Cadavre exquis (Exquisite Cadaver)

Salvador Dalí

Figueras, Girona, Spain, 1904 - 1989

André Breton

Tinchebray, France, 1896 - Paris, France, 1966

Gala (Elena Ivanovna Diakonova)

Kazan, Russia, 1894 - Port Lligat, Girona, Spain, 1982

Valentine Hugo

Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, 1887 - Paris, France, 1968
  • Date: 
    1932 (circa)
  • Technique: 
    Indian ink on paper
  • Dimensions: 
    27 x 18,5 cm
  • Category: 
    Work on paper, Drawing
  • Entry date: 
  • Register number: 

The invention of the “exquisite cadaver” is an example of the Surrealists’ delight in games, chance and the uncontrolled aspects of artistic production. It was originally used on the literary scene as a collective creation technique, putting the theories of automatism into practice by reducing the intervention of the author’s conscious will to a minimum. In the “exquisite cadaver”, each separate part of the work was done by a different person, who could not see what the others had done. The participants took it in turns to draw on a folded sheet of paper, which would be passed on without the next person seeing anything but the end lines of the previous drawing. The multiple authorship and playful nature of the activity took nothing away from the value of these works, based on Freudian theories of the unconscious as a creator of images with no intervention from reason, following a system of automatic writing.
This Cadavre exquis (Exquisite Cadaver) was probably done at Salvador Dalí’s house in Port Lligat in the 1930s, a time when the artist had become a spokesman for the basic principles of the movement, and the intermediary between the French and Spanish groups. His residence was seen at that time as a focus of orthodox Surrealism. The considerable number of “exquisite cadavers” still preserved from this period shows the atmosphere of collaboration that existed between Dalí and his wife Gala and other members of the group such as Valentine Hugo and André Breton, to whom this work belonged.

Ruth Gallego Fernández