subject. May they oppose all those wholesome precepts of indocility that try to exclude humor, and find a less embryonic means." André Breton (Le surréalisme et la peinture, Nouvelle édition revue et corrigée, 1928-1965, Paris, Gallimard, 1965, pp. 288-290).
- Octavio Paz (préface de), Jean-Michel Goutier (choix des textes et catalogue établi par), André Breton, Je vois, j'imagine, Paris, Gallimard, 1991, rep.p. 57, n° 25
|Creation date||17 mai 1927|
|Date of publication||1927|
|Physical description||31,5 x 19,7 cm (12 3/8 x 7 3/4 in.) - Encre, crayons de couleur et crayon noir|
|Copyright||© ADAGP, Paris, 2005.|
|Breton Auction, 2003||Lot 4251|
|Keywords||Graphic Arts, Assemblage or collage, Cadacre exquis, Surrealist Games|
|Categories||Graphics, Objects by André Breton|
|Set||[Surrealists Games] Cadavres exquis|