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Le Jeu de Marseille

“Le Jeu de Marseille”  ~ myth, dreams & imagination...

In the 1940s André Breton and a group of his Surrealist friends (Wifredo Lam, Max Ernst, Jacqueline Lamba, Oscar Dominguez, Victor Brauner, Jacques Hérold, André Masson and Frédéric Delanglade) were stranded in the French port of Marseilles whilst attempting to escape Nazi-occupied Europe and gain passage to America. Having deconstructed traditional, bourgeois playing card symbolism they produced new, liberated designs expressing their own beliefs and values. The court cards were persons representing new, revolutionary ideals. As Breton was a Communist, the conventional court hierarchy denoting military power and rank was unacceptable: these were re-named Genius, Siren and Magus...

Above: cards from “Le Jeu de Marseille” published by Grimaud, Paris, 1983. The designs were first published in VVV Magazine (devoted to the dissemination of Surrealism), New York in 1943. Images courtesy Barney Townshend.

Having deconstructed traditional playing card designs, Breton wanted a thorough reinvention along Surrealist principles. The suits were renamed: Locks (black) for knowledge, Wheels (red) for revolution, Stars (black) for dreams and Flames (red) for love and desire. Surrealist ideas inspired many young artists to move away from conventional views of artistic composition towards abstract expressionism.

The “Jeu de Marseille” was eventually produced as a full deck of cards (with the original sketches being reworked slightly) in 1983 and has been reprinted several times.  • See also:  Salvador Dalí Surrealist Playing Cards →

Last Updated August 01, 2015 at 10:32am

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