The Surrealist Movement was formed by André Breton with the first Surrealist Manifesto of 1924 and quickly became an international movement that included writers, artists, and filmmakers. West Dean College founder, Edward James, became an associate of the movement in the mid-1930s and is now known as one for the foremost patrons of surrealist art in Britain. The 1936 exhibition attracted around 23,000 visitors, received extensive coverage in the UK press and introduced a British audience to key names in the surrealist movement.
Notably, Phantoms of Surrealism features James’s introduction and partial translation of Dalí’s iconic ‘diving-suit’ lecture which was delivered on 1st July 1936. This is the first time the document has been shown in a public exhibition. Although Dalí’s lecture is notorious for his near suffocation in the diving suit, its content was previously unknown to scholarship. The 2017 discovery of the translation among miscellaneous archive papers by Dr David Stent has been documented through presentations and publications at both the Royal Academy and the Dalí Museum, Florida. Dr Stent comments: “Looking through uncatalogued files, I found several pages that combined neatly dictated text with rushed, multi-coloured annotations. It was soon clear to me that this was Edward James’s translation of Dalí’s lecture. Even incomplete, it gives renewed insight into Dalí’s approach to his subject – ‘Authentic Paranoiac Phantoms’ – beyond the inconsistent press reports of the time. It also shows the degree to which James was involved in Dalí’s introduction to a wider public at this first major exhibition of Surrealism in Britain. It contextualizes their close relationship during the 1930s and underlines James’s investment into promoting and purchasing Dalí’s work.”
Two members of staff from West Dean College, Dr. David Stent (Fine Art Subject Leader) and George Charman (Diploma in Art and Contemporary Craft / Fine Art Tutor), will be delivering papers at a conference at University of the Creative Arts (UCA) on Wednesday & Thursday, June 9 & 10, 2021. Organised alongside the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition, Dr Stent’s paper will focus on Edward James’s transformation of his house at 35 Wimpole Street in London. More details on the conference can be found https://www.uca.ac.uk/Events/research/Surrealism-in-England-1936-and-After-Revisited/
West Dean College of Arts and Conservation was founded by Edward James in 1971 with the aim of supporting future generations of artists and makers. Today, the College teaches courses ranging from contemporary fine art to furniture making and conservation. The opportunities for interdisciplinary study maintain the legacy of surrealist design, and together with the College’s Collection and Archive, offers unique opportunity for study, from short courses to MFA degrees. West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has an international reputation for excellence and is a full partner of the University of Sussex. For conservation, craft and fine art study opportunities see www.westdean.ac.uk.
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