SURREALISTS AND SURREALISM, 1919-1939, by Gaetan Picon (Skira/Rizzoli, $50). The late French writer and critic Picon was ideally suited to write this book for his familiarity with the literature and art of the surrealist movement: the two are indivisible. The movement sprang to life between the two world wars, a time when truth seemed surreal and vice versa. In 1919, the year of the Versailles Treaty, the Spartacist revolt, the founding of the Third International, a group of artists and writers, including Andre Breton and Max Ernst were formulating ideas on surrealism as a movement seperate from Dadaism. Eventually a circle was formed, among them, Chirico, Man Ray, Eluard, Aragon, Altough Picon's book ends at the eve of the Second World War, he includes a chronological survey of the movement from 1939-1966. The book is a rare blend of well chosen illustrations beautifully reproduced and an intelligent, informative text.
MAX ERNST, by Edward Quinn (New York Graphic Society, $85) "Collage is this century's outstanding contribution to mystification," wrote critic Harold Rosenberg. Max Ernst, who died last year, was a pioneer of that medium, an artist who could stretch and transform reality like magic by combining a variety of incongruous images. Quinn has assembled much of Ernst's vast, eclectic oeuvre - his sculptures, pre and post-surrealist oil paintings, lithographs, frottages into this handsome volume. The book is arranged in the spirit of a collage - a scattering of quotes from Ernst and his friends, a dab of explanatory not here and there, a photograph of the artis and his studio sandwiched between color plates. Nowhere to be found is Caged Bed with Screen, a bed designed by Ernst and housed until recently in the official residence of our former millionaire Vice President. The color reproductions (printed in Switzerland) are superb.
MAGRITTE: Ideas and Images, by Harry Torcyner (Abrams, $45). One associates Belgium with endives and sprouts, Simenon and Hercule Poirot, Jacques Brel and Magritte. The latter has been one of the foremost practitioners of surrealist art whose works have entered our consciousness in the form of an immense green apple floating in the sky, the mysterious, ubiquitous man with a bowler hat and a dark overcoat. The text, written by a lawyer friend of Magritte, is neither definitive nor deft, but there are enough well-reproduced color plates and quotes by the artist on a variety of topics for this book to warrant a place on your coffee table.