Toyen, At La Coste Castle, 1943
Sep 24, 2021 – Feb 13, 2022
Hamburger Kunsthalle
Hamburg, Germany

The first monographic presentation devoted to the outstanding and influential twentieth-century Czech artist Toyen, features more than 300 exhibits from all creative phases, including some 120 paintings as well as drawings, illustrations and prints, collages, illustrated books and a number of personal documents and photographs that allow us to relive her extraordinary life against the backdrop of historical events. Her boundary-shifting combinations of different media become evident here, for example painting and collage, poetry and illustration, fine and applied art.

Toyen stands out among the strong women who worked at the heart of Surrealism. The most important Czech woman artist of the twentieth century was a pioneer – in her home city of Prague as well as in Parisian exile. Marie Čermínová (1902–1980) chose her pseudonym, derived from the French “citoyen” (citizen), early on.

A lifelong pusher of limits, she challenged preconceived stereotypes in both her art and her life, whether with regard to common gender roles, prevailing styles, themes or techniques. In the process, she created an oeuvre that was as fascinating as it was diverse, unperturbed by early successes or later oblivion. Her life’s work occupies a unique position in the male-dominated Czech avant-garde art scene as well as in international Surrealism and art up to the 1970s.

Toyen’s images, as poetic as they are provocative, oscillate between reality and imagination, the seductive and the cryptic, and make a deep impression on the memory. They are a revelation.

The show traces Toyen’s artistic career and personal life as well as the influences of political events and different cultural realms in chronological order, providing in-depth insights into individual artistic phases. Recurring themes such as eroticism, veiling, humor and alchemy form their own thematic islands.

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