A beautifully written and elegantly constructed narrative that explores the intense, complex and far-reaching female friendships among the Surrealists during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s
The Militant Muse documents what it meant to be young, ambitious and female in the context of an avant-garde movement defined by celebrated men whose educational, philosophical and literary backgrounds were often quite different from those of their younger lovers and companions.
Focusing on the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Whitney Chadwick charts five intense, far-reaching female friendships among the surrealists to show how surrealism and the experiences of war, loss and trauma shaped individual women’s transitions from beloved muses to mature artists. Her vivid account includes the fascinating story of Claude Cahun and Suzanne Malherbe’s subversive activities in occupied Jersey, as well as the experiences of Lee Miller and Valentine Penrose at the frontline. The book draws on personal correspondence between the women, including the extraordinary letters between Leonora Carrington and Leonor Fini following the imprisonment of Carrington’s lover Max Ernst, and the letter Frida Kahlo shared with her friend and lover Jacqueline Lamba years after it was written in the 1930s during a difficult stay in Paris.
Thoroughly engrossing, this history brings a new perspective to the political context of surrealism, as well as fresh insights on the vital importance of female friendship to artistic and intellectual flowering.
'A valuable and absorbing account of the importance of female solidarity and friendship' Times Literary Supplement
'A beautifully constructed study of the complicated ways women needed each other and urged each other on' Guardian
'An important contribution to the way surrealism is understood… it succeeds in transforming our understanding of a whole generation of artists, both women and men' Literary Review
1. The Alchemy of Desire: Valentine Penrose and Alice Rahon Paalen, India 1937 • 2. The Two Leonors: Leonora Carrington and Leonor Fini, Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche, 1938–41 • 3. ‘I Will Write to You with My Eyes’, Frida Kahlo and Jacqueline Lamba Breton, Mexico and Paris, 1938–45 • 4. Soldiers without Names, Claude Cahun, Suzanne Malherbe and Jacqueline Lamba, Jersey, 1938–45 • 5. Wars without End, Lee Miller and Valentine Penrose, 1940–78
About the Author
Whitney Chadwick is the author of Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement, the first full-length study of the women of surrealism, and Women, Art, and Society, which has become a required text in art history courses throughout the world. She has also contributed to exhibition catalogues on Sheila Hicks, Mona Hatoum, Wifredo Lam, Nalini Malani, Leonora Carrington and Lee Miller.