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Tradition-bound Boston broke precedent last Thursday night when the first exhibition of Surrealist art in the city's history opened at the Museum of Fine Arts. And it's an impressive first step. On loan from the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art, the collection includes over fifty paintings and several sculptures.
While the exhibition does not pretend to be a comprehensive survey of Surrealist and Fantastic art, virtually every important Surrealist artist is included. Arp, Chagall, de Chirico, Dali, Ernst, Klee, and Miro are each represented by a number of paintings; several of these works are well-known and most are characteristic of each artist's particular development.
With his characteristic classically-conceived "modern" forms and blatantly ugly color palette, Giorgio de Chirico depicts his reaction to modern civilization. In "The Nostalgia of the Infinite" (1913-14) the viewer looks up a towering building, isolated and uncommunicative; in "The Anxious Journey" (1913), he sees a maze of arches and doorways, uncommitted and foreboding.
The five paintings by Paul Klee effectively span his career. "Runner at the Goal" (1921) and "Red Baloon" (1922) are the whimsical and delightful products of the early Klee, who was experimenting with color and geometric form. "The Revolution of the Viaduct" (1937)--one of the highpoints of the show--and "Severing of the Snake" (1938), are as cleverly executed but contain overtones of the seriousness which pervaded his work in the trying years before his death in 1940.
The exhibit shows the variety of Max Ernst's works. "The Forest" (1926) and "Nature at Day-break" (1938), both oils rich and stifling in their intensity, are particularly striking. Joan Miro's bright colors and large simplified forms, distorted to his purposes, blossom in the famous "Person Throwing a Stone at a Bird" (1926), the large "Landscape" (1927), and another highpoint of the exhibition, "Portrait of a Lady in 1820" (1929).
In addition to these, the paintings of two of the lesser known artists on display are particularly exciting and drew a great deal of attention: Andre Masson's "Leonardo da Vinci and Isabella d'Este" (1942) and Richard Oelze's "Expectation" (1936).
Until March 15, when the exhibition closes, it will provide a needed complement to the Museum of Fine Arts' exhaustive collection of portraits of dead patriots and obscure colonial governors.
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