Astrological chart of Charles Baudelaire by André Breton, dating from 1926 to 1930.
We do not possess the sort of skill required to comment on this astrological chart of Charles Baudelaire, which can be dated sometime between 1926 and 1930, and we leave the reader to enjoy meandering through the interpretative fragments that follow, and which compose a kind of portrait - whether or not there is a resemblance is of little consequence. Let’s note only that along with other astrological charts, it represents one of the major parts of Breton's archives, for a very simple reason: when they were discovered in 2003 it make it clear that Breton's interest in astrology had been much more committed than previously known. To know human destiny - this horizon appeared as early as the ‘sommeils’ of 1922, the period of sleeping-fits, when Desnos, encouraged by his friends’ repeated questions, made predictions that generally had little basis in any methodology. The 1925 ‘Letter to the Seers’ saw Breton increasingly commit himself to a more methodical approach, even though this method might hardly seem credible to a modern mind. But was it not a question, as early as the 1924 Manifesto, of breaking with the scientific spirit, whose aporias and inadequacies were all too evident? Henceforth, astrology and, more generally, the alchemical tradition, became established as alternative forms of knowledge, in the same way as myth, though not necessarily as a belief to which one was forced to adhere; rather as another way of seeing, a heterodox way of approaching the enigmas of a world potentially rich in discoveries. Breton thus gradually became interested in the reviled practices of palmists, clairvoyants, and astrologers. For him it would only ever be a question of formally examining the beliefs of others. However, these astrological charts show how tempted he was to take the step from intellectual interest to belief. If they remained discreetly filed away in his personal archives, it is undoubtedly because he never permanently settled into this belief, experienced more as a temptation than as a faith. The context should also be taken into account: a book like Arcane 17, in 1944, indisputably shifts towards a culture that in 1930 might have appeared retrograde and, moreover, contradictory to the positions taken by the surrealists on religion. At the time when Breton drew up these astrological charts, he was a long way from being able to make his interest public: this would contribute to blurring the ideological position of a group that remained under the spotlight, subjected to the suspicions of the "official" Marxists, i.e., the Communist Party. To demonstrate one's adherence to Marx's philosophy meant rejecting in advance the ‘opium of the people’, both official religion and popular superstition. The exhibition Le surréalisme en 1947 created some controversy with the Revolutionary Surrealists due to the religious dimension of the culture on display (the altars, the reference to myth). In the 1950s Breton finally became more openly involved with magic and occultism, but would continue taking a cultural approach. In this respect, L'Art magique (1957) was a key work in which Breton examined the history of art to argue that magic was its essential component from the days of cave art until the most recent manifestations of modern art. [Atelier André Breton website, 2005]
Astrological Theme, sd [circa 1926-1930].
- Astrological chart of Charles Baudelaire by André Breton in ink, 1 page in-12 square. [sale catalogue, 2003]
*This entry was translated from the French by Michael Richardson.
|Creation date||circa 1926 - 1930|
1 page in-12 square
|Physical description||Ms - encres noire et rouge ; crayon sur papier blanc|
|Breton Auction, 2003||Lot 2111|
|Categories||Archives, Andre Breton's Manuscripts|
|Set||[AB's Manuscripts] Thèmes astrologiques|