After a pithy introduction that divides the movement into various styles and its members into a number of sub-divisions—official, temporary, antagonistic, expelled, rejected and natural—that helpfully include practically anyone, Morris concentrates on the richly varied personal idiosyncrasies of his protagonists. It’s a hoot ...
the voyeuristic reader can concentrate...on their eye-poppingly rococo private lives. Through the rapidly revolving doors of the Surrealists’ sexual partnerships some names regularly come round again and again ... Dalí, who was horrified by sex. Duchamp was appalled by pubic hair; Roland Penrose liked handcuffs ...
These are accounts of both churning creativity and epic human silliness. The moments of bathos may be unintentional but they only add to the richness of the picture ... Morris has all the scrupulousness of a scientist but he also has the eye of a novelist.
His interest in human and animal behaviour has served him well for The Lives of the Surrealists. The general reader usually wants to know just how outstandingly weird artists were, with whom they feuded and with whom they had sex. Morris describes how the surrealists were prolific in all these areas, as well as how they created one of the most influential art movements (and misappropriated terms) in history ... He writes with a pleasingly conversational tone and a dry humour and affection that undercuts the more preposterous behaviour described in the book ... Juicy little nuggets litter the book. Discussing the onset of Picasso’s blue period, a phase that Morris maintains was brought on by VD, he mentions that the painter paid the doctor with a blue-period painting. 'In retrospect, this was possibly the highest fee ever paid for a medical treatment.'
For a capsule history of the movement in its prime, there’s now an engaging, informative, occasionally inaccurate, not overly demanding Lives of the Surrealists ... It’s a conspicuously Eurocentric, even Anglocentric list ... Since Mr. Morris knew many of his subjects, there’s a wealth of gossipy anecdote leavening the facts, although he remains admirably evenhanded ... Mr. Morris’s 32 artists include only five women, an accurate reflection of the movement’s misogyny.
The Lives of the Surrealists is comprehensive. It also opens the doors to further study and exploration. Morris knows the intimate details about the personal lives of the surrealists. Those details are quirky and fascinating ... Morris doesn’t analyze or interpret the work of the surrealists. And that’s a good thing. He presents biographical information about the artists and leaves it to readers to connect the dots between art and autobiography, or to leave them unconnected and to bask in the glory of the work for its own sake ... perfect for readers who don't know much if anything about the surrealists, but who are curious about them and want to learn more.
Each of these 32 short biographical entries is thoughtfully accompanied by a lesser-known work of art by each artist, along with photographs of the artists as they appeared in their most active years. Alternatively funny, ribald, and at times genuinely moving, Morris’s fittingly off-kilter tribute to the Surrealist movement itself and the eclectic men and women who carried its torch is a true joy.
An ideal introduction to the rebellious art movement ... There’s a distinct tell-all aspect to the narrative; Morris doesn’t shy away from describing the artists’ sexual proclivities and numerous relationships. The book also includes stunning photographs of the artists and their work. Like a modern-day Giorgio Vasari, Morris creates an intimate and unique you-are-there assessment of what made the surrealists tick.