Transatlantic translations: Surrealist modes of advertising in France and the United States of America

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While Surrealism began as a European artistic movement with the power to defy bourgeois cultural norms, the movement’s dissolution has frequently been blamed on commercialization. With its late 1930s arrival to the United States of America, the language of Surrealism was easily absorbed and reinvented as a vehicle to appeal to the unconscious consumerist desires of buyers. This article reconsiders the standard narrative of Surrealism’s commerce-induced impotency through a comparison of advertisements in French and American fashion periodicals of the late 1920s. French advertisers during this time had little to no interest in American modes of psychologically infused advertising and moreover these advertisers saw the threat that Surrealism posed to the space of the magazine. When advertisements using Surrealist visual strategies did appear within French magazines, they acted not as empty signs of novelty but rather as vital disruptions that troubled the invisibility and naturalization of capitalist consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-264
Number of pages33
JournalVisual Resources
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Sep 9 2018


  • Advertising
  • Fashion Magazines
  • France
  • Psychology
  • Surrealism
  • United States of America


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