A French exhibition sheds light on the mysterious woman “Leona Delcourt” and the novel André Breton

We all know André Breton’s famous phrase: “Beauty will be cramped, or it will not be”, which has become The most accurate definition of aesthetics Surrealism. But most of us are ignorant that this sentence did not arise in the mind of the pioneer of surrealism through a contemplative attempt, but after his meeting in Paris with a beautiful young woman named Leona Delcourt. An astonishing encounter was inspired by his famous novel “Nadja” (1928), which is currently the subject of an important exhibition at the “Musée des Beaux-Arts” in the French city of Rouen, with the aim of referring to this book to show inside. the surrealist movement, and at the same time, to illuminate the tragic fate of his inspiration.

For those who have not yet read this autobiographical novel, we would first like to point out that Broughton recounts the few days he lived with young Leona while stopping at the signs, coincidences, and casual encounters while he was with her. wandered the streets. Paris, as constituent elements of a crazy emotional adventure, and also of a new type of writing. From this point of view, dozens of images were scattered throughout the text that respond to an intended purpose: to explode the literary side of the novel and eliminate “any description” in it. Pictures are reproductions of surrealistic and non-surrealistic paintings and drawings, of primitive art pieces and portraits of poets who accompanied Proton on his unique poetic adventure.

exciting step

Drawing of Nadja (Information Service)

Because these images form stops within the text and at the same time open windows to surrealism, the current exhibition uses it as a guide to present an exciting excursion to its visitors, to the world of “nadja” and, more broadly, in surrealism. Inspired by the eclecticism that characterizes the works of art in which Bruton adorns the wall of his famous studio, the exhibition path leaves one with the “forbidden world”, i.e. the “world of sudden convergences and surprising coincidences” that the author of “Crazy Love ”Expressed his wish from the first pages of his novel.

In the first hall of the exhibition we see the portraits in Nadja, made by the artist Man Ray for some of his surrealistic companions, such as Eluard, Desnos, Perret and Breton himself.This allows us to identify the first surrealist episode and some of his favorite themes, such as the waking sleep we read in Breton’s novel about the following: I now remember Robert Desnos during the ‘period of drowsiness’. I see him ‘sleeping’, but he writes and talks. We are at my studio at night, at the Cabaret of Heaven. (…) Desnos continues to see what I do not see, what I see Only when he shows it to me. “

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One-page graphics (information service)

In the second hall we see, in addition to the paintings of Max Ernst and Giorgio de Quirico present in “Nadea”, works that do not belong to the surrealist aesthetics, but formed the subject of a dialogue between him and Leona, as Georges Braque ‘s Cubist Painting “The Guitarist”, and one of the six doors of Paolo Uccello’s painting. .

In the third hall we see how the surrealists, in their quest to free themselves from rationality, which in their view is narrow, were interested in all states of consciousness and were fascinated by the power of the dream and the subconscious. In this context, the esoteric sciences, astrology, and the personality of the visionary occupied an important position in their imagination, such as Madame Sacco, who visited Proton her home, and stopped in Nadja when her predictions about Leona came true. Also present in this hall are the drawings that the surrealists made during the hypnosis sessions and that Broton dealt with in his novel.

surrealistic mythology

And because the glove occupies a special place in surrealist mythology, because of its embodiment of what it conceals, and its concealment of what it embodies, in order to form the perfect embodiment of that confusion that the Surrealists sought, the fourth hall devoted to his subject which de Quirico approached in his first paintings, before Proton addressed it in “Nadja.” Through his narration he separated his fascination with young Liz Meyer after seeing the blue glove she wore, and then the bronze glove with curved wrists and thin fingers, which this young woman would give him as a gift.

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Andre Breton during his relationship with Nadja (media service)

The exhibition does not neglect the urban space as a theater for the manifestations of coincidences that are close to the heart of the surrealists, because it shows in its fifth hall how Proton and his companions tested this connection with the city, which is based on wander and wander in his alleys in search of signs and strange and unexpected encounters. In this context, the exhibition in this gallery corresponds to the photographs taken by Jacques-Andre Poivard of the Flea Market and several other places in Paris, some of which are present in the novel “Nada”, with photographs of Eugene Aguet, whose work honored by the Surrealists during the 1920s. We also see in this hall a selection of the pieces that Proton found in the said market and wrote in Nadja about it: “(…) These things that we can not find anywhere else are old, fragmentary, useless, and almost You can define what they are. They are misleading things in the sense that I like them. ”

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As for the last hall of the exhibition, it was dedicated to the life and consequences of the young Leona Delcourt, who fascinated Proton not only with her strange personality but also with her artistic talent, which is reflected in the drawings by the pioneer was spread. of surrealism in his novel, and she is present in this hall. Surrealistic drawings par excellence, reflecting an enigmatic and intimate inner world.

The path ends in a sanatorium

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A drawing of a nadja representing fate (media service)

We know in this ward that Leona was born in the suburb of Lille in 1902, and died in a mental hospital in 1941. We also know that she gave birth to a child of an unknown father in 1920, and since she refused to marry him to avoid scandal, her parents offered her to leave for Paris, where she married her in 1923. established. In a small apartment, she took on small careers to earn a living, choosing the name Nadja because it means “hope” in Russian. On the fourth of October (1926), she met Broughton and slept with him for a period of nine days and nine nights, during which they agreed to write a narrative of their daily encounters, one at a time. . From these encounters Broughton drew his famous novel, while Leona filled an entire notebook with limbs and notes, and then continued to write to him regularly in the months following their encounter, sending him many drawings which he all put together held. On March 21, 1927, after a frenzy, the police took this young woman to a mental institution, where she remained until her death.

For Bruton, Leona is the epitome of “free genius”, despite her deep depression. Although the madness that threw her into the sanatorium happened a few months after their divorce, it is unfair to believe that he was responsible for what happened to her, as some prejudices accused him. We know from their correspondence that they kept in touch until she entered the sanatorium, and from various sources, that he sold several paintings from his private collection to help her, and continued to visit her in the sanatorium, before fulfilling her wish. has and one of the most important love stories around her: “She will write a novel about me.” (…) Everything fades, everything disappears. Something must remain of us … ”.

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