A Girl Sleeping Under the Stars
Marie Čermínová (September 21, 1902, Prague – November 9, 1980, Paris), known as Toyen, was a Czech painter, draftsperson and illustrator and a member of the surrealist movement.
From 1919 to 1920, she attended UMPRŮM (the School of Decorative Arts) in Prague. She worked closely with fellow Surrealist poet and artist Jindřich Štyrský until his death. They joined the Devětsil group in 1923 and exhibited with the group. In the early 1920s she travelled to Paris, and soon returned there with Štyrský. While living in Paris, the two founded an artistic alternative to Abstraction and Surrealism, which they dubbed Artificialism. They returned to Prague in 1928.
She referred to herself in the masculine case. Her sketches, book illustrations, and paintings were frequently erotic. She contributed erotic sketches for Styrsky's Erotika Revue (1930–33) on several occasions. Erotic Revue published on a stricktly subscription terms based in a circulation of 150 copies. The sixth and last edition was called Edice 69 (sic!). She also illustrated Marquis de Sade's Justine of which Styrsky was the Czech publisher.
After 1928, Toyen’s work became more Surrealist. Her illustrations for a Czech translation of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine, which appeared in Štyrský’s Edition 69 in 1932, signaled the beginning of an interest that she never lost in the erotic as a poetic principle and as the basis of a new language of psychological association.
Toyen (1902-1980) was born in Prague, where she attended UMPRUM (School of Decorative Arts) from 1919 to 1920. From an artistic, political and personal point of view, Toyen was an extremely independent person. She rejected her real name (Marie Cerminova) and chose to pursue her career under an assumed name - a mysterious one without a gender (derived from citoyen). She broke all links to her family in favour of several friends who were "bound by choice". Toyen protested against a bourgeois life and endorsed the anarchist movement.
Toyen and Styrsky returned to Prague in 1929. Styrski began publishing a magazin, the Revue érotique, with drawings by Toyen. At that time, she also illustrated Justine by de Sade. By the end of the 1920s, Toyen's work became increasingly surrealistic. In 1934, she was one of the founding membes of the Czech Surrealist Group in Prague, which cooperated closely with André Breton's group. One year later, Breton and the poet Paul Eluard visited Prague and began a liflong friendship with Toyen, interrupted only by the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.
Toyen’s six illustrations for the Marquis de Sade’s Justine depict not only bloody physical injuries but also homosexual fellatio, an activity not condoned by Breton despite his enthusiasm for Sade. Very much in the style of her other illustrations of the period, the illustrations for Justine were hand-coloured line drawings.
Toyen’s pre-war drawings for Sade’s Justine or Pierre Louÿs were extreme—even pornographic—by the standards of the day. (In Jan Němec's Toyen, 2005) they become part of the flow of imagery and, as Whitney Chadwick has suggested, Toyen was quite possibly “…the only Surrealist to have developed an erotic sense of humour, at once charming and playful”