Barr, Alfred H., Jr. : FANTASTIC ART DADA SURREALISM. New York: Museum of Modern Art, December 1936. First Edition [3,000 copies].

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Alfred H. Barr, Jr. [Editor]

Alfred H. Barr, Jr. [Editor]: FANTASTIC ART DADA SURREALISM. New York: Museum of Modern Art, December 1936. First Edition of 3,000 copies [note on bottom of page 8 regarding Georges Hugnet’s missing essay]. Quarto. Green cloth decorated in black. 248 pp. 200 + black and white plates. Cloth mildly soiled with spine a bit darkened. Endpapers lightly foxed. Interior unmarked and very clean. Out-of-print. A very good hardcover book without a dust jacket.

7.75 x 10.25 hardcover book with 248 pages and over 200 black and white plates. Title page and cover glyph by Hans Arp. Catalog from a seminal MOMA exhibit, which ran from December 1936 to January 1937. The second and third editions of the catalogue included the essay that Museum director Alfred H. Barr, Jr., had written for this brochure as well as essays by the French poet and critic Georges Hugnet that had arrived too late for inclusion in the first edition.


  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface by Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
  • Brief Chronology by Elodie Courter and A. H. B., Jr.
  • Plates
  • Catalog of the Exhibition
  • Films
  • Brief Bibliography

Includes work by Arcimboldo, Hieronymous Bosch, Albrecht Dürer, Peter Huys, Leonardo Da Vinci, Giovanni Battista Bracelli, William Hogarth, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Cole, Eugène Delacroix, James Ensor, Henry Fuseli, Francisco Goya, Victor Marie Hugo, Edward Lear, Odilon Redon, Henri Rousseau, Marc Chagall, Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Hans Arp, Johannes Baader, J. T. Baargeld, Max Ernst, Hans Bellmer, Edward Burra, Joseph Cornell, Salvador Dali, Oscar Dominguez, Leonor Fini, Alberto Giacometti, George Grosz, Raoul Haussmann, Hannah Höch, Valentine Hugo, Marcel Jean, René Magritte, André Masson, Edouard Mesens, Joan Miro, Henry Moore, Richard Oelze, Meret Oppenheim, Wolfgang Paalen, Dr. Grace Pailthorpe, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Christian Schad, Kurt Schwitters, Yves Tanguy, Sophie Henriette Täuber-Arp, Peter Blume, Alexander Calder, Federico Castellón, Arthur Dove, Walker Evans, Wyndham Lewis, Georgia O’Keefe, Wallace Putnam, David Alfaro Siqueiros, James Thurber, Antonio Gaudi, and Kurt Schwitters.

"Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, The Museum of Modern Art’s first exhibition to focus on Dada, was organized by founding director Alfred H. Barr, Jr., in 1936. It was the most comprehensive presentation of Dada works since the Dadaists’ own exhibitions. It was also the first to be organized by a nonparticipant and the first to present Dada as a historical movement. The exhibition was rife with controversy and provoked fierce reactions from battling factions among the Dadaists and the Surrealists. For example, Tristan Tzara, a leader of the Dada movement and one of the exhibition’s most important lenders, threatened to forbid Barr from exhibiting his loans when he learned that the exhibition’s title had been changed from The Fantastic in Art to include Surrealism and that the French Surrealist André Breton was to write the catalogue preface. For their part, Breton and French Surrealist poet Paul Éluard disapproved of the final format of the exhibition; they wanted it to be an official Surrealist “manifestation.” Critical response to the exhibition was mixed. In 1937, when the show circulated around the country, lender Katherine Dreier withdrew her artworks and feuded with Barr over his inclusion of works by children and “the insane,” and A. Conger Goodyear, President of the Museum’s board of trustees, requested that other items be removed." [MoMA]

“The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, announces that its Exhibition of Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism will open to the public Wednesday morning, December 9th. The public opening will be preceded by a private preview and reception given by the Trustees to members of the Museum and their guests on Tuesday evening, December 8. The Exhibition will remain on view through Sunday, January 17, except on Christmas and New Year's Days, when the Museum is to be closed.

“The four floors of the Museum will be devoted to the exhibition, which will include more than 700 objects. The earliest date of any object shown will be about 1450; the latest, 1936. More than 157 American and European artists will be represented, ranging from such extremes as Giovanni di Paolo and Leonardo da Vinci of the fifteenth century to Walt Disney, Rube Goldberg and Thurber of the twentieth century, and including such famous names both old and modern as Hieronymus Bosch, Dürer, Arcimboldo, Hogarth, William Blake, Cruickshank, Lewis Carrol, Daumier, Delacroix, Edward Lear, Redon, Chagall, de Chirico, Duchamp, Picasso, Arp, Dali, Ernst, Grosz, Magritte, Miro, Klee, Man Ray, Tanguy, Peter Blume, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Alexander Calder.

“The exhibition is under the direction of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Director of the Museum, who states in his Preface to the catalog:

"Fantastic art, Dada and Surrealism is the second of a series of exhibitions planned to present in an objective and historical manner the principal movements of modern art. The first of these, Cubism and Abstract Art, was held at the Museum in the spring of this year. The fantastic and marvellous in European and American art of the past five centuries is represented by about one hundred and fifty items.

“The main body of the exhibition is devoted to the Dada and Surrealist movements of the past twenty years together with certain pioneers. A number of artists, both American and European, who have worked along related but independent lines, are brought together in a separate division. There are also special sections on fantastic architecture and on comparative material, including the art of children, and the insane.

“In giving a brief outline of Dada and Surrealism, Mr. Barr states: "In Zurich in 1916, well before the end of the war, Dada was born, the child of disillusion and spiritual exhaustion. The Dadaists scoffed at all conventional values and all pretensions. They rejected every- thing (including modern art) and accepted anything. They made pictures of flotsam, odds and ends, paper, string, snapshots, clock- works, popular illustrations, lace and bus tickets. They made pictures with their eyes shut or their backs turned. After the Armistice Dadaism grow in Paris and Germany. Dada was a bitter gesture made by artists for whom the war, Versailles and inflation had made civilization and art, temporarily at least, a bad joke.

“"Surrealism, which developed in Paris around 1924, was the direct descendent of the Dadaist interest in the bizarre, the spontaneous, and the anti-rational. But while the Surrealist program carried on the iconoclasm of Dada it added serious researches into subconscious images, dreams, visions, automatic and psychoanalytic drawings.

"Surrealism, so far as its serious adherents are concerned, is more than a literary or an art movement: it is a philosophy, a way of life, a cause which has involved some of the most brilliant painters and poets of our age. Since the formation of its nucleus in Paris fifteen years ago Surrealism has spread throughout the world with active groups in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Copenhagen, Prague, Barcelona, Belgrade, Stockholm, Teneriffe, Japan and New York."

“It was in 1922 that André Breton, French poet, writer and editor who had been a practicing psychiatrist during the war, gathered most of the ex-Dadaists into a new group which assumed the name "Surrealist” in 1924, when Breton published the First Manifesto of Surrealism. Breton defined Surrealism as follows:

“SURREALISM: Pure psychic automatism, by which it is express, verbally, in writing, or by other real process of thought. Thought’s dictation, in the absence of all control exercised by the reason and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations. Surrealism rests in the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of association neglected heretofore; in the omnipotence of the dream and in the disinterested play of thought. It tends definitely to do away with all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in the solution of the principal problems of life.

“Breton also has declared: I am resolved to render powerless that hatred of the marvellous which is so rampant among certain people, that ridicule to which they are no eager to expose it. Briefly: The marvellous is always beautiful, anything that is marvellous in beautiful; indeed, nothing but the marvellous in beautiful.“ [Museum of Modern Art  Press Release, Saturday or Sunday, December 5 or 6, I936]