Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography and Paris

Jepson Center June 11 - October 10, 2010

Exhibition Closed October 2010

Twilight Visions explores the city of Paris as the literal and metaphoric base of Surrealism, and examines the revolutionary social, cultural, aesthetic, and political activities and meanings of the movement during the 1920s and 30s. Over 100 works-mainly vintage photographs but also including films, books, and period ephemera-have been selected for their power to suggest the mystery and wonder in the chance encounters experienced by Surrealist writers and artists as they wandered through the labyrinthine streets of Paris.

Artists such as Brassaï (1899-1984), André Kertész (1894-1985), Ilse Bing (1899-1998), Man Ray (1890-1976), and Germaine Krull (1897-1985) photographed the monuments, cafés, dance halls, and streets of Paris as if they were “found objects.” Their psychologically charged photographs reveal the hidden secrets of these commonplace things, exposing the marvelous in the everyday. While some photographs incorporate innovative lighting techniques and unusual camera angles in a documentary style, others show various technical manipulations to disclose the disjunctive character of modern life in Paris.

Although there was no official organization of Surrealist photographers, many of the artists included in this exhibition published their work in the Surrealist journals La Revolution surréaliste, Le Surréalisme au service de la revolution, Documents, and Minotaure. Whether portraying the Eiffel Tower or a disturbingly distorted image of the female body, these artists reveled in paradoxes and contradictions, inspiring a revolutionary consciousness whereby memory, imagination, and reality became indistinguishable.

Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography, and Paris was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee, with guest curator Therese Lichtenstein, Ph.D.

Local sponsorship provided, in part, by Susan and John Weiss
Media Sponsor: The South Magazine

Header image: André Kertész. Eiffel Tower, 1929. Gelatin-silver print, 9 1/8 in. x 11  ¾ in. Purchase, gift of Mr. Edwynn Houk, Renée & Paul Mansheim, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Lane Stokes, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Robert K. Molloy, Mr. Robert McLanahan Smith, III, Mr. and Mrs. Richard M. Waitzer, Mr. Calvin H. Childress, Mr. and Mrs. Howard M. Martinez, Jr., and in memory of Alice R. and Sol B. Frank, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA.  © Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures


Click here to download an audio tour of Twilight Visions created by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.



Related Programs

Twilight Visions Highlights Tours
June 25-August 13, Fridays at 1 pm

Telfair’s Jepson Center
Join Telfair docents and education staff for lunchtime highlight tours of the Twilight Visions exhibition.

Lecture: “Chez Andre Breton: At the Center of Surrealism”
August 26, 6 pm

Telfair’s Jepson Center
Dr. David Seaman presents a rare inside glimpse into the mind and home of André Breton-the undisputed leader and central figure of Surrealism, known for his energy and successful series of theoretical works, poetry, novels, and anthologies. As with many French art and literary movements, the center of Surrealism was Paris; and there, the center was André Breton’s apartment.

Dr. Seaman is a professor of French at Georgia Southern University and translator of André Breton’s book Martinique: Snake Charmer (2008).

Free to members and with museum admission.

Film Series: Shadows and Light-Surrealism and the Cinematic Canvas
September 28-October 7

Telfair’s Jepson Center and Lucas Theatre

5 Short Surrealist Films
September 28, 8 pm

Lucas Theatre

Menilmontant (1926) by Dimitri Kirsanoff
Shot on location in Paris, this stunningly beautiful, silent film uses no inter-titles – nor does it need any. A touching story of tragedy and redemption between sisters. 37 min.

Brumes d’automne (1928) by Dimitri Kirsanoff
Moody, visual poem by Russian ex-patriot filmmaker in Paris. 12 min.

Vormittagspuk (1928) by Hans Richter
Amusing and playful short film about inanimate objects that tease their human counterparts. The Nazi regime tried to destroy all copies of the print, but one remains. 9 min.

Ballet Mechanique (1924) by Ferdinand Leger
A hypnotic experiment in stop-motion techniques and double-exposure on a moving canvas. 11 min.

Manhatta (1921) by Paul Strand and Charles Scheeler
Another visual poem, this time by photographer Strand and painter Scheeler. Shot entirely on location in New York City, it exposes the unseen serenity of a bustling city. 10 min.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed
September 29, 8 pm
Lucas Theatre

Inspired by the tales from the Arabian Nights, the film tells the story of a wicked sorcerer who tricks Prince Achmed onto a magical flying horse, sending him off to his death in the night. The prince foils the plan and soars into adventures with monsters, demons, scorpions, and witches. This painstakingly-detailed piece of cinema is the earliest feature-length animation film. Director Lotte Reiniger hand-cut hundreds of silhouettes, fitted with wire hinges to creating marionettes and cut from layers of transparent paper to make backgrounds with the illusion of depth.

The Golden Age (Bunuel, Fr, 1930)
September 30,  7 pm
Telfair’s Jepson Center
Luis Buñuel’s first solo feature film combines Surrealism and an anti-bourgeois attitude to shocking effect. This film instigated wild protests worldwide and did not have an official U.S. premiere until 1979. Admission: $5/member, $7/non-member

Port of Shadows
October 1, 8 pm
Lucas Theatre
This is a quintessential example of poetic realism and a classic film from the golden age of French cinema from director Marcel Carne. Down a foggy, desolate road to the port city of Le Havre travels Jean (Jean Gabin), an army deserter looking for another chance to make good on life. Fate, however, has a different plan for him, as acts of both revenge and kindness render him front-page news. Also starring the blue-eyed phenomenon Michèle Morgan in her first major role, and the menacing Michel Simon, Port of Shadows (Le Quai des brumes) starkly portrays an underworld of lonely souls wrestling with their own destinies. So moody and self-defeatist is this film that the failing French government of the late 1930s often pointed to it as the reason the Nazi regime so easily took Paris.

Under the Roofs of Paris (Clair, Fr, 1930)
October 7,  7 pm
Telfair’s Jepson Center

One of the most successful French films of the 1930s, Rene Clair’s early musical is significant for its pioneering use of sound, interesting camerawork, and distinctive portrayal of Paris, seen through the eyes of kindly working-class heroes. Admission: $5/member, $7/non-member

Presented in conjunction with the Lucas Theatre. For more information and tickets, call 525.5050 or visit

Ilse Bing. Eiffel Tower, 1934. Gelatin silver print, 8 3/4 x 11 in. Galerie Karsten Greve AG, St. Moritz, Switzerland.  © Estate of Ilse Bing/Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York