WOMEN SURREALISTS: SEXUALITY, FETISH, FEMININITY AND FEMALE
SABINA DANIELA STENT
A Thesis Submitted to
THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM
for the degree of
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
Department of Modern Languages
School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music
The University of Birmingham
University of Birmingham Research Archive
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The objective of this thesis is to challenge the patriarchal traditions of Surrealism by
examining the topic from the perspective of its women practitioners. Unlike past
research, which often focuses on the biographical details of women artists, this thesis
provides a case study of a select group of women Surrealists chosen for the variety
of their artistic practice and creativity based on the close textual analysis of selected
works. Specifically, this study will deal with names that are familiar (Lee Miller,
Meret Oppenheim, Frida Kahlo), marginal (Elsa Schiaparelli) or simply ignored or
dismissed within existing critical analyses (Alice Rahon). The focus of individual
chapters will range from photography and sculpture to fashion, alchemy and folklore.
By exploring subjects neglected in much orthodox male Surrealist practice, it will
become evident that the women artists discussed here created their own form of
Surrealism, one that was respectful and loyal to the movement's founding principles
even while it playfully and provocatively transformed them.
I am grateful to the University of Birmingham School of Humanities for two 1-year
scholarships that helped to fund this project.
I wish to thank the following people, all of whose support has made this thesis
Caroline Pinon, the charge d'tudes documentaires at the Muse des Arts
Dcoratifs, Paris, who provided access to Schiaparelli's archive, and to the librarians
at the National Art Library, London, for allowing me access to Sablier couch;
Dr Nick Martin, who encouraged me to study at PhD-level during my MA;
Professor Martyn Cornick, whose support, encouragement and kindness have
been continually motivating throughout this project;
Dr Stephen Forcer for unwavering encouragement, commitment and kindness.
Your supervision has been the backbone of this thesis from the project's early days as
an MA dissertation, and the past five years would have been much less enjoyable
without your support. I hope you have enjoyed supervising this project as much as I
have writing it;
And a final huge thank you, too, Mum and Dad: for your endless love, open-
mindedness, constant support, and for teaching me how to laugh at the Surreality of
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
`THE MUSES' REVOLT:
BEHIND THE CAMERAS OF LEE MILLER AND DORA MAAR' 34-70
`SCULPTURE AND SEXUALITY: THE EROTIC OBJETS OF MERET
`THE FASHIONABLE SURREALISM OF ELSA SCHIAPARELLI'
`THE COSMOS OF SURREALISM: LEONORA CARRINGTON,
REMEDIOS VARO AND DOROTHEA TANNING'
`THE RELUCTANT SURREALIST: THE REAL ART OF FRIDA KAHLO'
`ALICE RAHON: THE LOST VOICE OF SURREALISM' 214-248
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