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580 TOYEN (born Marie Čermínová) (1902–1980) Czech painter, illustrator; leading member of the Czech interwar avant-garde and Surrealist movements; innovator in painting techniques; pioneer woman artist who broke many taboos in the artistic representation of female sexuality. Toyen was born Marie Čermínová in Prague on 21 September 1902. Although little is known of her family background, it may be assumed that the relationship between her and her parents was influenced by divergent political views. Toyen sympathized with anarchism and left the family at the age of sixteen. In 1919, she was accepted to the School of Applied Arts in Prague, where she studied at the painting studio led by Emanuel Dítě, graduating in 1922. In the summer of that year, she met a young painter and writer, Jindřich Štyrský (1899–1942), on the island of Korčula in Yugoslavia. Toyen and Štyrský immediately formed an inseparable artistic couple, collaborating on a large number of exhibitions in Czechoslovakia and abroad until the death of Štyrský in 1942. In 1923, they joined the most radical of the Czech avant-garde groups, Devětsil. Emphasizing both formal experiments and political engagement, Devětsil had a transformative impact on contemporary artistic paradigms. Toyen was the first woman artist to break into the bastion of male-dominated art in newly formed Czechoslovakia after 1918, when roles for women in Czech culture and society began to change perceptibly . In that year, suffrage and equal education rights were introduced under the first Czechoslovak President, T. G. Masaryk (1850–1937), whose life and thought were inextricably linked with the long, well-established trajectory of nineteenthcentury Czech feminism. Early on in her career, Toyen’s work was influenced by Cubism and Purism but she soon discovered the poetics of naďve and primitive art. Her canvas series of exotic and circus motifs, painted in the mid-1920s, were stylistically reminiscent of Henry Rousseau (whom she admired) and approached the ‘proletarian art’ celebrated by Devětsil. The biggest ‘career break’ for Toyen arrived in 1925, when she began working on bookcover designs with Štyrský. Most of these were for Odeon, one of the most innovative Czech publishing houses of the time. From the mid-1920s on, Toyen and Štyrský designed covers for some of the most prominent Czech writers and critics, including 581 Jaroslav Seifert (1901–1986), Vítězslav Nezval (1900–1958), Jindřich Honzl (1894– 1953) and Karel Schulz (1899–1943). Their designs combined photomontage, abstract planes and text, resulting in playful yet formally disciplined compositions. In the autumn of 1925, Toyen and Štyrský traveled to Paris, where they developed and formulated a unique artistic genre: Artificialism. In the manifesto issued in conjunction with the 1927 exhibition of their work in Paris and Prague, they described Artificialism as “an abstract consciousness of reality… defined by poetic perceptions of memories .” Marked by innovative painting techniques, such as dripping or spray painting through grids, stencils and various objects, or layering thick and tactile structures, Toyen’s Artificialist style emphasized the material properties of paint and radicalized dominant conventions in abstract painting. For a short period of time (1929–1930), Toyen and Štyrský also attempted experiments with Artificialism in the sphere of applied arts. They established a fashion studio where they employed abstract techniques —mainly spraying—to decorate various kinds of textiles (scarves, lingerie, ties etc.). Although regarded as a less significant period in Toyen’s career, her intertwining of painting and textile can be seen as part of attempts she made to undermine traditional gender-based, and gender-biased hierarchies such as the opposition between ‘high’ (masculine) and ‘low’ or ‘decorative’ (feminine) art. In the early 1930s, Toyen’s work again began to metamorphose. Small interventions by various, mostly natural objects or their fragments (shells, eggs, stones, crystals etc.) interrupted the abstractions of Artificialism, anticipating the arrival of Surrealism . In time, Toyen became internationally recognized. She participated in important international group shows, her work was written about by prominent figures in the modern art world (André Breton, among others) and she was even included in a prestigious 1928 survey of women artists in the history of Western civilization, entitled Die Frau als Künstlerin (Woman as artist) and published by German art historian Hans Hildebrandt. In 1934, Toyen signed a declaration marking the foundation of the Czechoslovak Surrealist Group, a definitive turning point in her creative life. The poetics and politics of Surrealism preoccupied the artist until the end of her days; she was...


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