The Mutilation of Women in Surrealist Art Works

By Marie-Thérèse Killiam.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Theory and History

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This article looks at the gendered quality of surrealist art, and will show how women are objectified and vilified on article and on canvas. I will pay particular attention to Eluard’s and Breton’s text, L’Immaculée Conception because this text best exemplifies the subconscious production of gendered images, being automatic and therefore subconscious in character. I will, of course, consider the most emblematic paintings created in that period by examining the use of Woman as art and allegory, with the subsequent exploitation of her sex as fetish and emblematic in a very fetishized text. It will be apparent from my study that women are portrayed as monsters with their faces and bodies, either hidden or disarticulated. Their representation often involves bodies that are mutilated or disembodied, following an archetypal imagery that is reminiscent of a castrating/castrated Medusa. The regressive character of surrealist art as regards gender is particularly disturbing given the stated goal of Breton in L’Immaculée Conception that functions as a manifesto of surrealist automatic art that art must be the production of a sex-free unconscious. The surrealist art production is the clear illustration of the opposite.

Keywords: Surrealism, Women, Art

The International Journal of Arts Theory and History, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp.49-65. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 827.845KB).

Dr. Marie-Thérèse Killiam

Professor of French, Department of Languages and Cultures, Sweet Briar College, Sweet Briar, Virginia, USA