Toyen: the unconventional surrealist rebel

‘Dormant’, Toyen (1937)|Photo repro: Karel Srp, ‘Toyen’/Argo

Toyen was unconventional in many ways for a woman of her time and even by today’s standards, both in her life and art. She rejected gender conformism, favouring a gender-neutral pseudonym over her birth name, referring to herself in Czech using masculine grammatical forms when speaking in the first person, and often dressing in masculine-style clothing. She portrayed themes of violence and sexuality in her works at a time when this was very unusual for women, and joined several avant-garde artistic movements, including male-dominated surrealist groups. Her surrealist artworks are still highly prized by art collectors today.

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