Ghost Ships

A Surrealist Love Triangle

Robert McNab; Preface by Werner Spies

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Price: $40.00
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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.

”The book is an unusual blend of art history, travelogue and love story. . . . [A] spirited work of excavation . . . an extraordinary accomplishment.”—David Ebony, Art in America


Art Monthly“[It] puts the founding of Surrealism in Paris in 1924 in a new light.”—Andrew Wilson, Art Monthly

"McNab outlines a rarely examined yet essential facet of the Surrealist mythology: the dépaysement—dislocated exile—of travel."—Canadian Art

“Mr McNab writes with steady grace and elegance, his prose is a pleasure. . . . Every page, every footnote, is juicy with information and ideas to be gnawed upon.”—Adrian Dannatt, The Art Newspaper

“This well-researched book fills a lacuna in the early history of French Surrealism… [McNab’s] many threads of enquiry fashion a persuasive narrative that encourages fresh insights into Surrealism and especially the art of Max Ernst. … McNab’s argument is amplified by superb colour plates which show exactly how Ernst exploited his fortuitous exposure to the exotic.” - Roger Cardinal, Cultural Geographies
ISBN: 9780300104318
Publication Date: October 11, 2004
276 pages, 7 1/2 x 9 1/4
40 b/w + 80 color illus.