Breton, André (1896–1966) By Cunningham, Anne
André Breton was a French poet, writer, editor and critic. He is best known as one of the key founders of Surrealism. Breton published the Le Manifeste du Surréalisme (The Manifesto of Surrealism) in 1924, announcing the central theme of the pre-eminence of the irrational and the automatic over logic and reason, encouraging free expression and the release of the subconscious mind in an effort to reject and overthrow social and moral conventions. Influenced by Sigmund Freud’s theories of the unconscious, Surrealism sought to blur the distinctions between dream and reality, reason and madness, objectivity and subjectivity. Breton was a strict disciplinarian within the movement, expelling many members, and was nicknamed ‘The Pope of Surrealism.’ Breton’s other well known works of fiction include Nadja (1928) and L’Amour fou (1937—Mad Love). During World War II, Breton’s writing was banned by the Vichy government, and he fled France until 1946 when he returned to Paris. He was an avid collector of modern art, ethnographic materials, and unusual objects. His collection of over 5,300 pieces was open to researchers at his Paris apartment after his death in 1966 until 2003, but was closed after attempts to form a surrealist foundation failed, and his collection was auctioned off. A wall of his apartment is preserved today at the Centre Georges Pompidou.