Toyen Czechoslovakia, 1902-1980


Toyen (b. 1902, Prague, Czechoslovakia; d. 1980, Paris, France) was a painter and illustrator best known as the driving force behind the Czech Surrealist movement. Born Marie Cerminová, the artist assumed the pseudonym Toyen in 1923 as a gender-renouncing act, wore both men’s and women’s clothes, and focused on sexual politics and gender as subject matter. From 1919 to 1922, Toyen studied decorative arts at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design. There, Toyen made the acquaintance of Surrealist artist Jindřich Štyrský, with whom the artist moved to Paris shortly thereafter and collaborated frequently until his death. Deeply inspired by poetry, in 1923 Toyen joined the avant-garde group Devetsil, whose mission was to create art rooted in Parisian poetry. Following the artist’s early séjour in Paris, Toyen lived in Prague from 1928 to 1947, continuing to produce work underground during the Nazi Occupation. When Toyen returned to Paris before the rise of the Communist party in Czechoslovakia in 1948, the artist formally joined the Paris Surrealist group and continued to explore Surrealist themes in the following decades. Toyen’s work is held in esteemed international museum collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and the National Galleries, Scotland.