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Wifredo Lam

Wifredo Lam, The long nostalgia of poets



Author André Breton
People cited Charles Baudelaire, Wifredo Lam, Pierre Loeb, Pablo Picasso


Manuscript text by André Breton about the painter Wifredo Lam from 1941 or 1942 republished in Le Surréalisme et la Peinture in 1965.

Discovered in 1938 through the intermediary of Picasso, Wifredo Lam would be among those close to Breton during the difficult years of exile. In this text affirming the exceptional quality of a body of work and a poetic temperament, the critique sets great store by a heavyweight authority: Picasso, whose respect and enjoyment of Lam’s work stem, in Breton’s view, from the fact that the elder artist sees his younger colleague taking a path that is absolutely the reverse of his own, with the Cuban painter regaining civilisation via the primitive while the Spaniard pushes the civilised all the way to the primitive. [Atelier André Breton website, 2005]

Handwritten manuscript, dated 1941? [1941 or 1942].
- 2 numbered and titled in-4° manuscript pages by André Breton of this text about the painter Wifredo Lam and the constant support afforded him by Pablo Picasso:
‘The long nostalgia of poets, from the nineteenth century onwards, and the more concrete and insistent flattery of the painters of the twentieth century could not fail, eventually, to seduce the soul of Africa – the Africa that Baudelaire called “superb” – into responding. […] 

I wonder if we should not see in this the secret of the reason why Picasso has chosen to show a greater interest in Wifredo Lam than in any of the other younger painters. Those who were sent or taken by Picasso in 1938 to Lam’s first exhibition, at the Galerie Pierre, will remember the tremendous satisfaction which Picasso, a man who is notoriously hard to please even where his own work is concerned, derived from these paintings by another artist. Not only that, but he continued to lend Lam his support and encouragement […].
New edition of Le Surréalisme et la peinture, Gallimard, 1965. [Auction catalogue, 2003]


‘The text was published in English on the occasion of the exhibition Lam presented, on André Breton’s instigation, from 17 November to 5 December 1942 at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.’ (Notes et variantes, Pléiade volume IV, p. 1310) [Atelier André Breton website, 2014]


Translated by Krzysztof Fijalkowski


- VVV, n°1, juin 1942

- André Breton (Édition publiée sous la , direction d'Étienne-Alain Hubert avec la collaboration de Philippe Bernier et Marie-Claire Dumas), « Wifredo Lam, À la longue nostalgie des poètes », Le Surréalisme et la Peinture, Œuvres complètes, tome IV, Écrits sur l'art et autres textes, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, Gallimard, 2008, pages 553-556.


Creation datecirca 1941
Bibliographical material

2 numbered in-4° pages.

Date of publication 1941
Physical descriptionMs - encre verte

Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet, Paris : BRT 82

Breton Auction, 2003Lot 2238
Keywords, , , ,
CategoriesAndre Breton's Manuscripts
Set[Breton's Manuscripts and Drawings] dossier Le Surréalisme et la peinture, [Journal] VVV
ExhibitionLam, 1942
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Exhibition place