Sex Toys And Erotic Dreams By Czech Surrealist Toyen
8 min

Sex Toys And Erotic Dreams By Czech Surrealist Toyen

8 min

Marie Čerminová aka Toyen (1902-1980) was a Czech painter known for his wish to distance himself from femininity. Protesting against the bourgeoisie, the artist changed the name to a gender-neutral pseudonym derived from French ‘citoyen.’ Toyen wore man clothes and maintained a friendship majorly with male surrealists.

Czech Surrealist Toyen

Fig. 1. Toyen (

Early Years

Toyen early separated themself not only from gender but also from the family, of whom they never spoke afterward. Allegedly, they left their home at sixteen because of anarchist views. In 1919-1920, Toyen studied at the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in Prague. There they collaborated with the surrealist poet and artist Jindřich Štyrský until his death. In 1923, Toyen joined the Czech avant-garde group Devětsil (Nineteen). The artist’s early works were influenced by cubism and abstractionism. Together with Štyrský, Toyen moved to Paris, where they founded Artificialism as a movement alternate to Abstraction and Surrealism. This term meant the identification of an artist with a poet. Thus, they regarded paintings as visual poetry. In 1928, they returned to Prague, where Toyen manifested themself as an illustrator of erotic books and magazines.

Asleep Toyen

Fig. 2. Asleep, 1937 (

Relache Toyen

Fig. 3. Relache, 1943 (

Toyen Čtenářka

Fig. 4. Čtenářka, 1937 (

The Shooting Gallery Toyen

Fig. 5. The Shooting Gallery, 1940 (

Kousnuti/The Snap Toyen

Fig. 6. Kousnuti/The Snap, 1967 (

The Smile Toyen

Fig. 7. The Smile, 1967 (

collage Toyen

Fig. 8. Collage (

collage Marie Čerminová aka Toyen

Fig. 9. Collage (

Marie Čerminová Toyen

Fig. 10. Collage (

Marie Čerminová Toyen collage art

Fig. 11. Collage (

Toyen as an Erotic Illustrator

In the 1930s, Toyen focused on surrealism, which resulted in frequent erotic motifs in their illustrations and sketches. The artist contributed to Štyrský’s Erotica Revue (1930-1933) and illustrated books published by his Edice 69, such as de Sade’s Justine. As a whole, Toyen produced illustrations for five hundred books. In their drawings, the artist pays attention to male and female body parts. Their Twenty-one series demonstrates imaginative play in a sphere of eroticism and sexuality, which can be compared to Shozan or Kuniyoshi‘s shunga pieces.

Toyen Twenty one/ Jednadvace

Fig. 12. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Twenty one/ Jednadvace

Fig. 13. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Twenty one/ Jednadvace art

Fig. 14. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Toyen erotic dildo

Fig. 15. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Czech Surrealism

In 1934, Toyen joined the Czech surrealist group, in which Devětsil was reformed by the poet Vítzslav Nezval. A year later, they became acquainted with Breton and Eluard and began to show their works at the international surrealist exhibitions. During the Nazi’s occupation, Toyen sheltered a member of their group, Jewish poet Jindřich Heisler. The Shooting Gallery series produced in the 1940s reflect Toyen’s feelings about terror and destruction when the dreamy Wonderland is ruled by the Red Queen indeed. Speaking of their political views, Czech surrealists walked their way from anarchism to communism and then to political apathy, claiming that art should be independent of politics.

Twenty one/ Jednadvacet

Fig. 16. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Twenty one/ Jednadvacet Toyen

Fig. 17. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Toyen Twenty one/ Jednadvacet Toyen

Fig. 18. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Twenty one/ Jednadvacet Toyen art

Fig. 19. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Toyen art Phallus

Fig. 20. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Feminism and Surrealism

When we talk about Toyen, there are several questions we face. First of all, we must clarify if they fought with bourgeois gender concepts or practiced misogyny, considering their social circles and collaborations majorly with males. In the same way, we hardly can call Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler a feminist as far as she was not a fighter for equal rights but rather a hater of the concept of femininity itself (she literally wanted to be a male). The second problem is Toyen’s emphasized sexuality, which initially made them turn to surrealist esthetic and which was weirdly combined with their aspiration to avoid genders. What’s more, surrealism was founded by male artists and had its’ base in ideas figuratively attributed to the feminine side of the human psyche (subconsciousness and imagination). Thus, along with pushing boundaries, the movement suggested its’ version of the eternal feminine, which was a central concept in romanticism. Put crudely, Toyen tried to break the social gender cliché and stuck to men in their exploration of femininity.

Toyen Phallus dancer

Fig. 21. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Twenty one Toyen

Fig. 22. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Jednadvacet Toyen

Fig. 23. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Jednadvacet Toyen art

Fig. 24. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

genital close up Toyen

Fig. 25. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

vagina close up Toyen

Fig. 26. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

erotic puppets Toyen

Fig. 27. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Toyen artist

Fig. 28. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Toyen Phallus art

Fig. 29. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Toyen penis art

Fig. 30. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Marie Čerminová aka Toyen

Fig. 31. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Marie Čerminová aka Toyen erotic cards

Fig. 32. Twenty one/ Jednadvacet (

Toyen A collection of nine works of erotica

Fig. 33. A collection of nine works of erotica, 1932, private collection (

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