Study Guide

Georges Bataille - Surrealists for the Ethical Treatment of Degenerates

Surrealists for the Ethical Treatment of Degenerates

The Surrealists were considered the bad boys of the art world, but Bataille's boys were the bad boys of Surrealism—they went where even the Surrealists didn't want to go. We're talking unpleasant bodily functions, bloody guts, and more potty talk than you can shake a toilet brush at. Documents was their journal, and in it, they spread the word that they wanted the world of art and literature to wake up and smell the sewer.

André Masson
The Sleepless Dreamer

Masson was one of Bataille's best buds. They would go days and nights without sleep just to get themselves into that state of mind where the unconscious would flood to the surface and scream: Get to bed, or you'll go mad! Many of André's automatic paintings and drawings were done during these sleepless periods. During many of these periods various—shall we say—"sleepless aids" were used. The hippies in the 60s ain't got nothin' on these guys.

Michel Leiris
The Lefty Lyricist

Leiris was a Surrealist poet and writer; he was also totally into jazz and politics. He also wrote for Documents about the Surrealist painter Joan Miró. Both of these guys had a falling out with André Breton and eventually ditched Breton's "mainstream" Surrealism in order to go over to Bataille's dark side.

Joan Miró
The Assassin

A good friend of Masson and Leiris—and the self-proclaimed "assassin of painting"—Miró was a guy who wanted to march to the beat his own drum. (And then he wanted to smash that drum to pieces.) André Breton wanted to make Miró a full-fledged member of his brand of Surrealism, but Miró said no thanks. He wasn't into being confined by categories and definitions.

Pablo Picasso
Big Papa Picasso

What can we say? Picasso is everything and nothing, right? The guy did exactly as he pleased, and everyone bought into it all. That's why Bataille and his renegade Surrealists dedicated an entire issue of Documents to him. According to Bataille, Picasso was the Devil and God rolled up into one short, bald, womanizing, eccentric genius.

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