Lot 48
  • 48

TOYEN | La nuit roule des cris

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
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  • Toyen
  • La nuit roule des cris
  • signed Toyen and dated 55 (lower right); signed Toyen, dated 1955 and titled on the stretcher
  • oil on canvas
  • 77.5 by 98cm.
  • 30 1/2 by 38 5/8 in.
  • Painted in 1955.


Estate of the artist (sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, Succession Marie Cermínová dite Toyen, 21st June 1982, lot 25) Françoise Tournié, Paris (sold: Calmels-Cohen, Paris, Collection Françoise Tournié, 22nd June 2006, lot 36)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Paris, Galerie A L'Etoile Scellée, Toyen, 1955, no. 1 Paris, Galerie Raymond Cordier, Toyen, 1960, no. 23

New York, D'Arcy Gallery, Surrealist Intrusion in the Enchanters' Domain, 1960-61, no. 141

Saint-Etienne, Musée d’Art Moderne, Toyen. Une femme surréaliste, 2002, no. 113, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Saint-Louis (Alsace), Espace d'Art Contemporain Fernet-Branca, Chassé-croisé. Dada-Surréaliste 1916-1969, 2012, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Marseille, Musée Cantini, Le Rêve, 2016-17, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Catalogue Note

La nuit roule des cris is a rare and striking example of Toyen’s mature artistic vision. Born in Prague in 1902 as Marie Cermínová, she rebelled against conventional society, adopting the genderless patronymic ‘Toyen’ and joining local anarchist groups. In 1920 she was the co-founder of the Devetsil group, which aimed to both offer a platform for a new generation of Czech artists and provide an insight into avant-garde developments across Europe. This led her to spend part of the 1920s in Paris where she became close to both André Breton and Benjamin Péret. This was a pivotal moment for Toyen; along with her partner, the Czech painter Jindřich Štyrský, she founded Artificialism, a style of painting concerned with the poetic perception of memory, in which, as Whitney Chadwick writes: ‘impressions, feelings, and images – lived or dreamed – leave their imprint in abstract traces and vibrating colour sensations’ (W. Chadwick, Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement, London, 1991, p. 115). Although this movement would ultimately become subsumed into the wider Surrealist discourse, it had a profound and ongoing influence on Toyen’s painting.  In La nuit roule des cris the enigmatic title captures the other-worldly spirit of the composition. From amongst the ghostly branches of a tree, two heads materialise as points of colour against a monochromatic background. Each symmetrical, it is unclear whether they are birds or butterflies; their forms remain mysterious and unresolved. Karel Srp observes this feature of her late work, explaining: ‘The theme of doubling – which appears from time to time in the paintings and drawings of the 1930s – returns through the idea of a mirror, prevailing in spectacular fashion in certain works from the 1950s through the frequent use of symmetry’ (K. Srp, Toyen. Une femme surréaliste, op. cit., p. 188). He goes on to add, ‘the sombre silhouettes of birds emerge from layers of superimposed colours […]. The heads of foxes, owls, sort of luminous cores, surface from obscurity. A glimmer pierces the darkness, whispers of colour disturb a monochrome background […]. Toyen’s mirrors are liquid; they don’t reflect objects with precision, instead clouding their aspect and altering them considerably’ (ibid., p. 192, translated from French).

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Dr Karel Srp.