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In Pursuit of Toyen
Feminist Biography in an Art-Historical Context

The Czech surrealist artist Toyen’s work and self-styling cut across gender boundaries. Toyen avoided revealing information about herself, and it became clear that she and her friends collaborated—consciously or not—in the creation of a mythically obscure biography. While the biographies of many other surrealists are well known, Toyen’s personal reticence has rendered her unusually mysterious. In examining the construction of her biography and attempting to place her within an historical context that remains largely unfamiliar to western audiences, this article illuminates how one early twentieth-century female creative figure negotiated male-dominated avant-garde circles and how in some cases female cultural workers were marginalized less by their peers than by the cultural establishment or historical circumstances. This very private artist provides a unique and exciting opportunity to study one woman’s role in three important avant-garde groups (Devětsil and the Prague and Paris surrealist groups) and negotiation of nonconformist gender roles and the erotic.

The Czech surrealist artist Toyen (Marie Čermínová, 1902–1980), a founding member of the Prague surrealist group, was a respected and successful member of the interwar Czech avant-garde.1 Her importance within international surrealism has been repeatedly acknowledged—surrealist leader André Breton called her “work as luminous as her own heart yet streaked through by dark forebodings” while the surrealist writer and historian José Pierre called her “the least acknowledged of the great surrealist painters.”2 Yet surprisingly little is known of her life and motivations. Unlike fellow Prague surrealists Karel Teige, Vítězslav Nezval, and Jindřich Štyrský, Toyen avoided putting her thoughts into writing, was secretive about her background, and spent the second half of her life in France. She is recognized as significant by art historians but is often characterized as mysterious, despite the publication of an important monograph on her work in conjunction with a major retrospective exhibition.3 As one of the only women active in the Czech avant-garde, she clearly necessitates feminist examination of her position there.

In this article, I ask what made Toyen able to achieve a position unique in the Czech context and unusual for a woman artist in the first half of the twentieth century. We know few details of Toyen’s life prior to 1922, the year in which she met Jindřich Štyrský, and I posit that her intentional obscuring [End Page 14] of her past is key to her equally intentional obscuring of her gender. I ask the following questions: Did gender ambiguity—some degree of “queerness”—and an interest in the erotic paradoxically help rather than hinder her career? To what extent did personal characteristics serve her goals, and to what extent did the historical circumstances of First Republic Czechoslovakia, the nature of the Prague avant-garde, and personal relationships shape her career? Exploration of such questions leads us into complex territory. While not all of these questions can be fully answered here or perhaps ever, they require asking. Not only is there a paucity of factual data, but she herself is not easily accessible via her work in the way that many of the other surrealist women are. We can dig for more facts, but these facts remain surprisingly resistant to interpretation. Toyen requires examination through her known biographical data and historical context, through her role in her chosen avant-garde groups, and through her imagery. She offers different lessons for us than do her male comrades, and she has been constructed differently as a biographical subject than these males by both memoirists and historians of modernism. Nor does she fit the profile of women who joined surrealism as young femmes-enfants yet remained somewhat peripheral to the movement itself.4 Furthermore, she remained separate, apparently by choice, from her female peers in Czechoslovakia, many of whom exhibited in women’s venues and in feminist contexts.5

Two problems in studying Toyen’s development and influence relate to her Central European origin and the differences between what Czech and non-Czech scholars choose to examine. First, while the Czech lands have a rich history of feminism, and women’s legal and intellectual equality is taken for granted there, feminism is currently disdained by most Czechs as an American aberration and gender roles are often viewed as rooted in biology.6 Second, while the interwar Czech avant-garde is now the subject of lively international interest, scholarly attention to Toyen from post-Communist Czech art historians emphasizes the development of her work and gives only basic biographical and contextual data. Until recently, almost no western art historians were sufficiently familiar with the Czech context needed to elucidate it to non-Czech readers.7 Thus while the art historians Whitney Chadwick, Rita Bischof, and Martina Pachmanová have considered Toyen from a feminist perspective, the first two were not in a position to situate the artist’s working life in the context of interwar Czech society and the third did so only in a limited way.8

A third problem is that surrealism’s development and philosophical underpinnings are complex and not widely understood, especially when we turn to surrealist centers other than Paris. As the art historian Matthew Witkovsky has pointed out, scholars of surrealism need to know what members of the avant-garde group Devětsil (especially those who later became [End Page 15] surrealists) and other Czechs “understood surrealism to be, and when they understood it.”9 The Slavicist and Czech specialist Malynne Sternstein suggests, in an essay particularly relevant here, that in their commitment to a radical vision of a new society, the Czech surrealists bypassed the feminist goal of gender equality by rejecting gender entirely, “de-gendering subjects to ‘christen’ them as fully sexualized beings.”10 This was not how 1930s French surrealism approached sex or gender, but Toyen’s personal gender ambiguity and flouting of normative gender was emblematic of Prague surrealism and contributed to postwar French surrealism’s evolving theorization of sex and gender.

How, then, can we move toward understandings that neither make “outsider” mistakes nor replicate earlier, non-gender-conscious, accounts? The historian Penny Russell observes that when we pursue “the interface between subjectivity and culture” we expose “a fundamental tension between the imperatives of biography and those of history.”11 In art history, scholars also struggle to balance attention to the oeuvre and to the conditions of its production. How can we negotiate the need to understand individual figures such as Toyen and their place within the larger culture? What made her the remarkable artist and surrealist that she became? What was her role within the Prague surrealist group and what ideas and inspirations did she bring to the Paris group in 1947? These biographical questions intersect with larger historical, cultural, and gender questions, and grow naturally from a desire to better understand the artist, her work, and her context. The scholar in pursuit of Toyen thus encounters some of the usual issues in studying a female artist—the relative paucity of critical sources, the need to research her via male associates—yet not entirely for the usual reasons. Indeed, Toyen’s two artistic partners, Jindřich Štyrský and Jindřich Heisler, have received no more attention than she.12 It is less that her gender has obscured knowledge of her work than that historical circumstances—primarily relating to the Cold War—have obscured her from view.

While recuperative work is still necessary to provide an accurate picture of women’s history as artists, patrons, dealers, and curators, such work should serve as a springboard for exploration of additional issues, some of which call for biographical study and analysis. In Toyen’s case, several key issues make her a particularly intriguing biographical subject. Active in three separate avant-garde groups, one of the only women central to a surrealist group, and describable as—to quote Sternstein—“hypersexualized,” grammatically “indeclinable,” and “de-gendered,” Toyen merits examination both “through the lens of gender,” as Martina Pachmanová puts it, and from other perspectives.13 In this article, then, I look at the construction of Toyen’s persona during the course of her long career, the ways in which she handled this career, her development into a surrealist, and her use of transgressive [End Page 16] sexual imagery. By considering these themes, I provide a critical reading of her “legend” that simultaneously provides new data and analyzes how this artist negotiated her way as a very intentionally gender-ambiguous woman within the avant-garde.

Figure 1. Toyen, Untitled, 1931. © 2012 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGF, Paris.
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Figure 1.

Toyen, Untitled, 1931. © 2012 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGF, Paris.

The Early Years

Toyen’s entire adult life was spent in close contact with other creative people—first with her artistic partner Jindřich Štyrský and other members of Devětsil, the dominant 1920s Czech avant-garde group, then (also with Štyrský) among the Prague surrealists and their associates, and finally with the Paris surrealists.14 One would expect, then, that much would be known of her life and ideas. Yet this is not the case. Not only have the surrealists themselves favored poetic and analogical forms of biography to dry facts, but even poetic biography barely exists for Toyen.15 Toyen was reserved about family, childhood, and most other aspects of her life. Treatment of her biography has generally fit the paradigm of the mysterious “Other” who suddenly appears, without parents or precursors, and amazes others. While this trope is familiar from the story of Giotto and other famous males, it [End Page 17] also fits the notion of the talented woman as alien being, a creature not like others of her gender, a figure of no heritage or antecedents.16

For the first twenty years of her career, Toyen was seen as Štyrský’s inseparable partner, and during that period, the two were regarded as an indivisible duo like the Čapek brothers or the performers Voskovec and Werich. Toyen and Štyrský thus formed one of those close partnerships often seen among twentieth-century artists; like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Hans Arp and Sophie Taueber-Arp, and Sonia and Robert Delaunay, they worked in tight integration and produced related work. Unlike such couples as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo or Max Ernst and Leonora Carrington, there was not a significant age difference between the two, and unlike Raoul Haussman and Hannah Höch or Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, there has not been a glaring gender difference in the way the art world has valued their creations.17 Although Toyen was one of the only women in either Devětsil or the Prague surrealist group, it appears that she was welcomed without regard to her gender. This contrasts with Hannah Höch’s subsidiary status within the Berlin Dada group—Höch’s work seems to have been more highly respected by the Czechs than it was at home, where she was praised for her sandwiches rather than her collages.18 While Toyen and Štyrský were considered to be a pair, it does not appear that Toyen was seen as Štyrský’s follower or property. The poet Jaroslav Seifert later recalled: “it appeared that the young painter painted somewhat in the shadow of her older friend. It soon became evident, however, that this was not at all the case.”19

Even the most rudimentary details regarding Toyen’s origin and family background have been curiously absent in the literature. This absence is despite the fact that the Austro-Hungarian government kept careful records on its citizens, a practice continued by the Czechoslovak government. Toyen’s police file provides a list of all the artist’s registered residences, and holds all of her passport applications. These documents reveal that the artist was born on 21 September 1902 in the working-class Prague district of Smíchov; they list her parents as Václav Čermín and Marie (Jedličková) Čermínová. The oft-told story that she left home at sixteen is corroborated by the residence records, although her reasons for leaving are unknown.20

Toyen did not seem to have discussed her family with friends in either Prague or Paris, and presumably did not have the kind of close relationship with her family that Czechs consider desirable. In his memoirs, former surrealist Vítězslav Nezval wrote that she claimed she “had not had and did not have any family.”21 Yet she was not as estranged as has been thought. Seifert noted that during the early 1920s Toyen lived with her older sister in Smíchov and that the sister’s husband worked for the railroad.22 In 1932, this sister, Zdena Svobodová, owned Toyen’s painting Fjords.23 Legal records [End Page 18] show that in 1940 Toyen and Zdena inherited half a house in Smíchov from their mother. After Zdena’s death in 1945, half of her share of this property went to her husband and half to Toyen.24 Thus it appears that the nuclear family was small. Unlike those avant-gardists who had moved to Prague from small towns and villages, Toyen could visit her mother whenever she wished. She may not have visited frequently or happily, but her connection to living family members was more akin to Czech norms than previously believed. Probably she exaggerated her distance from family to stress her independence and choice of the Devětsil group as surrogate family. The fact that Toyen lived near her mother and inherited property from both mother and sister means that we cannot accept the idea that Toyen appeared from nowhere.

We should also consider the role of early Czech feminism in regard to Toyen’s thinking. Toyen’s first twenty years coincided with Czech feminism’s most active and successful period, when she and her urban Czech contemporaries experienced the excitements of a feminist movement at its peak. Girls studied school subjects previously denied them, played sports recently the province of boys and men, heard grown-ups discussing suffrage, and learned of author Božena Viková-Kunětická’s election to the Bohemian Diet.25 During World War I, many young women worked in positions previously reserved for men—Toyen herself worked in a soap factory around this time.26 With the foundation of the First Republic in 1918, Czech feminists achieved many of their goals, including suffrage and divorce rights. This success was the result of decades of hard work by Czech feminists, including philosopher and future president T. G. Masaryk—who, it should be noted, took his wife’s name of Garrigue.27 As a politically aware person of early radical inclinations (Karel Teige recalled having seen her among the anarcho-communists), Toyen would have absorbed foundational feminist concepts even if she came to regard Czech feminism (which in those days emphasized moral “purity” for both sexes) as bourgeois.28

As the historian Melissa Feinberg has shown, however, the Masaryk and Beneš governments did not succeed in creating the gender-equal state guaranteed in the constitution. Throughout the First Republic, feminists and legal scholars were preoccupied with the revision of inherited Austrian legal codes relating to family law, a project which never came to satisfactory resolution. While interwar Czechs believed women had a right to intellectual and political equality, most people still believed that women’s rights were subsidiary to the rights of the family and nation. In other words, while legal equality was considered a desirable part of democracy, this did not mean significant changes in gender roles, which were believed to be defined by nature. Furthermore, while most women worked outside the home at some point, double-income families were regarded by many as taking jobs from [End Page 19] the unemployed.29 If the average Czech supposed gender equality had been achieved, feminist activists knew it had not, and many of the more radical avant-gardists remained skeptical that changes in law could fully emancipate women. Sternstein, in fact, posits that in the 1930s the Prague surrealists envisioned a new and de-gendered form of citizenship, prefigured by the 1923 renaming of Marie Čermínová as Toyen, a pseudonym the artist later claimed came from the French word for citizen, citoyen.30

On the employment front, professional women such as Toyen were unusual not in that they earned money, but in that they had true careers. Czech women were well represented in art and design schools, but few were particularly visible on the Prague art scene. Though the artist Zdenka Braunerová had been well-respected among fin-de-siècle writers and intellectuals, coverage of female artists in First Republic journalism was relatively scarce. Toyen and the sculptor Hana Wichterlová were almost the only women artists consistently noted in the press, despite the existence of and occasional mention of many more working female artists. While Toyen was representative of these women in being something of a New Woman, and like many women attended the UMPRŮM design school rather than the fine art academy, she was also very much an exception.31 First, she was a member of the avant-garde, having joined Devětsil in 1923 with her male associates Jindřich Štyrský and Jiří Jelínek. The only other women known to have joined Devětsil were the dancer Mira Holzbachová and the columnist Jaroslava Václavková, while the only other woman in the original Prague surrealist group, Katy King (Libuše Jichová), was more Nezval’s supporter than an active poet.32 Toyen was the only female visual artist in either group during the interwar period. Many Czech women artists belonged to women’s art organizations, and also to non-gendered artists’ groups such as Mánes, Umělecká beseda (Artistic Discussion), the Prager Secession, Hollar, and the brněnský Kruh výtvarný umělců Aleš (Aleš circle of visual artists in Brno).33 These women exhibited actively—some even internationally—but their shows were best publicized in periodicals directed toward women, such as Eva and Ženský svět (Women’s World). It appears that they were best known in Czech feminist circles, and that due to their feminist ties, interest in themes relating to women’s lives, and tendency to exhibit in all-woman shows, overall their work was categorized as “feminine” art. Furthermore, the collective and cooperative nature of the women’s exhibitions made it difficult for individuals to stand out in the crowd. While the modern woman was seen by many artists and intellectuals of both sexes as a symbol of First Republic progress, this did not translate to a wide interest in the work of Czech women artists.34

While Nezval indicated that gender equality was important to Toyen, and Seifert noted her stated attraction to women, oddly, memoirs mention [End Page 20] no female friends until much later, when she was close to fellow-surrealists Annie Le Brun and Elisa Breton.35 Women were in short supply within Devětsil and the Prague surrealist group, but surely memoirs and other accounts excised from her life people who were doubtless of major personal and perhaps professional importance. It is unclear whether Toyen was secretive about her female friends or if the men around her simply did not find those friends worthy of mention.

Toyen and Štyrský had exhibited little when, in late 1925, they departed for Paris, where several of their works were about to go on display as part of the exhibition L’Art d’aujourd’hui.36 Paris welcomed Czechs in the 1920s, as France was Czechoslovakia’s strongest ally.37 But as avant-garde artists, Toyen and Štyrský could not expect to support themselves solely by selling paintings. Rather, the two used their talents—and Toyen’s design training—to make money in art-related fields. From 1925 to 1950, Toyen earned money for every type of artistic endeavor possible, including fabric design and bookplates.38 Book design and illustration, however, appear to have been the pair’s most reliable source of income. It is likely that they found this to be the most suitable and profitable means of support, as many of their associates were writers and they had contacts in the publishing industry.

While Štyrský sometimes handled Toyen’s business correspondence, enough correspondence relating to the two artists’ commissioned work survives to show that she was also approached directly. She handled jobs in a business-like manner, informing potential clients of costs of commissioning specific items. Between 1925 and 1949, Toyen worked on over five hundred books for Czech publishers, meaning that book production brought in a significant part of her income.39 Thus Toyen carried on a normal or perhaps even unusually well-organized business as an artist during her years in Prague. She was certainly not the stereotypical “bohemian” artist who lived in a garret and lacked any understanding of money. Rather, her approach to the business of art appears to have been not unlike those of her Prague contemporaries, and in its forays into the fabric arts resembles the careers of some of the Czech cubists, who in addition to being painters and architects designed furniture, lamps, and clocks. The major Czech creators and performers of the interwar period constituted a network that produced both avant-garde and commercial work and whose members helped one another find ways to make ends meet.

Toyen as Mysterious Other

Malynne Sternstein has proposed that the adoption of the genderless pseudonym “Toyen” de-gendered Marie Čermínová, creating “a fully sexualized being where only a gendered one stood before.”40 Gender ambiguity [End Page 21] was key in the construction of Toyen as mysterious and “Other”; it was also something she cultivated from the very start. Memoirs by members of the Czech avant-garde emphasize Toyen’s spoken use of the masculine gender. Seifert described how one night she cried out “Já jsem malíř smutnej” (I am an unhappy male painter), rather than the gender-appropriate “Já jsem malířka smutná.”41 The Slavic languages distinguish male from female speakers via a complex system of verbal, adverbial, nounal, and adjectival endings, which any native speaker masters in the course of learning to talk. It is extremely significant that Toyen would speak in the “wrong” gender—was she brought up as a boy or did she change her speech patterns for feminist reasons prior to joining Devětsil at twenty?

In his memoirs, Seifert recounted three main anecdotes about Toyen. In the first, he recalled seeing a mysterious stranger in his neighborhood who dressed like a workman but had a strange appeal; the mysterious stranger later appeared in a café (accompanied by Štyrský) to announce her desire to join the Devětsil group. In the second, the artist expressed a desire for a suitable pseudonym and received the genderless name “Toyen” from Seifert himself. In the third, Seifert described her rejection of conventional femininity and her proclaimed attraction to women. In these stories, Seifert constructed a narrative of a strange and mysterious woman who appeared and recreated herself as an artist of ambiguous gender. This was despite the fact that Seifert knew Toyen well, indeed was even enamored of her for a time. Seifert could surely have told many other stories about Toyen, but rather than describe her work or friendships or political views, Seifert chose these particular anecdotes.42 They are augmented by his 1933 essay, ostensibly about Toyen’s work, wherein rather than discuss the artist or her oeuvre, he told a charming fable about a man who asked a group of children what they saw in an abstract painting and what they saw in a veristic painting and got answers clearly opposite to his expectations.43 While the essay is a parable about the virtues of modernism, was it also a covert avoidance of the need to analyze the work of a female modernist?

In their memoirs, Seifert, Nezval, and the architect Karel Honzík all discussed Toyen’s gender-ambivalent visual appearance. They found her fondness for masculine attire noteworthy, but they admitted, and photographs show, that she did not dress solely in this fashion—Seifert observed that when Toyen came to join Devětsil she was wearing a skirt with silk stockings and dainty shoes.44 While it is clear from memoirs and photographs that Toyen did in fact wear both “masculine” and “feminine” garb throughout her life, what is more important is what this signified, which was a refusal to be pinned down as one thing or the other. Nor did Toyen adopt a stereotypical lesbian persona. Instead, her self-presentation was complex enough that Devětsil members pondered whether to name her the group’s [End Page 22] muse on the traditional grounds that she was pretty and liked poetry.45 She attracted male admirers within and beyond the Devětsil group, although she spurned both the architect Bedřich Feuerstein and her friend the artist Alén Diviš.46 Later on, French surrealist poet Paul Eluard allegedly sent her love letters stained with semen.47

Perhaps because so many male avant-gardists confessed attraction to her, Toyen’s personal sexuality has been increasingly heterosexualized.48 In recent Czech culture, her long-term artistic partnerships with Štyrský and Jindřich Heisler are often assumed to have been quasi-marital relationships, although she insisted that she and Štyrský were merely friends.49 The 2005 Jan Němec film Toyen portrays the artist as obsessed with Heisler, the young surrealist she hid from the Nazis, and implies that he was involved in the creation of heterosexual erotica made when he was in fact barely adult.50 This heterosexualization, which normalizes her and makes it palatable domestically to celebrate her as a major Czech artist, obscures the radically queer sexuality of an adamant surrealist whose visual explorations of the erotic might in Freudian terms be called polymorphously perverse. Toyen’s persona was complex and intriguing in its gender ambiguity, and I posit that descriptions of the artist as androgynous or of mutable identity function in part to explain the fact that she has become known for her erotica, a form of art not traditionally associated with female artists. In other words, while she might have been considered “masculine” enough to create erotica, partnering her with men refeminizes her, making her acceptable to present-day Czechs as a quirky yet admirable figure.

Erotic Subject Matter

Toyen’s art at the time of her first move to Paris encompassed a variety of topics and genres, but already included the erotic. As noted, her public persona was transgressive of standard expectations and traditional gender boundaries. Many women modernists presented themselves as lesbian, bisexual, or simply opposed to old codes of femininity. Few, however, were as bold in their artistic representations of gender and sexuality, and very few took on these themes in art at an early age. Toyen was in no way typical of her generation’s women artists when she painted an orgy scene in 1922. In Cushion, as in some of her other early work, Toyen not only worked in a consciously untutored style but celebrated behavior that was regarded as unfettered and “primitive.”

In Paris, Toyen continued to explore sexual themes. Sketches from 1925 show that Toyen visited French revues and clubs, sketching the Folies Bergère’s “La Légende du Nil” and the Gertrude Hoffman Girls.51 Two early paintings, each entitled Three Dancers, further attest to the artist’s interest in [End Page 23] this sexually suggestive form of entertainment. Like other Czechs and like foreign visitors in general, Toyen probably saw Paris as a place of sexual tolerance and even libertinage. The fact that some of her erotic sketches from 1925 depict sailors suggests that she, like the Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka, may have ventured into the “shabby clubs” along the Seine where group sex attracted a mix of sailors, male and female students, and the occasional society woman.52 Toyen may also, like Anaïs Nin, have explored Paris brothels, either alone or with Štyrský. Later, she accompanied Paul Eluard to brothels, though apparently she waited outside for him.

By the time she returned to Prague in 1928, Toyen had become a sought-after book illustrator for whom erotica soon became an important genre. Such work cannot be described as her primary artistic focus, yet it was an important part of her oeuvre and was clearly not something undertaken purely for money. Nor was the erotica undertaken in secret, unbeknownst to her fellow avant-gardists. In her long-time comrades, the Devětsil members (and soon-to-be Prague surrealists) Jindřich Štyrský, Karel Teige, and Vítězslav Nezval, Toyen found highly creative associates who shared her interest in the erotic and its expression in literature and in visual art. Toyen also asked Jaroslav Seifert to translate some of Verlaine’s lesbian sonnets for her, three of which Štyrský later published in his Erotická revue (Erotic Review).53 This publication, which appeared in three privately printed issues in the early 1930s, was a mixture of academic articles, world poetry, and cartoons and sketches, many of which were contributed by Toyen as anonymous reworkings of items from her sketchbooks. Toyen’s work of this period suggests a fascination with phallic imagery. She also ventured into new territory with her illustrations for a Czech edition of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine (1932), in which she explored the infliction of sexual pain in a manner more sensitive than sensational.

Toyen took a more veiled, less explicit approach to sexuality in her early surrealist work, and developed this mode of expression more fully over time. During her postwar life with the Paris surrealist group, she created paintings, drawings, and prints filled with haunting references to female sexuality, employing a combination of vaginal imagery and tongues, fetish items such as gloves and hair, and scenes of mating animals or of women who are part animal. In the 1960s, perhaps encouraged by the sexual revolution, she began to incorporate more explicit imagery into her work, but apparently did not return to the straightforward sexual illustrations of her youth, although Annie Le Brun notes that in old age Toyen had amassed an enormous pictorial archive of body parts, and that she “continued” to attend X-rated films regularly.54 After her death, Toyen left behind collage scrapbooks of sexual, consumer, and blasphemist clippings, as well as a large collection of soft-porn photos dating from her youth up until approximately [End Page 24] the 1960s. This lifelong focus on sexuality was at once specific to Toyen and aligned with surrealist belief in sexuality as a liberatory force.

Toyen as Surrealist

During the 1920s, Toyen and Štyrský were well aware of but not yet convinced by surrealism. They were certainly closer to the ex-surrealist Philippe Soupault than to Breton, whom they may not yet have known personally. While living in Paris, they decided to form their own two-person movement, Artificialism. This movement represented a shift from figural work to abstraction for both artists. In their Artificialist manifesto, they espoused some ideas akin to surrealism, yet clearly went in a different direction. Like surrealism, Artificialism drew upon internal states as source material, but while its use of memory and emotion was similar to surrealist reliance on the unconscious, Štyrský and Toyen emphasized the distance of the final work from its source, whereas surrealism of this period emphasized unmediated “pure psychic automatism.”55

During the late 1920s, both the Paris surrealists and Devětsil wrestled with members’ diverse relationships to Communism. Breton’s Second Manifesto, which specified a desire to align surrealism with Marxism, suggested a revolutionary seriousness of purpose to hesitant Czechs; most Devětsil members were at least sympathetic to Communism. As late as 1932, however, Toyen and Štyrský were still exhibiting as Artificialists and stressing their distance from surrealism. The catalog for their 1932 exhibition in Brno stated that they did not espouse surrealism because of its literary content and attachment to psychic automatism and the unconscious, which they felt remained outside the artist’s control. All the same, a “great nearness to surrealism” had begun to be admitted. Reference could be made to their work creating a “new internal sequence,” suggesting Breton’s internal model.56

The Poesie 1932 exhibition, at Prague’s Mánes gallery, proved something of a turning point. Poesie 1932 showed new Czech and French art, particularly that of a surrealist bent. Nezval, who was already strongly drawn to surrealism, directly related the work of both Toyen and Štyrský to surrealism in his discussion of the exhibition.57 Writer and caricaturist Adolf Hoffmeister, who would become a supporter of the Prague surrealist group, did a group interview of the Czech exhibitors and discussed the future Prague surrealist organization in detail.58

Nezval would later claim that he was the founder of the Prague surrealist group. He had initiated contact with Breton and unquestionably played a major role. Štyrský and the theater director Jindřich Honzl, however, were also active in forming the group. As Nezval’s diaries are blank for the second half of 1933, they give no clue to the gestation of Prague surrealism, but [End Page 25] Nezval and Štyrský met nearly every day in early 1934. Founding members Toyen, Bohuslav Brouk, and Jaroslav Ježek are frequently mentioned in early 1934. Karel Teige was also involved in discussions of surrealism, but did not join the group until slightly later due to reservations about surrealist estrangement from the Left and his past difficulties with Štyrský.59

Nezval’s diaries of this period mention Toyen fairly often, but not as frequently as Štyrský. Given that Toyen was close to Nezval, less assertive than Štyrský, and that photos make clear she was frequently on the scene (she was later a faithful attendee at Paris surrealist meetings), Toyen was undoubtedly present at more of the formative discussions than Nezval’s diaries specify. In fact, the diaries suggest that Toyen was, in her quiet way, very much involved with the actual logistical work of founding the group. Once the surrealist group was underway, Nezval’s diaries frequently mentioned Toyen, and although these references do not reveal much about her activities or personality, they are very useful in gauging her presence within the group.60

Both within and beyond Prague surrealist circles, Toyen was always recognized as a core member of the group. Teige, Nezval, and Štyrský all wrote about her work. Teige provided a detailed account of Toyen and Štyrský’s artistic history, emphasizing that the two took separate paths from cubism to poetism, with Štyrský pursuing photomontage and Toyen working with “naive paradisal imagery.”61 Štyrský’s article “Inspired Illustrator” examined Toyen’s book illustrations, emphasizing the eroticism of her work on the Heptameron.62 Nezval’s references to Toyen were more poetic, and were designed to intrigue the reader. During their friendship and collaboration, he wrote “It is these creations of Toyen which, more than any other, seem to respond to André Breton’s expression ‘explosante-fixe,’ and it is thanks to them that I have grasped the ultimate sense of the phrase beauty will be convulsive.”63 Here, Nezval situated the work of Toyen as being uniquely expressive of key surrealist concepts.

Later, French surrealist leader André Breton characterized Toyen in a poetic rather than factual manner. In Surrealism and Painting, Breton presented Toyen as a last surviving postwar representative of a romanticized Prague. He lamented “the destruction of Prague as the magical capital of Europe” and cried “What remains of all this? There remains Toyen.” For Breton, Toyen represented a survival of Prague magic and a kind of psychological gauge of her national history, as the sole survivor of an extinct surrealist culture.64 [End Page 26]

Toyen’s Imagery

The literary scholar Susan Rubin Suleiman observes, “A woman Surrealist...cannot simply assume a subject position and take over a stock of images elaborated by the male imaginary; in order to innovate, she has to invent her own position as subject and elaborate her own set of images—different from, yet as empowering as the image of the exposed female body, with its endless potential for manipulation, disarticulation and rearticulation, fantasizing and projection, is for her male colleagues.”65

Suleiman’s comment, while germane to the work of all women active in surrealism, has a particular resonance in the case of Toyen. Many women artists associated with surrealism explored themes related to personal identity, often via development of a personal mythology.66 A significant number of Toyen’s contemporaries among these artists practiced self-portraiture. In contrast, most male surrealists apparently felt little need to incorporate their physical features into works meant to convey material from deep within. For some of the women, however, the face of the artist remained a personally and historically necessary self-assertion. Toyen’s avoidance of it does not negate the possibility of self-referential imagery in her work, but indicates that she did not care to represent herself in an obvious way or as the kind of wild and beautiful woman found in the work of Carrington, Varo, Kahlo, Tanning, Fini, and Hugo. Toyen also differed from most of her female peers in her depiction of erotic themes. Male surrealist exploration of the erotic is one of the most striking features of both surrealist art and writing, and given the vital role that the sexual and erotic were theorized to play in the liberation of the human spirit, this is hardly surprising. Women associated with surrealism, however, never eroticized the image of the male to the degree that male surrealists did the female. Toyen’s early phallic imagery, though predating her surrealism, is perhaps the only work by a surrealist woman that uses the body of the opposite sex to explore sexuality in a manner at all similar to the men’s use of the female body. Again, while the female nude sometimes appears in the work of surrealist women, it was not their main way of exploring their sexuality. Toyen’s own use of the female nude was sometimes erotic, sometimes not, but was never hesitant. Her interest in the erotic signification of the female body may relate to her proclaimed erotic interest in women; it certainly predated her interest in surrealism. Most women connected with surrealism, unwilling to adopt either conventional feminine roles or the roles envisioned by Breton and other male surrealists, and lacking a tradition of a specifically female erotic pictorial language, were hard pressed to participate fully in surrealist pursuit of a revolutionary transformation of consciousness based in sexuality.67 Toyen’s preoccupation with the erotic, on the contrary, was unwavering throughout [End Page 27] her life. Her determination to explore multiple forms of sexuality—dreams, orgies, lesbianism, bestiality, scatology—suggests that she sought to unearth a deep understanding of eroticism and desire. She also stands out as one of the only women to join surrealism during the 1930s who gave her undivided support to the movement. In part, this was the result of her slow and considered acceptance of surrealist goals, and in part it was the result of her existing equal status among the founding Prague members. Because surrealist art has its origins in what Breton called an “internal model,” we can take her surrealist works as representing expressions of her psyche, but this does not mean they are biographical.


The late 1930s and World War II brought enormous changes for Toyen. Though Prague was neither a battleground nor a bomber target, Nazi Germany’s infamous dismemberment of Czechoslovakia brought to an end the brilliant interwar cultural world. Toyen lived a relatively underground existence during the war, during which Štyrský died and she sheltered her younger, Jewish, artistic partner Jindřich Heisler in her apartment. Heisler had to some degree taken Štyrský’s place in Toyen’s life even prior to Štyrský’s death, although the three worked on several collaborative projects in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Toyen and Heisler settled in Paris in 1947 in reaction to Czechoslovakia’s turn toward Stalinist Communism. Once in Paris, their lives centered around the surrealist group there, and Toyen participated in its postwar exhibitions. She did not, however, seem to have continued the kind of working life she had had in Prague. She devoted the rest of her life to painting, drawing, printmaking, and collage—in other words, to her fine-art work. Her work on books soon dwindled to a few limited-edition collaborations with other surrealists. In France, she gained a reputation for being anti-commercial, and perhaps she became increasingly so with age.68 No longer surrounded by Czech avant-gardists who energetically made themselves successful in multiple media, she now lived amidst French surrealists who were trying to reconstitute a movement that had been fragmented by World War II and that was no longer new or shocking. Furthermore, while she made new friends among the Paris surrealists, she lost Heisler to death in 1953 and lost touch with many other Czech friends.

The Czech feminist movement had created an atmosphere encouraging to women’s artistic ambitions, but it was the camaraderie, political radicalism, and relative openness of the interwar Czech avant-garde that provided a space for Toyen’s development as an avant-gardist with an erotic turn of mind. While the avant-garde included few women and would have been [End Page 28] considered male-chauvinist by today’s standards, this largely male group welcomed a woman of ambiguous gender identity and unclear sexual preference, and encouraged her to become one of its leading artists. Devětsil and its successor, the Prague surrealist group, provided a warm and unconventional extended “family” that approved of her audacious explorations beyond the bounds of conventional femininity and morality. I argue that Toyen, by pursuing an avant-gardist direction, by representing herself as a liberated but not actively feminist working woman of possibly lesbian preferences, and by allying herself to a primarily male avant-garde peer group, created a means for herself to fit into the highly social Prague cultural world. Intentionally or not, she differentiated herself from women artists of a more traditional bent, whose work was covered in feminist magazines such as Ženský svět (Women’s World). The famously reticent Toyen, through her quiet but active participation in Devětsil and the surrealist group, her partnership with Jindřich Štyrský, and her prolific production of book covers and illustrations (primarily for literary, erotic, and children’s books), made herself widely known to the interwar Czechoslovak public. Other Czech women artists lacked the benefit of such established male peer groups, and formed something of a female art ghetto. Toyen’s erotic art also separated her from the larger Czech feminist movement, which during the interwar period still stressed sexual purity and monogamy for both genders, and placed her in the more sexually active context of the jazz-age New Woman.

While I do not suggest that Toyen consciously strategized her positioning within the male-dominated Czech avant-garde and Prague cultural scene, I do posit that she found a means of making herself and her work known that eschewed the energetic self-promotion typical of Czech writers, actresses, and modern dancers. These women’s names, photos, writings, and opinions appeared regularly in First Republic popular periodicals such as the arts journal Rozpravy Aventina (Aventinum Discourses) and the women’s magazine Eva. Interwar Czech society was very open to verbal, intellectual, extroverted female cultural figures but female visual artists, often less vocal, needed to ally themselves with highly visible and vocal figures—in Toyen’s case, the artist and writer Štyrský, the poets Nezval and Seifert, and the theorist Teige. Toyen’s refusal to accept normative gendering—her determination to be a person rather than masculine or feminine—likewise made possible her quiet but vitally important role not only in Czech surrealism but also in Devětsil and postwar French surrealism.

In 1930, some years before the founding of the Prague surrealist group, Devětsil member Adolf Hoffmeister had captured Toyen in a caricature for the cover of the Prague arts paper Rozpravy Aventina. In this brilliantly perceptive sketch, Hoffmeister presented Toyen wearing trousers but casting a skirted shadow with fish in her bosom, a bird for a head, and a drafting [End Page 29] triangle for an arm (Figure 2). Via the title “Ten-Ta-To-yen” he provided a witty grammar lesson of “that male, that female, that neuter” creature whose gender and nature could not be pinned down. Only her wild, pervasive, yet strangely detached eroticism was left unstated.

Figure 2. Adolf Hoffmeister, Ten-Ta-Toyen, cover of Rozpravy Aventina 5, no. 23, 5 March 1930.
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Figure 2.

Adolf Hoffmeister, Ten-Ta-Toyen, cover of Rozpravy Aventina 5, no. 23, 5 March 1930.

My own work on Toyen, undertaken within the discipline of art history, prompts interdisciplinary questions. The old question of how an artist’s biography relates to the oeuvre intersects with questions such as how early twentieth-century female cultural workers and creative figures negotiated male-dominated avant-garde circles and in some cases were marginalized less by their peers than by the cultural establishment or even by historical circumstances. Toyen, reticent about her thoughts and history, made herself difficult to trace, so that to some extent the pursuit of Toyen becomes the pursuit of her world. The external proves easier to trace than the internal. Toyen herself remains slippery. Yet this very inward artist, whose precise thoughts we cannot divine with certainty, nonetheless provides a unique and [End Page 30] exciting means of studying one woman’s role in three important avant-garde groups and her negotiation of nonconformist gender roles and the erotic.

Karla Huebner

Karla Huebner is an assistant professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. She received her PhD in the history of art and architecture from the University of Pittsburgh, and her MA from American University. Her present areas of research include the history of gender and sexuality, surrealism, and Czech modernism 1890–1950. Recent publications include “Girl, Trampka, or Žába? The Czechoslovak New Woman,” in The New Woman International: Representations in Photography and Film from the 1870s through the 1960s (University of Michigan Press, 2011); “Fire Smoulders in the Veins: Toyen’s Queer Desire and its Roots in Prague Surrealism,” in Papers of Surrealism issue 8 (Spring 2010); and “The Whole World Revolves around It: Sex Education and Sex Reform in First Republic Czech Print Media,” in Aspasia 4 (Spring 2010). Scholarly book projects underway include Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic and a study of gender and sexuality in interwar Czechoslovak visual culture.


All translations are mine unless otherwise indicated.

To see a follow-up essay by Karla Huebner, please visit “Beyond the Printed Page” on the Journal of Women’s History website: www.journalofwomenshistory.org.


1. Useful English-language resources on the Czech avant-garde include Matthew S. Witkovsky, Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 1918–1945 (Washington, DC: National Gallery, 2007); Timothy O. Benson, ed., Central European Avant-Gardes: Exchange and Transformation, 1910–1930 (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2002); S.A. Mansbach, Modern Art in Eastern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999); Derek Sayer, The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998); Jaroslav Andel, El Arte de la Vanguardia en Checoslovaquia 1918–1938/The Art of the Avant-Garde in Czechoslovakia 1918–1938 (Ivam Centre Julio González, 1993); Rostislav Švácha, et al., Devětsil: Czech Avant-Garde Art, Architecture and Design of the 1920s and 30s (Oxford: Museum of Modern Art, 1990). On Toyen herself, see Karla Huebner, “Eroticism, Identity, and Cultural Context: Toyen and the Prague Avant-Garde” (Ph.D. diss., Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2008); Malynne Sternstein, “Ecstatic Subjects: Citizenship and Sex in Czech Surrealism,” in The Invention of Politics in the European Avant-Garde (1906–1940), ed. Sascha Bru and Gunther Martens (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006), 113–31; Karel Srp, Toyen, trans. Karolina Vočadlo (Prague: City Gallery Prague and Argo, 2000).

2. André Breton, Surrealism and Painting, trans. Simon Watson Taylor (London: MacDonald & Co., 1972), 210; José Pierre, An Illustrated Dictionary of Surrealism (New York: Barron’s, 1979), 160.

3. See Srp, Toyen.

4. The surrealist concept of the femme-enfant (woman-child) relates to the idea of woman as muse and specifically to the ideal of the unfettered, unconventional young woman as a conduit for male creativity. A negative view of the femme-enfant posits her as infantilized; a more positive view sees her as a person who maintains a childlike sense of wonder. Regarding surrealist women and the concept of the femme-enfant, see Whitney Chadwick, Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement (New York: Thames & Hudson Inc., 1985), 33–34 and passim, and Penelope Rosemont, ed., Surrealist Women: An International Anthology (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998), xlvii.

5. Toyen’s female peers’ experience is discussed in Martina Pachmanová, Neznámá území: Českého moderního umění: Pod lupou genderu (Prague: Argo, 2004), 98–110. This pioneering work on Czech women’s art production devotes a chapter (pp. 183–247) to Toyen.

6. Present-day Czech disdain for feminism is pervasive and a source of exasperation for many existing Czech feminists. Rejection of feminism is in part [End Page 31] a reaction to Communist-era attempts at gender equality, which put women to work without ensuring that men took an equal role at home. Feminist enterprises are usually termed “gender” study in order to avoid references to feminism. For an overview of the situation, see Rebecca J. Nash, “Exhaustion from Explanation: Reading Czech Gender Studies in the 1990s,” The European Journal of Women’s Studies 9, no. 3 (2002): 291–309.

7. Ignorance of the Czechoslovak avant-garde is often, and not incorrectly, attributed to Communist isolation post-1948. However, western neglect was probably due more to scholars’ and publishers’ reluctance to explore an unfamiliar territory where one must deal with a little-known language than to inaccessibility of the actual work (John A. Vloemans, Czech Avant-Garde Books 1922–1938 [The Hague: Vloemans Antiquarian Books, 1994], n.p).

8. See Chadwick, Women Artists; Chadwick, “Toyen: Toward a Revolutionary Art in Prague and Paris,” Symposium 42, no. 4 (Winter 1989): 277–95; Rita Bischof, Toyen: Das malerische Werk (Frankfurt am Main: Neue Kritik, 1987); and Pachmanová, Neznámá území.

9. Matthew S. Witkovsky, “Surrealist in the Plural: Guillaume Apollinaire, Ivan Goll and Devětsil in the 1920s,” Papers of Surrealism, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 2. http://www.surrealismcentre.ac.uk/papersofsurrealism/journal2/index.htm, (accessed Oct. 20, 2012).

10. Sternstein, “Ecstatic Subjects,” 115.

11. Penny Russell, “Life’s Illusions: The ‘Art’ of Critical Biography,” Journal of Women’s History 21, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 154.

12. Heisler’s work is presented in František Šmejkal, ed., Jindřich Heisler/Z kasemat spánku (Prague: Torst, 1999). Štyrský has been more intensively studied and a large monograph appeared on the heels of a 2007 retrospective (see Karel Srp and Lenka Bydžovská, Jindřich Štyrský [Prague: Argo, 2007]).

13. Sternstein, “Ecstatic Subjects,” 114; See Pachmanová, Neznámá území.

14. Devětsil, formed in 1920 and comprised of artists, architects, writers, musicians, theater people, and others, took the name of the butterbur plant, which in Czech contains the words Nine Strength. It is not known why the group chose this name.

15. For surrealist poetic biography of Toyen, see André Breton, Jindrich Heisler, and Benjamin Péret, Toyen (Paris: Éditions Sokolova, 1953).

16. In his memoirs, for example, Nezval wrote “Of the life of Toyen, I never came to know anything; she remained a human mystery and revealed nothing of her past.” We should be cautious about accepting this at face value, as Nezval knew Toyen well for fifteen years and wrote this passage long after the end of their friendship and after Toyen had permanently left Czechoslovakia. Vítězslav Nezval, Z mého života (Prague: Československý spisovatel, 1965), 131. [End Page 32]

17. Two books that specifically focus on creative partnership are Whitney Chadwick and Isabelle de Courtivron, eds., Significant Others: Creativity and Intimate Partnership (New York: Thames & Hudson, 1993) and Renée Riese Hubert, Magnifying Mirrors: Women, Surrealism, and Partnership (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1994).

18. See Hans Richter, Dada: Art and Anti-Art, trans. David Britt (London: Thames and Hudson, 1966), 132 and Karel Teige, “O fotomontáži,” Žijeme 2, no. 3–4 (June-July): 107–13; no. 6 (Sept.): 173–78 (1932): 110.

19. Jaroslav Seifert, Všecky krásy světa (Prague: Eminent/Knižní Klub, 1999), 155.

20. Police records confirm that Toyen left home shortly after her sixteenth birthday. She had seven separate addresses (one of them twice) between leaving home and settling with her sister at the end of October 1922 (See residence record, Policejní ředitelství Praha II—evidence obyvatelstva, signatura Čermínová Marie [Toyen], 1902, Národní Archiv. See also documents contained in Policejní ředitelství Praha II - všeobecná spisnovna—1941-1950, signatura Čermínová Marie [Toyen], 1902, karton 1262, Národní Archiv).

21. Nezval, Z mého života, 130.

22. Seifert, Všecky krásy světa, 156. This is borne out by numerous archival documents at the Národní Archiv and Památník národního písemnictví.

23. Fjords, 1928, is listed as belonging to Mrs. Zd. Svobodová in Jaroslav B. Svrček, Katalog výstavy obrazů a kreseb Štyrského a Toyen pořádané Skupinou výtvarných umělců v Brně v galerii Vaněk, Dominikánské náměstí č. 2 od 19. března do 10. dubna 1932, pamphlet (Brno, 1932).

24. Odevzdací listiny, 5 March 1940 and 29 October 1946, in the Kamill Resler fond—Toyen—5656–5862 63/68, Památník národního písemnictví, Prague.

25. Much work has been done on early Czech feminism. Some useful English-language sources include Iveta Jusová, “Fin-de-Siècle Feminisms: The Development of Feminist Narratives Within the Discourses of British Imperialism and Czech Nationalism” (Ph.D. diss., Oxford, Ohio: Miami University, 2000); Jitka Malečková, “Nationalizing Women and Engendering the Nation: The Czech National Movement,” in Gendered Nations: Nationalisms and Gender Order in the Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Ida Blom, Karen Hagemann, and Catherine Hall (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2000), 293–310; Robert B. Pynsent, ed., “The Liberation of Women and Nation: Czech Nationalism and Women Writers of the Fin de Siècle,” in The Literature of Nationalism: Essays on East European Identity, ed. Robert B. Pynsent (London: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1996), 83–155; Katherine David, “Czech Feminists and Nationalism in the Late Hapsburg Monarchy: ‘The First in Austria’,” Journal of Women’s History 3, no. 2 (Fall 1991): 26–45; Karen Johnson Freeze, “Medical Education for Women in Austria: A Study in the Politics of the Czech Women’s Movement in the 1890s,” in Women, State and Party in Eastern Europe, ed. Sharon L. Wolchik and Alfred G. Meyer (Durham: Duke University Press, 1985), 51–63.

26. Seifert, Všecky krásy světa, 152. [End Page 33]

27. See Marie Neudorfl, “Masaryk and the Women’s Question,” in Thinker and Politician, vol. 1 of T. G. Masaryk (1850–1937), ed. Stanley B. Winters (New York: St. Martin’s, 1990), 258–82, for an overview of Masaryk’s feminism.

28. Karel Teige, “Doslov,” in Štyrský a Toyen, by Vítězslav Nezval (Prague: F. Borový, 1938), 190.

29. See Melissa Feinberg, Elusive Equality: Gender, Citizenship, and the Limits of Democracy in Czechoslovakia, 1918–1950 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006).

30. Sternstein, “Ecstatic Subjects,” 113.

31. UMPRŮM is an abbreviation for the Vysoká škola Uměleckoprůmyslová v Praze which means School of Decorative Arts in Prague.

32. Polana Bregantová, “The Membership of Devětsil,” in Švácha, et al., Devětsil, 106–9.

33. Pachmanová, Neznámá území, 98–99. Three of these groups were named after famous Czech artists: Josef Mánes, Václav/Wenceslaus Hollar, and Mikoláš Aleš.

34. See Karla Huebner, “Girl, Trampka, or Žába? The Czechoslovak New Woman,” in The New Woman International: Representations in Photography and Film from the 1870s Through the 1960s, ed. Elizabeth Otto and Vanessa Rocco (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011), 231–51.

35. Seifert, Všecky krásy světa, 158.

36. Srp, Toyen, 298.

37. On the 1920s rush to Paris, see Vanda Skálová and Tomáš Pospiszyl, Alén Diviš 1900–1956 (Ars Fontes, 2005), 27–9; Anna Pravdová, “Pou′ do Mekky umění: Čeští malíři v Paříži dvacátých let,” Umění 48, no. 1–2 (1999): 121–30; Anna Pravdova, “František Kupka and His Czech Fine Arts Students in France,” Centropa 6, no. 2 (May 2006).

38. Toyen’s considerable labors in the area of book design are detailed in Karel Srp and Lenka Bydžovská, Knihy s Toyen (Prague: Akropolis, 2003). Examples of her curtain designs are on view at the UPM in Prague; correspondence in various PNP fonds refers to her designs for bookplates; the popular women’s magazine Eva 5, no. 12 (15 April 1933) has an inner cover by Toyen.

39. See Srp and Bydžovská, Knihy s Toyen.

40. Sternstein, “Ecstatic Subjects,” 113.

41. Seifert, Všecky krásy světa, 156.

42. Seifert, Všecky krásy světa, 151–61. Seifert’s account of the pseudonym is questioned by Rita Bischof, who points out two other possible sources (Bischof, Toyen: Das malerische Werk, 14). Devětsil member Karel Honzík supports Seifert, stating the poet named both Toyen and Remo (Karel Honzík, Ze života avantgardy [Prague: [End Page 34] Československý spisovatel, 1963], 50). Teige states she received her undeclinable pseudonym at the café table in 1923 (Teige, “Doslov,” 190). French surrealist Annie Le Brun asserts, on behalf of herself, Georges Goldfayn, and Radovan Ivšić, that Toyen told them many times that in her youthful enthusiasm for the French Revolution, she was seduced by the word citoyen and made it her own. (A. Le Brun, “Toyen ou l’insurrection lyrique,” Nouvelle Revue Française, no. 559 [October 2001]: 132). It appears that Toyen and her Czech comrades recalled the matter somewhat differently.

43. Jaroslav Seifert, “Obrazy Toyen,” Volné směry 30, no. 4 (1933–34): 78.

44. Seifert, Všecky krásy světa, 154.

45. Seifert, Všecky krásy světa, 158–59.

46. Seifert, Všecky krásy světa, 158–59.

47. Srp, Toyen, 115.

48. Zuzana P. Krupičková, “Po stopách Toyen,” Host, no. 4 (2003): 29; Srp, Toyen, 88.

49. Nezval, Z mého života, 190.

50. Jan Němec, Toyen, starring Jan Budar, Zuzana Stivínová, Tobiás Jirous (Czech Republic: FILM/ArtCam International i/o postproduction, 2005).

51. “La Légende du Nil” was a sequence from the 1924 production Coeurs en Folie (Charles Castle, The Folies Bergère [London: Methuen, 1982], 169).

52. Laura Claridge, Tamara de Lempicka: A Life of Deco and Decadence (New York: Clarkson Potter, 1999), 94, 96–97, 108–9.

53. Seifert, Všecky krásy světa, 157–59.

54. Annie Le Brun, “A l’instant du silence des lois,” in Štyrský, Toyen, Heisler, ed. Jana Claverie (Paris: Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1982), 57–58.

55. Jindřich Štyrský and Toyen, “Artificielisme,” ReD 1, no. 1 (October 1927): 28–30. For an English translation, see Jindřich Štyrský and Toyen, “Artificialism (1927–28),” in Between Worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes, 1910–1930, ed. Timothy O. Benson and Éva Forgács, trans. Alexandra Büchler (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002), 589–90.

56. “dostávají se tyto obrazy ve velikou blizkost surrealismu” and “spájených novým vnitřním řádem,” Svrček, Katalog výstavy obrazů, n.p.

57. Vítězslav Nezval, “Poesie 1932,” in Dílo 25: Manifesty, eseje, a kritické projevy z let 1931–1941, reprint, 1933 (Prague: Československý spisovatel, 1950), 19. Foreign artists included Arp, de Chirico, Dalí, Ernst, Giacometti, Klee, Masson, Miró, and Tanguy, while the Czechs included Filla, Hoffmeister, Janoušek, Muzika, Toyen, Šíma, Štyrský, Wachsman, Makovský, Bedřich Stefan, and Wichterlova. [End Page 35]

58. Adolf Hoffmeister, “První pražská podzimní výstava,” Žijeme 2, no. 5 (September 1932): 149–51; Adolf Hoffmeister, “Situační zprava surrealismu,” Žijeme 2, no. 9 (January 1933): 269–70; and Lenka Bydžovská, “The Rift Between Surrealism and Socialist Realism,” in Adolf Hoffmeister, ed. Karel Srp, trans. Steven Chess, et al. (Prague: Gallery, 2004), 113.

59. Nezval diaries of 1933 and 1934, Nezval fond 19205–19212 21/71, Památník národního písemnictví, Prague.

60. Nezval diaries of 1933 and 1934, Nezval fond 19205–19212 21/71, Památník národního písemnictví, Prague.

61. Teige, “Doslov,” 191.

62. Jindřich Štyrský, “Inspirovaná ilustrátorka,” in Každý z nás stopuje svoji ropuchu. Texty 1923–1940, ed. Karel Srp (Prague: Thyrsus, 1996), 93–95.

63. Vítězslav Nezval, “Štyrský. Toyen,” Cahiers d’Art 10, no. 5–6 (1936): 135.

64. Breton, Surrealism and Painting, 207–14. Breton conveniently neglected to mention Nezval, who had turned Stalinist, or the many surrealist-oriented artists who remained in Czechoslovakia, or Grand Jeu member Josef Šíma whose work was so close to surrealist but with whom Toyen had broken ties after the war.

65. Susan Rubin Suleiman, “A Double Margin: Reflections on Women Writers and the Avant-Garde in France,” Yale French Studies, no. 75, “The Politics of Tradition: Placing Women in French Literature” (1988): 148–72, quotation on164.

66. Some major resources on surrealist women, especially in relation to sexuality, include Patricia Allmer, ed., Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism (Prestel, 2009); Jennifer Mundy, Vincent Gille, and Dawn Ades, eds., Surrealism: Desire Unbound (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001); Rosemont, Surrealist Women; Mary Ann Caws, Rudolf Kuenzli, and Gwen Raaberg, eds., Surrealism and Women (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991); Chadwick, Women Artists.

67. Chadwick, Women Artists, 140.

68. Krupičková, “Po stopách Toyen,” 29. [End Page 36]