- Tous les éléments or Les Quatre éléments
- signed Toyen and dated 50 (lower right)
- oil on canvas
- 70.8 by 106.5cm.
- 27 7/8 by 41 7/8 in.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1988
Paris, Galerie Raymond Cordier, Toyen, 1960, no. 12
Paris, Galerie de Seine, Philippe Soupault: Collection Fantôme, 1973, illustrated in the catalogue
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Toyen, 1985, no. 8, illustrated in the catalogue
Paris, Galerie Artcurial, Le Belvédère Mandiargues, 1990, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Passions Privées, 1995-96, collection A16, no. 60, illustrated in the catalogue
Ragnar von Holten, Toyen. En surrealistisk visionär, Köping, 1984, fig. 74, illustrated in colour p. 59
Rita Bischof (ed.), Toyen. Das malerische Werk, Frankfurt, 1987, no. 55, illustrated in colour
Georgiana Colville, Scandaleusement d'elles, Trente-quatre femmes surréalistes, Paris, 1999, illustrated p. 288
Karel Srp, Toyen, Prague, 2000, fig. 275, illustrated in colour p. 206
Toyen’s stay in Paris in 1947 was a catalyst for a major shift in her art, marked by the fragmentation of themes and objects within a composition, often in a collage-like manner. Isolated objects often assume symbolic significance and are confronted across the canvas without any narrative context. Toyen’s first important work from this period was a series of drawings entitled Neither Wings Nor Stones: Wings and Stones, which contained much of the iconography she would use over the following decades, including the elements of the present work: stone, leaf, bird and the Sun. Many of the paintings Toyen created during this period echo Breton’s growing interest in the esoteric and the occult.
Ragnar von Holten wrote about the present work: ‘The four elements – earth, fire, air and water – are here brought to life through stone (cryptocrystallic quartz, chalcedony), bird’s wings, the eclipse and waves. There is nothing unusual in these symbols; what does surprise us, however, is the depiction of the place where all these elements are gathered. They are located on the edge of the world, in the most remote corner of the globe, whose surface is blue. Between this shore and the sea is the radiant eye of the sun in its eclipse; a small leaf flutters in the empty foreground, accompanied by a strange “seam” of lightning which adopts the colours of the earth, air and water as it travels’ (R. von Holten, Toyen, Köping, 1984, p. 100).