Lot 55
  • 55


120,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Toyen
  • 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.


Robert Benayoun, Paris (acquired by 1960)

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1988


Paris, Galerie A L'Etoile Scellée, Toyen, 1953, no. 9

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


Radovan Ivsic, Toyen, Paris, 1974, illustrated in colour p. 64

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

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1950, Tous les éléments is a rare and notable painting by Toyen, who was the founder of the Czech Surrealist group, as well as a member of the international Surrealist movement. Having studied at the School of Applied Arts in her native Prague, from the mid-1920s Toyen (Marie Cermínová) made occasional trips to Paris, where she met André Breton, Paul Eluard and other Surrealist artists and writers. In 1947 Toyen travelled to Paris on the occasion of an exhibition of her work organised by the Denise René gallery; the exhibition was held during the summer of that year and the introduction to the catalogue was written by Breton. In view of the political situation in her country Toyen decided to stay in France, where she became a member of the Paris Surrealist group, participating in many group exhibitions as well as private events.

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).