McNab, New Haven, 2004.
Hardcover, 276 pp., 40 b/w + 80 color illustrations, 7.5 x 9.25 x 1 inches.
A moving and spectacular tale of love, jealousy, and exotic travel, centering on three significant figures in the Surrealist movement
Travel and exploration fascinated the Surrealists, who crossed continents marveling at their diversity. This riveting book retraces one of their most important and exciting voyages, made on the eve of the birth of Surrealism in 1924. It describes the secret journey made by an extraordinary ménage à trois: the painter Max Ernst, Paul Eluard (cofounder of Surrealism with André Breton), and Eluard’s wife Gala.
Robert McNab unravels the story of Ernst’s love affair with Gala, Eluard’s disappearance, Ernst and Gala’s pursuit of him, their meeting in Saigon, where the love triangle came apart, and the resulting departure of the Eluards, who left Ernst to explore the jungles of French Indochina alone. The impact of the journey on the work of both men was profound: what Eluard saw of European colonial life turned him into a radical political writer, while the oceans, tropical jungle, and ruins at Angkor Wat had a lasting effect on Ernst’s painting and sculpture. As for Gala, she eventually dropped both her lovers for Salvador Dali, breaking Eluard’s heart and inspiring Ernst to paint more than one hundred furious portraits of her.
Robert McNab is a documentary filmmaker, broadcaster, and co-founder of The Artists on Film Trust, a charitable trust in partnership with the University of Arts, London.