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February 24, 2021

Nine Members of the Surrealists Group in Paris, circa 1933

Paris in the 1920s was full of high hopes following the end of the First World War, the French economy boomed from 1921 until the great depression of the 1930s. ‘Les Annees Folles’ saw Paris re-establish itself as a capital of art, music and cinema.

Surrealism came to the forefront in the 1920s cultural scene, bringing new forms of expression to poetry with authors like André Breton, whose Surrealist Manifesto appeared in 1924, Louis Aragon, Paul Éluard, and Robert Desnos. Émigré artists had created Post-Impressionism, Cubism, and Fauvism in Paris before World War I, and included Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Amedeo Modigliani, and Piet Mondrian, along with French artists Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Jean Metzinger, and Albert Gleizes.

Surrealists also included artists like Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, and Francis Picabia, sculptors like Jean Arp, Germaine Richier and even early film-makers, like Luis Buñuel and René Clair.

From left to right: Tristan Tzara, Paul Éluard, André Breton, Jean Arp, Salvador Dalí, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, René Crevel and Man Ray. (Photo by Anna Riwkin-Brick)

Anna Riwkin-Brick (1908–1970) was born in Gomel into a Jewish family in the Russian Empire and came to Sweden with her parents in 1914. She learned ballet for three years as a child at the Stockholm Whitlockska samskolan School, and danced professionally for some time before an injured foot put an early stop to her career.

She was employed as an assistant to the court photographer Moisé Benkow in 1927, and started her own portrait and dance photography studio in Stockholm in 1928. She married the journalist Daniel Brick in 1929 and marketed her work by displaying portraits of young writers and intellectuals from among her husband’s acquaintances. As a former dancer, she remained interested in dance as a subject of photography and illustrated a book on Swedish dance, Svensk Danskonst, published in 1932 and in the following year her photographs were exhibited in the international exhibition Dance and Movement in Paris.

Riwkin spent the summer months of 1933 in Paris along with her friend Thora Dardel, photographing street scenes, architecture, and artists. It was at this point that, through various contacts she had made, she gained the opportunity to meet and take portrait photographs of figures within the surrealist movement, such as Jean Arp, André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and Man Ray among others. Here’s another photograph of the Surrealists group in Paris:


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