Other Andrew Otwell Art History papers

American Surrealism and View Magazine

© Andrew Otwell, 1996

The young poet Charles Henri Ford started View magazine in his New York apartment in 1940. Ford considered himself a Surrealist, and had been encouraged in his work by André Breton, the leader of that movement in Paris in the 1930's. When Ford returned to the United States, he started View as an avant-garde literary magazine. The magazine ran from September 1940 through March 1947, appearing quarterly and monthly as circumstances permitted. Ford initially intended View as a journal of contemporary events compiled of writings by his literary friends in Europe. The magazine soon evolved into much more. Ford wrote to his mother in 1945 that "our prestige grows by leaps and bounds. View is now the world's leading journal of avant-garde art & literature. And I'd like to hold the position won. . . ."[1] His statement was not an exaggeration. By 1945 View had published writing by Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Henry Miller, Paul Bowles, and Surrealists Breton, Nicolas Calas, and Benjamin Peret. It had also produced special issues on artists Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, Pavel Tchelitchew, and Marcel Duchamp, with covers commissioned from each. View reproduced works by other contemporary artists had been reproduced in its pages as well. The magazine also ran columns on contemporary jazz and theatre.

Ford later noted that "we did launch and sponsor the Surrealists in America. They had nothing else going for them during the war. . . ."[2] Though his initial interest in Surrealism was strong, View never became an official Surrealist magazine like the French magazines Minotaure or La Révolution Surrealiste. Ford's interests were too broad for him to submit to the strict guidelines enforced on Surrealist publications by its French leaders, and he regularly published authors who had no interest in Surrealism. Ford's independence even led to a violent break with Nicolas Calas, a Surrealist who had contributed to early issues of View.[3]

The problem was that Ford had no intention of producing an obscure avant-garde magazine. Rather, he wanted to establish what he called a "popular front" in the arts.[4] Ford recognized not only that Surrealism had potential as an artistic philosophy, but that he could exploit its fashionable visual appeal in his magazine. Parker Tyler, Ford's lifelong friend and assistant editor of View remarked in 1967 that Ford's "practical vision grasp[ed] the strategy of making a cultural popular front between fashionable transatlantic elements and neglected aspects of American talent. . . ."[5]

Dickran Tashjian has pointed out that Ford's talents as an editor were matched by his "gravitation toward the wealthy for their patronage and privilege. . . ."[6] Increasingly in the middle 1940's Ford used his considerable social connections to reach a wider audience for the magazine. Even the subtitle of View changed from "Through the eyes of the poet" in the early issues to "The Modern Magazine" to reflect the magazine's broad presence in art, music, theatre, and literature. In letters to his parents, Ford often showed great enthusiasm for the business of publishing a successful magazine and recognized the importance of his role as editor. He wrote in 1943 to thank his father for buying shares in the newly organized View, Inc., "I know that View will be paying dividends before long. . . .There's more glory in being a poet [than a doctor], I think. . . . I admire the heroes of art above all!"[7] A year later he wrote to his mother that "I really think it has a chance to make a commercial success - which is what it must do if it's to last a long time."[8]

The year 1942 was a crucial one both for View magazine and for Surrealism in the United States. View's second series began with a special issue on Max Ernst in April. This issue was the first in a magazine format with color cover and many reproductions inside. This change indicated the magazine's increased commitment to becoming a prominent art periodical.[9] In that year, Pierre Matisse held the first one-man shows in this country of newly arrived European Surrealist painters André Masson, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, and Matta. Matisse also held an exhibition of "Artists in Exile" that introduced the work of many artists to a wider audience. Peggy Guggenheim's "Art of this Century" gallery, which eventually brought together and influenced the young Abstract Expressionists, opened in 1942 with a great deal of publicity. Just days later, André Breton's landmark "First Papers of Surrealism" exhibition also opened in New York. Marticia Sawin has described these exhibitions as "extraordinary showcases for the works [the Surrealists] . . . continued to produce, complete with a press response American painters had not even begun to dream of."[10]

This paper will discuss several of the important art events of 1942, and focus on View's first attempts at defining its own identity as distinct from European Surrealism. A strong reaction to European Surrealism is apparent in the May 1942 special issue on Russian-born artist Pavel Tchelitchew. The writing in that issue informed Ford's editorial position in the "Americana Fantastica" issue in January 1943, in which he defined a new "Fantastic" art.[11] This paper will show how the magazine promoted Tchelitchew, who also had a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art in September of 1942, as an example of its unique concept of American art.

Surrealism in the United States: 1936- 1942

The critical responses to Surrealism in America defined the climate into which View magazine entered its important Second Series (April 1942 - January 1943). The movement occupied a somewhat less controversial position in the early 1940's than it had the previous decade. Critics no longer overwhelmingly saw it as a subversive artistic threat, though its emphasis on the irrational still suggested to many that modern artists were somehow insane. In many ways, critics did not even consider Surrealism particularly innovative until several years later after having introduced automatic painting and drawing techniques to the Abstract Expressionists.

The late 1930's saw several major exhibitions that established the understanding of Surrealist art in the United States for the following decade. In early 1936, the Museum of Modern Art opened "Cubism and Abstract Art," which included some artists already part of the official Surrealist movement. In the catalog the museum's director Alfred Barr, Jr. broke down Surrealism into "abstract" and a "veristic" styles. The automatic drawing techniques of André Masson and Joan Miro typified the first category. Barr considered the illusionistic works of artists like Salvador Dali to be"veristic" Surrealism, though the show included few examples of this type.[12] Historian Melvin Lader has noted that by

concentrating on abstraction, the exhibition may have suggested to many viewers that abstract Surrealism was more confluent with the mainstream of modern art and hence was more valid as a contemporary art style than illusionistic art.[13]

The reception of the second major exhibition at MOMA in 1936 suggests that Lader was correct. "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism" was an enormous event. It included nearly 700 works were included, some as historically distant as Hieronymous Bosch's paintings from the 15th century. Lader noted that not since the Armory Show in 1913 had the public discussed an art exhibition as much as "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism."[14] It did include illusionistic Surrealism, which the press soundly criticized. A review in Art Digest by Sibilla Skidelsky called the show "a huge absurdity" and "a farce" by "sham artists whose commercial ability has always been very developed."[15] These artists, Skidelsky wrote, were exhibiting in New York only because their own countries had lost interest in their art.[16]

The influence exerted by the initial reviews of "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism" was substantial.[17] The public was able to form negative opinions about the movement several years prior to the arrival in the United States of most of its artists. The criticism of Surrealism's commercial appeal would follow it through the 1940's. By 1939, artists had begun to arrive and to exhibit at Julien Levy's New York gallery with some success.

Much criticism of Surrealism in the early 1940's no longer emphasized its strangeness or artistic bankruptcy. Certain artists, such as Max Ernst, Joan Miro, and to some extent Salvador Dali, had already established reputations as serious, if bizarre, artists. A review of a Miro and Ernst show in 1941 decided that "there is plenty of good fun, even clean, available among them. The air seems to have cleared since they were in full swing four years ago."[18] The editor of Art Digest already saw Surrealism as a thing of the past in 1941: "Definitely wacky . . . but a respite from boring stodgy art. . . . [It] at last brought imagination into full play and . . . contributed a refreshing not of escape from a world so sane that it has practically committed suicide. Maybe they were the voice of their age."[19] The editor's statement about "a world so sane" stemmed from the most positive review of "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism" in which Lewis Mumford had written that "It would be absurd to dismiss Surrealism as crazy. Maybe it is our civilization that is crazy. Has it not used all the powers of the rational intellect . . . to universalize meaningless War and to turn whole states into fascist madhouses?"[20]

Even the tone of articles outside of art periodicals indicated that Surrealist art was becoming less of a curiosity at this time. In December 1941, Fortune magazine published "The Great Flight of Culture," an essay about the large number of European artists and intellectuals who had fled cultural oppression. This essay was accompanied by "Artists in Exile," a section of color plates that reproduced works by several artists, including Ernst, Tanguy, Mondrian, and two works by Tchelitchew. "Artists in Exile" was also the name of an exhibition of European artists at Pierre Matisse. "The Great Flight of Culture" encouraged the United States to welcome the cultural refugees and to foster a climate in which they could continue to work.[21] The essay lamented the lack in New York of cafés that had fostered French intellectual activity, and the absence of both sympathetic publishers and a sizable art public willing to consider experimental art.[22] It concluded that ". . . for American art and thought there is one certainty: for better or for worse it cannot escape European influences more powerful than those exerted by the mere transatlantic interaction of past generations."[23] The Fortune article marked a change in the public's attitude of five years before, when a reviewer of the "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism" show had written disparagingly that the exhibition served only to allow Surrealism "to perpetuate itself and to survive, transplanted to another country."[24]

Reviews of the opening of Peggy Guggenheim's gallery and of the large "First Papers of Surrealism" exhibition, both in 1942, also showed the critical reception of the movement. These two shows were the most important appearances of Surrealist art to the general public in the early 1940's. Reviews of both shows focused more on the unprecedented installations than on the art itself, which suggests that by this time Surrealist art had become somewhat routine. Certainly critics no longer perceived it as advanced or as innovative in any technical sense. Implicit in this perception of Surrealist art is the recognition that though it was a European export, the United States had become by 1942 a viable location for the exhibition of avant-garde art. This situation contributed in no small part to the emergence of Abstract Expressionism in American art in the late 1940's.

The Austrian architect and theater designer Frederick Kiesler, though himself not an official member of the Surrealist group, was a close friend of Breton and was sympathetic to his ideas. In his first significant commission in the United States Kiesler produced an installation of Peggy Guggenheim's private collection of twentieth-century art that astounded visitors. "Art of This Century" consisted of two main galleries, one devoted to abstract art and the other to Surrealist works. The abstract gallery incorporated progressive display techniques such as the hanging of paintings without frames on thin members that ran from floor to ceiling. The Surrealist gallery, though, was truly radical. In a long narrow room paintings were suspended on adjustable arms that jutted out from curved blue walls. Each half of the room was alternately lit and darkened every few minutes, though complaints about difficult viewing conditions eventually forced Guggenheim to leave the lights on at all times. The sound of a train was played at high volume through the gallery at regular intervals.[25]

The Surrealist gallery also received the most attention in the press. Reviews of the opening exhibition of Guggenheim's museum focused overwhelmingly on Kiesler's designs. The small number of comments about the art itself in reviews indicated that in the minds of many viewers, the works were "practically all very familiar or very typical."[26] Sawin noted that several other magazines, including Vogue, ran photographs of the gallery that year, which indicated the level of acceptance that Surrealism was enjoying as a fashionable movement.[27] Even the negative reviews of the project did not discuss the art works at length.[28] Peggy Guggenheim's own press release for the opening may have contributed to the concentration on the gallery itself. Guggenheim hoped that her gallery would become a "center where artists will be welcome and where they can feel that they are cooperating in establishing a research laboratory for new ideas." Further, she wrote that Art of This Century "will serve its purpose only if it succeeds in serving the future instead of recording the past."[29] Though Kiesler's designs were certainly arresting, Guggenheim may have focused attention on them with her words.

Reactions to the art in the "First Papers of Surrealism" show at the Whitelaw-Reid mansion were similar. Mentions of the Marcel Duchamp-designed temporary installation of a mile of string woven throughout the galleries dominated the reviews. Despite the inclusion in the show of several technically significant paintings by Ernst, Masson, and several American artists, Robert Coates wrote in the New Yorker that "String is boring. So is Surrealism. It has grown tired, tedious, and a little repetitive."[30] A brief mention in Art Digest noted that "a surrealist picture can transmit its message through string, and the impact may even seem enhanced when it is called upon to do so."[31] However that message, according to the New York Times, had become "merely a kind of academic exercise, exploiting over and over again superficial aspects and having no roots in more creatively summoned experience."[32]

The Pavel Tchelitchew Special Issue of View: May 1942.

André Breton had arrived in New York in 1941 and had immediately begun searching for a forum for Surrealist ideas in America.[33] David Sylvester has noted that in the Dada and Surrealist movements the little magazine was the most effective means to disseminate ideas.[34] Marticia Sawin has written: "Breton knew from long experience the important role a publication could play in holding together a group and attracting new adherents, and having control of a publication was crucial to the carrying on of his work in the United States."[35] He initially attempted to co-opt View as that publication, and worked with Ford on two special issues in April (on Max Ernst), and May 1942.

The May 1942 issue of View was a special double issue dedicated to Yves Tanguy and Tchelitchew. The reader could open the magazine from one side to read about Tanguy, then reverse and open it from the other to read about Tchelitchew. Articles about one artist made up each half. Susan Weil Nessen has written on the Tanguy issue as a unified document that Breton carefully composed in order to codify Tanguy's position in the Surrealist movement.[36] The issue presented Tanguy as a major contributor to the founding of a new mythology, one of Breton's goals for the movement as a whole after 1941. Six articles of varying length discussed Tanguy and his art. The writers included Breton, the Greek Surrealist Nicolas Calas, French Surrealist poet Benjamin Péret, Kurt Seligmann, James Johnson Sweeney, and Harold Rosenberg. Charles Henri Ford contributed a humorous poem. Of these, Sweeney, Rosenberg, and Ford were American, and all but Ford were sympathetic to Breton's doctrinaire European Surrealism.

Tashjian has shown that, despite their collaboration on special issues on Max Ernst, Tanguy, and on Duchamp in 1945, Ford neither wanted nor needed Breton's control of View.[37] Ford admitted later that he had "never wanted to toe the line. . . . [Breton] wanted me to be the editor [of VVV] and I knew he would be looking over my shoulder, so I said. . . I think I'll continue with View."[38] With this in mind, Ford put together the Tchelitchew portion of the May 1942 issue as a response to Breton's doctrinaire Surrealism.[39] The articles in the Tchelitchew issue promoted Ford's and Tyler's concept of an American Surrealism, with Pavel Tchelitchew as one of its main figures. The issue strongly informed Ford's definition of an "Americana Fantastica" just two issues later.

Tchelitchew's one-man show in the spring at the Julien Levy gallery used the issue as a catalog.[40] Yves Tanguy also had an exhibition in April 1942 at Pierre Matisse's gallery.[41] Thus the editors of the Tchelitchew/ Tanguy issue may have seen it as a unified document with the clear agenda of promoting the artists' work to potential art buyers.

Tchelitchew was in fact a European artist, and been a "Neo-Romantic" painter and stage designer in Berlin and Paris in the 1920's and early 1930's. This fact is not an issue in the May 1942 View. While there was no effort to cover up Tchelitchew's past, or to suggest that he was an American, the authors clearly intended to position him as a reaction to a European movement.

James Thrall Soby, Parker Tyler, Lincoln Kirstein, and William Carlos Williams contributed articles on Tchelitchew and his works for the May 1942 issue. These authors reacted strongly to the perception of the artist as a Surrealist painter. Even twenty-five years later Tyler wrote resentfully that "[t]he given fact is that Tchelitchew, without wishing to do so, has [sic] allied himself in the mind of the American art public (all art publics being unhappy without neat categories) with Surrealism. . . . Tchelitchew will never outlive being called a Surrealist."[42] His claim influenced later histories. Historian MarticiaSawin stated that Ford "implemented his plan to associate Tchelitchew with the Surrealists by producing a [special issue]."[43] Though she does not cite a source for this assertion, it certainly came from Tyler's statement in 1967 that ". . . Ford adopt[ed] the tactic of exploiting on Tchelitchew's behalf, the one school . . . which has made a dent in sophisticated American taste: Surrealism."[44] No documentary evidence suggests that Ford himself intended the Tchelitchew issue to associate the artist with Surrealism. In fact, a close reading of the issue proves the opposite.

Any concern that View or its guest writers had that the public mislabeled Tchelitchew a a Surrealist was not founded in published criticism of his work. The reactions to Tchelitchew's MOMA show in November 1942 hardly mentioned Surrealism at all. Alfred Frankfurter, editor of Art News gushed that "[t]he only moments that matter are when the experience before you crowds all else out, and one of them is Pavel Tchelitchew's 'Hide and Seek. . .'" and called the artist a "Russian weaver of the supernatural ."[45] Art Digest also positively reviewed the show, emphasizing the "imaginative versatility " of Tchelitchew and "his vast, if sometimes seemingly misdirected talent."[46]Neither review mentioned Surrealism, or Tchelitchew's use of Surrealist techniques. In fact, the only suggestion in the early 1940's of the artist as Surrealist was in Edward Alden Jewell's short New York Times review. Jewell stated merely that "it seems inevitable that much of his later work should be identified in the spectator's mind with Surrealism."[47]

Of the four writers in the Tchelitchew issue, James Thrall Soby certainly had the closest ties with European Surrealism as curator of the Museum of Modern Art. MOMA was one of the New York locations that brought the exiled Europeans together, and other American patrons of the museum such as Kirk Askew held regular gatherings for the artists. Soby recognized that Tchelitchew had little in common with Surrealist artists. In "Return to the North," Soby placed Tchelitchew in a "violent, passionate, and deeply ambitious" tradition of Northern romanticism which began in the late Medieval and Renaissance with artists such as Bruegel.[48] Soby saw theseaspects as similar to Surrealism's revolutionary basis but derived from an older source, one which was artistic, not political. The northern European origins of Tchelitchew's art distanced him from Surrealism, a movement with French origins.[49]

Soby allowed that Tchelitchew and other Neo-Romantics "had much, if far from everything, in common" with the Surrealists.[50] He wrote later that year in the exhibition catalog of Tchelitchew's MOMA show that Neo-Romantic artists were "the Naturalist side of a romantic revival for which the Surrealists were providing a somnambulist complement."[51] Common elements in both Tchelitchew and Surrealist art Soby stated, were their similar techniques. However, Soby explained thatTchelitchew and Dali had independently come to the formal device of layered images at about the same time.[52] Their reasons in using this device "were and are wholly different" even "opposite."[53] Dali, he wrote, merged two layered images in order to suggest a third at the unconscious level, while Tchelitchew intended each layer to contribute additional information to the overall meaning, and to remain visible.[54]

Soby explained that Tchelitchew's use of chance-based automatic painting techniques had more to do with his long standing interest in layering images than with the Surrealist interest in depicting unconscious thoughts. This difference in intent was critical: Tchelitchew valued the ability of automatic techniques to aid in his layering of meaning and image, as in his major work Hide and Seek of 1940-42 (fig.1), while the Surrealists used the technique to reveal meaning and images that they could not otherwise access. Similarly, according to Soby, Tchelitchew used multiple simultaneous perspectives, as in Phenomena of 1937-39 (fig. 2), as a revolt against the limitations of meaning imposed by fixed perspective, and not to evoke dream-like or fantastic states.[55]

Lincoln Kirstein's "The Position of Pavel Tchelitchew" was the most contentious of the four articles. Kirstein insisted that "[Tchelitchew] is not, nor has he ever been a Surrealist."[56] He reminded the reader that Barr had invited the artist to show in the Surrealism portion of "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism" in 1936 but was refused.[57] Kirstein disliked the Surrealist movement as a whole. Diary entries from Paris in 1933 indicated his initial reactions to the movement: "Sur-Realism: simply the most recent academy. . . . A formulated but tedious development from the bankruptcy of Cubism." Further, it was "systematic hysteria. Rimbaud gave all that crap up before he came out of age."[58] His letters from Europe to Tchelitchew in 1945 and 1946 make clear that his opinion had not changed. He wrote in January of 1945 that "I described the finish of Max Ernst, the end of Dali, the disaster of Breton and the complete bankruptcy of Surrealism. . . . I told [Jean] Bucher that she should get rid of her surrealist quick (and she did, too)."[59]

Kirstein especially disapproved of the Surrealists' use of Freudian psychology as a basis for their art, accusing them of applying "academic Freudian formulae to purely idiosyncratic concepts."[60] Tchelitchew used symbolism correctly, as had the artists "Klee, the early Chirico, and the Renaissance myth painters, [to] refer to the traditional legends of the race."[61] Kirstein was certainly conscious that these artists were also named by the Surrealists as precursors to their own movement, and of the insult of claiming them as influences on a non-Surrealist.

Kirstein wrote of the Tchelitchew's technique that "the behavior of his talent in the expression of his sentiment is not amorphous, subjective, or accidental, but rather disciplined and objective."[62] This statement contrasted Tchelitchew's ideas with Surrealist dogma. "Amorphous" and "accidental" refer to Surrealisms use of automatic drawing techniques. Kirstein's labeling of Tchelitchew as "objective" further placed him outside of Surrealism's often unrestrained art-making techniques. Finally, though Tchelitchew's choice of subjects "may seem to have been fantastic or fortuitous, . . . his individual researches, even his fixations . . . are as orderly as possible."[63]

However, Kirstein was not calling Tchelitchew's technique merely conservative or traditional. Kirstein believed that Tchelitchew's innovative use of "metamorphosis" was the key to his art. Metamorphosis was the depiction of forms in the organic process of changing into other forms, as in "Hide and Seek." The artist carefully controlled this process. It allowed him, according to Kirstein, to impel visual perspective beyond the experiments of the Cubists, and thus to make technical innovations. At the same time, Tchelitchew retained a fundamental basis in "Classical" art such as Persian carpets, and the work of Hieronymous Bosch and Michelangelo. The Surrealists on the other hand used a debased understanding of metamorphosis in their "double images," like Dali's biomorphic forms that become loaves of bread or other symbols. Kirstein called the Surrealist use of the double image "a trick to be pulled . . . its significance is more virtuoso and accidental than expressive or rational."[64] Kirstein wrote in 1947 that Tchelitchew's automatism was "governed and guaranteed by a repetition of strides, a framework of factual knowledge slowly gained by . . . dissection, by analysis, by increasing sensitivity of touch and penetration in observation. . . ."[65] In this statement Kirstein carefully positioned Tchelitchew's restrained use of automatism against the Surrealists liberal application of it.

Further in the 1942 essay, Kirstein wrote that metamorphosis in Tchelitchew's work allowed the artist to engage in a Hegelian dialectic "in time and space, the investigation of the structure of a fact by its contradiction." This dialectic foundation emphasized the rational basis of the work: "There is to begin with a thesis [of visual form], that is a statement. . . then its antithesis - a contrast or opposite. . . . Finally, there is the synthesis, a resolution. . . ."[66] Kirstein implied that no such rational thought went into Surrealist art production, particularly that of Dali. This was the critical difference between Dali's meaningless works and Tchelitchew's meaningful ones.

Parker Tyler also discussed the rational basis of Tchelitchew's art as opposed to Surrealism's irrationality. Tyler's "Tchelitchew's World" was the longest of the four articles. Like the others, it attempted to describe how Tchelitchew's art differed from Surrealism. "Tchelitchew's World" may have been more an editorial statement by View about their position relative to Surrealism rather than a expository essay about the artist. Tyler's position as Assistant Editor of View would have been a strong one from which to pronounce Tchelitchew's individuality. Unfortunately, Tyler's so loaded his writing with Freudian jargon and vague statements about myth, science, and art that his ultimate intention is unclear. Flamboyant writing was typical of Parker Tyler. In 1946, Kirstein said of another essay on "Phenomena" by Tyler that it "taught me exactly nothing about the picture and no more than I need to know about Parker."[67] In this way, "Tchelitchew's World" anticipated Tyler's virtually unreadable biography of 1967, The Divine Comedy of Pavel Tchelitchew: A Biography.

Tyler intended to show in Freudian terms how myth was all pervasive in culture, and the ways that Tchelitchew depicted mythic elements. He stated that "Savages are suspected of having 'mathematically' seen the totemistic carvings which seem distorted to contemporary beings." The artist could access this "mathematical" vision, or the viewing of isolated parts instead of the whole, and combine it with a modern "scientific" knowledge of human form. Apparently drawing heavily upon Freud's Totem and Taboo, Tyler asserted that "primitive sculpture" had been made "when spirits, the rulers of the universe, were not considered visible, whereas scientific vision arose only after God or gods were believed anthropomorphic, and thus their bodies, like man's, could be investigated." The rational synthesis of these two perspectives into a "concave-convex dialectic," Tyler stated, was inherent in much modern art since Cubism.[68]

Tchelitchew was more successful in painting myth than other artists, an aspect he had in common with some Surrealists. By connecting Tchelitchew with painting of myth, Tyler did not intend to place him with the Surrealist group, but only to point out similar intentions. He discussed "Phenomena" as a "profound formal reorganization of nature" which transcended the "visual pun in Dali and other Surrealists [which] is purely mechanical or depends on dream symbolism." Beyond this, much of Tyler's analysis of the painting of myth in "Phenomena" is inscrutable; he wrote that Tchelitchew's use of distorted perspective makes the picture "diamond-like," "prismatic," and a "dialectic" of "space hyper-dense." Tyler's conclusion was only slightly clearer: "The rational bridge by which we connect these mythological shapes with life is made of clues of recognition . . ." such as the clear symbolic elements of "Phenomena."[69] Surrealist art, of course, had as its basis an irrational connection between formal elements and life and a subversion of recognition. For Tyler, like Kirstein, to find in Tchelitchew's work a rational one was therefore a significant departure in his work from Surrealism.

"Cache-Cache," William Carlos Williams contribution to the Tchelitchew issue, was less an essay than a minor prose expression of the author's love of Tchelitchew's work and of painting in general. Ford most likely ran Williams' article to lend View's masthead the stature of the poet's name rather than to contribute to the understanding of Tchelitchew. Williams had encouraged Ford's magazine endeavors since the 1920's, when as a teenager Ford had published the little magazine Blues. More interesting than the rambling "Cache-Cache" is Williams' letter to the editor that appeared in the Tchelitchew issue. He stated in part, "The thing seems to be that View might become anything; that is what I admire about it. It's not a party organ and has no more relation to SURREALISM than that has to the moment, and no less."[70] Though Williams was not accurate in assigning View little relation to Surrealism, he was correct in stating that it was "not a party organ." Ford codified this independence two issues later in January 1943.

View's Surrealism: Americana Fantastica

In January 1943 Parker Tyler, certainly with Ford's editorial assistance, wrote "Americana Fantastica," an introductory editorial to that month's View. Dickran Tashjian has characterized this editorial as a defining moment in View's history, when Ford "distance[d] his magazine from Surrealism while broadening its possibilities."[71] Tashjian noted how Tyler explicitly responded to Breton's rigid proclamations when he wrote that "the fantastic is unique in that it does not . . . hope to duplicate itself by immediate progeny. Only methodologies of the fantastic have this logic of generation. . . . The fantastic is an uninterrupted series of exceptions."[72] Tyler believed hat Breton imposed such a "logic of generation" on the Surrealists. Tashjian also saw Tyler's statement that "the fantastic is the inalienable property of the untutored, the oppressed, the insane, the anarchic, and the amateur . . ." as in opposition to Breton's "escapism."[73]

Ideas first put forth in in the Tchelitchew issue of the previous year emerged in Tyler's editorial. His assertation that "[t]he fantastic has a great tradition" recalled Soby's and Kirstein's placement of Tchelitchew in artistic traditions much older than Surrealism. This tradition had little to do with the "mythologies" proposed by Breton. Tyler wrote that the fantastic is "not so much native to America as susceptible to it, just as oranges are not native to this country but could grow here."[74] Tashjian has pointed out that this statement explains the international focus of the "Americana Fantastica" issue.[75] More specifically, Tyler's statement described Tchelitchew, long a resident of this country, in a way that excluded more recent arrivals. Tyler even suggested a Russian metaphor for the fantastic, calling it "the Stalingrad of the imagination."[76]

Tyler's disapproval of "methodologies of the fantastic" in the editorial was similar to Kirstein's attitude towards the use of "academic Freudian formulae" he perceived in Surrealism in "The Position of Pavel Tchelitchew." As in both Kirstein's and his own essays in the Tchelitchew issue, Tyler pointed out that fantastic art was not simply irrational, but did have a rational basis. In "Americana Fantastica" he wrote that "[t]he fantastic is in no instance properly defined as the mere irrational. It is the city of the irrational. It is the irrational plus architecture."[77] Perhaps Tyler's denial that the fantastic could be defined was in response to Breton's famous "dictionary definition" of Surrealism in the First Manifesto of Surrealism of 1924.

Tyler's metaphor of "architecture" or structure added to the irrational is significant, since Surrealism strove to eliminate any rational basis or structure in art and writing. In 1942, Tyler had written that Tchelitchew's art was a "profound formal reorganization of nature."[78] This was echoed in the 1943 editorial when he concluded that action of the fantastic was chiefly that of spatial organization.[79] Though he was concerned with it throughout his artistic career, Tchelitchew often mentioned the importance of rational formal organization in letters to Tyler in later years. In 1950 he wrote, "composition is organization - it is the hyerarchral [sic] act of thinking and remembering capacity."[80] The artist also wrote that "[t]he world of man is the world of symbols [and] mathematical geometrical forms. . . . There is a great work of synthetic organization of all this to do."[81] Thus, Tyler's concern in 1943 with rational structure in art and art making may have had its basis in his understanding of Tchelitchew's art.

View after 1942

View began to de-emphasize art somewhat after 1942, except for the Marcel Duchamp issue in March 1945 and a cursory treatment of Surrealism in Belgium in December 1946. The editorial position of the "Americana Fantastica" issue, once defined, seemed to lose interest for Ford and his staff. For example, the May 1945 "Tropical Americana" issue edited by Paul Bowles contained Aztec poems, Mayan myths, and a medieval Mexican prophecy, as well as Mexican literature from the 1930's and 1940's. Some of these works, like the Russian and Afro-Cuban folk tales in other issues, could possibly fall under the umbrella of the "fantastic" as defined by Tyler. However the short pieces in other issues by Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, and other French existentialists could not. Perhaps the relative firmness of Ford's attitude against Breton's Surrealism in the Tchelitchew and "Americana Fantastica" issues allowed him to more freely explore avenues unrelated to that movement. Breton also started his own magazine in 1942, VVV, which as part of its "Declaration VVV" seemed to react against View's success. It read in part: "V which signifies the View around us, the eye turned toward the external world, the conscious surface some of us have not ceased to oppose. . . ."[82] It is likely that Breton implied here that Ford and View unnecessarily concentrated on the merely visible and surface world.

Ford became more interested in existentialism and the theatre in the last two years of View and began to find it difficult to sustain the magazine as it had existed, despite continued acclaim. Finally, lack of money forced Ford to close View in late 1947. It a letter to Edith Sitwell that year he wrote: "And now for the bad news. Not only are we not able to continue View magazine but the View Editions [the book publishing component of View, Inc.] will have to be given up too. We just haven't got the capital." Ford added a handwritten postscript: "How happy I shall be to get back to my poetry and plays - I am appalled when I think how long I've been bothered with the magazine. . . ."[83] Once he had completed the business of closing the magazine down, Ford resumed the constant travel and writing of the 1930's with few looks back at View.


Though I do not discuss it here, I suspect that an additional factor may have been important in the Tchelitchew issue and the declaration in the "Americana Fantastica" issue. That factor is the homosexuality of Tyler and of Ford and Tchelitchew, who were lovers for more than fifteen years. Tashjian's discussion of Ford's friendship with Breton in Paris in the late 1930's mentions that "the American's disposition toward the Surrealists leader was mixed in feeling. Some of the problem arose from Breton's antipathy toward homosexuality."[84] Surrealism as a whole is often characterized by overt heterosexual imagery and relationships. Small wonder, then, that Ford, Tyler, and Tchelitchew would feel somewhat apart from it. It is possible that the Tchelitchew and the "Americana Fantastica" issues were not just departures from the artistic side of Surrealism, but also its heterosexuality. I would propose that View magazine is informed by Tyler and Ford's positions as homosexual outsiders to Surrealism. Certainly much of Tchelitchew's art could be read as homosexual, such as the nude "Bathers" (1936) (fig. 3) or the muscular youth of "Lion Boy" (1937) (fig. 4). Evidence for this hypothesis may emerge in further readings of the Charles Henri Ford Papers.

[1] Ford to his mother, May 9, 1945, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Resource Center, University of Texas at Austin, hereafter HRC.

[2] Clive Philpot and Lynne Tillman, "An Interview with Charles Henri Ford," Flue (Franklin Furnace), December, 1980, p. 1.

[3] Dickran Tashjian, A Boatload of Madmen: Surrealism and the American Avant-garde 1920-1950 (New York: Thames & Hudson, 1995), p. 196.

[4] Philpot and Tillman, p. 2.

[5] Parker Tyler, The Divine Comedy of Pavel Tchelitchew (New York: Fleet Publishing Company,1967), p. 422.

[6] Tashjian, p. 200-201.

[7] Ford to his father, Charles Lloyd Ford, June 17, 1943, Ford Papers, HRC.

[8] Ford to his mother, Gertrude Cato Ford, December 2, 1944, Ford Papers, HRC.

[9] Susan Weil Nessen, Surrealism In Exile: The Early New York Years, 1940-1942, Ph.D. dissertation, Boston University, 1986, .p. 60.

[10] Marticia Sawin, Surrealism in Exile and the Beginning of the New York School (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1995), p. 197.

[11] Only three issues were produced in 1942. The Max Ernst special issue was Series II, number 1, April 1942. The Tchelitchew issue was Series II, number 2, May 1942 and the "Americana Fantastica" issue was Series II, number 4, January 1943.

[12] Melvin Lader, Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century: The Surrealist Milieu and the American Avant-Garde, 1942-1947, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Delaware, 1981, p. 70.

[13] Lader, p. 70-71.

[14] Lader, p. 71.

[15] Sibilla Skidelsky, "The Sham of it," Art Digest 11 (February 1, 1937):13, cited in Lader, p. 72.

[16] Ibid.

[17] The Wadsworth Athenaeum exhibited in 1931 "Newer Super-Realism," in fact the first show of Surrealist art in the United States. However, the influence of that exhibition was much less than the MOMA exhibitions in 1936. For a brief discussion of the Hartford show, see Nicholas Fox Weber, Patron Saints (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), p. 159-166.

[18] "Surrealist Series, New School Style," Art News 40 (February 15, 1941),p. 34.

[19] Peyton Boswell, "Sometimes we wonder," Art Digest 15 (March 1, 1941), p. 3.

[20] Lewis Mumford, "Surrealism and Civilization," New Yorker 12 (December 19, 1936), p. 79, cited in Lader, p.73.

[21] "The Great Flight of Culture," Fortune 24 (December 1941), p. 102.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Skidelsky, 1937, cited in Lader, p. 72.

[25] See Lader, pp. 115-126 for a discussion of the specifics of Kiesler's installation.

[26] Emily Genauer "Surrealist Paintings Hung Surrealistically," New York World - Telegram, October 24, 1942, cited in Lader, p.128.

[27] Sawin, p. 235.

[28] See Lader, p. 129-132.

[29] "Peggy Guggenheim to Open Art Gallery -- Art of this Century," press release, October 1942, Exhibition Catalogs Collection, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., cited in Lader, p. 126.

[30] Robert Coates, "The Art Galleries," The New Yorker, November 1, 1942, cited in Sawin, p. 227.

[31] "Miles of String:exhibition at Whitelaw Reid mansion" Art Digest 17, November 1, 1942, p.7

[32] Ibid.

[33] Tashjian, p. 188

[34] David Sylvester, "Regarding the Exhibition," introduction to Dawn Ades, Dada and Surrealism Reviewed (London: Arts council of Great Britain, 1978), p. 1.

[35] Sawin, p. 213.

[36] See Nessen, p. 120-217.

[37] See Tashjian, p. 196-197.

[38] Philpot and Tillman, p. 1.

[39] View published issues dated the month following the date of printing. Thus, the May 1942 issue was issued in April of that year.

[40] Edward Alden Jewell, "Two shows open of Surrealist Art," New York Times, April 22, 1942, p. 26.

[41] Tashjian, p. 199.

[42] Tyler,1967, p. 423.

[43] Sawin, p. 212.

[44] Tyler, 1967, p. 423.

[45] A[lfred] M. F[rankfurter], "Tchelitchew Hides and You Seek," Art News 41 (November 1, 1942), p. 18.

[46] "Careers of Tchelitchew and Flanagan revived by the Modern," Art Digest 17 (November 15, 1942), p. 10.

[47] Jewell, New York Times, October 28, 1942, p. 24.

[48] James Thrall Soby, "Return to the North," View series II, no. 2, 1942, n.pag.

[49]The Northern European artistic origins Soby saw in Tchelitchew 's art was not the same as the references to Celtic and (French) Breton mythology that André Breton discussed in Tanguy's art in the View monograph. See Nessen, p. viii.

[50] Soby, View, 1942, n.pag.

[51] Soby, Tchelitchew: Paintings, Drawings (exhibition catalog), New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1942, p. 14.

[52]Soby, Tchelitchew : Paintings, Drawings, p. 19. Both artists, Soby stated, were influenced by Max Ernst's early experiments with this technique, p. 31.

[53] Ibid, p. 19.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Soby, View, n. pag.

[56] Lincoln Kirstein, "The Position of Pavel Tchelitchew," View, Series II, no. 4, 1942, n.pag.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Diary entries in Lincoln Kirstein, By With To & From: A Lincoln Kirstein Reader, edited by Nicholas Jenkins (New York, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1991), p. 137-138.

[59] Kirstein to Tchelitchew, January 14, 1945, Pavel Tchelitchew Papers, HRC.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Kirstein, View, 1942, n. pag.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Kirstein, Pavel Tchelitchew Drawings, (New York: H. Bittner & Co., 1947), p. 9.

[66] Kirstein, 1942, n. pag.

[67] Kirstein to Tchelitchew, August 18, 1946, HRC, Tchelitchew Papers.

[68] Parker Tyler, "Tchelitchew's World," View, Series II, no. 4,1942, n.pag.

[69] Ibid.

[70] William Carlos Williams, letter to the editor dated February 25, 1942, View , series II, no. 4, 1942, n. pag.

[71] Tashjian, p. 253.

[72] Tyler, "Americana Fantastica," View, Series II, no. 4, p. 5.

[73] Tyler, 1943, p. 5, cited in Tashjian, p. 254.

[74] Tyler, 1943, p. 5.

[75] Tashjian, p. 254.

[76] Tyler, 1943, p. 5.

[77] Tyler, 1943, p. 5.

[78] Tyler, 1942, n. pag

[79] Tyler, 1943, p. 5.

[80] Tchelitchew to Tyler, November 23, 1950, Parker Tyler Papers, HRC.

[81] Tchelitchew to Tyler, August 27, 1950, Tyler Papers, HRC.

[82] André Breton, "Declaration VVV," appeared on title page of each of the three issues of VVV (New York, 1942-1944), reprinted in Breton, What is Surrealism?: Selected Writings, edited by Franklin Rosemont (New York: Monad Press, 1978), p. 337-338.

[83] Ford to Edith Sitwell, November 5, 1947, Ford Papers, HRC.

[84] Tashjian, p. 169.