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Surrealism and Magic

Surrealism and Magic

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With its genesis in the personal library of artist Kurt Seligmann, the acknowledged magic expert of the surrealist group, this collaboration of the Johnson Museum and Cornell Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections examines the surrealists’ interests in magic, the supernatural, and indigenous spirituality as expressed in their art and writings. By illuminating this less-studied aspect of their practice, Surrealism and Magic will consider how historical sources and world events drove surrealist artists to seek a magical presence in their world.

Along with rare books on magic and witchcraft from the fifteenth through twentieth centuries from Seligmann’s library (acquired by Cornell upon the artist’s death in 1962), magic-themed works of art by Seligmann will be shown with drawings, collages, and paintings by other surrealists and artists in their circle, including André Breton, Victor Brauner, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Roberto Matta, Jean Dubuffet, Enrico Donati, and Wifredo Lam.

Books, pamphlets, correspondence, ephemera, and film will contextualize the concept of magic, trace surrealism’s changing presence both in Paris and the Americas during World War II, express the viewpoints of key figures, and reveal the surrealists’ interest in the American landscape, Native North American art, Haitian vodou, and Cuban santería.

Surrealism and Magic will travel to the Boca Raton Museum of Art (January 26–April 5, 2015). 

This exhibition was curated by Andrew Weislogel, the Seymour R. Askin, Jr. ’47 Curator, Earlier European and American Art, at the Johnson Museum, and Laurent Ferri, curator of pre-1800 collections, Cornell Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, and supported in part by the French Studies Program. We are also grateful for the cooperation and support of the Seligmann Center at the Orange County Citizens Foundation in Sugar Loaf, New York.