Surrealism Comes to America

1940s: Exile and Re-formation in New York

In 1939, Kurt Seligmann was the first surrealist to leave Europe for New York, ultimately followed by Max Ernst, André Breton, and Leonora Carrington—helped by Seligmann and Peggy Guggenheim. In 1940, when Breton wrote Seligmann from Marseille requesting help to come to the United States, he admitted that New York was now the place where “the greatest effervescence of ideas reigns.”

This period redefined surrealism. The discovery of new landscapes and new cultures had an enormous impact on the surrealists’ view of art and magic. At the same time, this separation from their home revived childhood memories of ancient European legends that mingled with the new mythologies they experienced on this side of the Atlantic.

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