The Space Between: Literature and Culture 1914-1945

Dream Homes: Surrealism in Chicago

Janine Mileaf
The Arts Club of Chicago

For many Americans in the mid-twentieth century, the term “dream home” conjured the image of a split-level ranch with a yard on four sides and an attached garage. Using a related phrase in the same years, the French philosopher of science Gaston Bachelard proposed the “oneiric house,” a home that dwells in imagination and daydream. He wrote about the concept in his seminal text The Poetics of Space, published in France in 1958 and translated into English in 1964. However distinct, these ideas together offer a starting ground for deciphering the preponderance of “fantastic,” or fantasy-based, painting focused on the home that arose in Chicago’s Surrealist circles. While they never formed as a self-conscious movement, Ivan Albright, Gertrude Abercrombie, Eldzier Cortor, Julio de Diego, Harold Noecker, Dorothea Tanning, Julia Thecla, and John Wilde each contributed to a local version of Surrealism that emphasized the realistic and meticulous handling of psychic subject matter. For these artists, the home became a contested symbol of one’s relation to society, especially in the urban contexts in which many of them worked. Their distorted portrayals of home signaled a creative and nonconforming stance toward the aspirations of the mainstream.

Keywords:  Gertrude Abercrombie / Julia Thecla / Dorothea Tanning / Chicago / Gaston Bachelard / interior

For many Americans in the mid-twentieth century, the term “dream home” conjured the image of a split-level ranch with a yard on four sides and an attached garage (Lane 188–89).1 Using a related phrase in the same years, the French philosopher of science Gaston Bachelard proposed the “oneiric house,” a home that dwells in imagination and daydream. He wrote about the concept in his seminal text The Poetics of Space, published in France in 1958 and translated into English in 1964.2 However distinct, these ideas together offer a starting ground for deciphering the preponderance of “fantastic,” or fantasy-based, painting focused on the home that arose in Chicago’s Surrealist circles. For these artists, the home became a contested symbol of one’s relation to society, especially in the urban contexts in which many of them worked. Their distorted portrayals of home signaled a creative and nonconforming stance, as well as the valuation of the individual psyche that characterizes Surrealism more broadly.

After World War II, Chicago, like much of the urban United States, experienced a serious housing crisis. Throughout the war, resources and manufacturing were devoted to military purposes, and labor forces moved into temporary accommodations near industrial sites. With veterans returning home, demand for housing intensified. Therefore, as Kenneth Jackson argued in his classic text Crabgrass Frontier, cities experienced a critical housing shortage at the same time as urban slums were on the rise, making the underdeveloped outlying areas attractive to those who could afford them and leaving the cities racially divided and deteriorating (244).  Drawn by gleaming images of brand new, yet affordable, homes on individual plots, veterans and their families sought the suburbs, leaving to the poor Chicago and its rows of closely set and connected houses, such as those seen in paintings by Harold Noecker (Fig. 1).

Meanwhile, poverty-stricken urban neighborhoods saw the building of government-subsidized housing backed by profit-driven developers. These ill-conceived projects would fail miserably; Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, for example, would be torn down beginning in the late 1990s. 

The somewhat haunted atmosphere of a city in decline, it turns out, was fodder for a generation of painters, many of whom had come of age during the Great Depression. Surviving on minimal means, they maintained a critical distance from mainstream, domestic aspirations and turned away from the conventional image of a “dream home” in favor of something more discomfiting. For Surrealists in Chicago, the home—seen from inside and out; in a city or town, or on the plains; inhabited or abandoned; and across a continuum from almost real to fantastically impossible—became a ubiquitous theme. Places of habitation merged with the self, signifying alternative lifestyles. Unifying this work was a shared insistence upon precise rendering, as if the artists intended to convince their pragmatic Midwestern viewers of the plausibility of their dreams.

One artist in the group whose work is addressed here confronted the subject of urban poverty and housing, giving the lie to any notion of a universally ideal home. Eldzier Cortor was born during the demographic shifts of the great migration north. He lived in the African American community of Bronzeville, on Chicago’s Near South Side, and worked in a mode at once documentary and Surrealist. Employed by the Public Works of Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, Cortor helped to found a key cultural institution of the so-called Chicago Black Renaissance, the South Side Community Art Center (SSCAC), which thrives to this day. The abandoned Victorian mansion that the organization secured as a result of the Depression became a hub for artistic activity and exchange. After moving to New York around 1950, Cortor reflected on the vibrancy and camaraderie of Bronzeville, remembering Chicago as a place where “artists just rang your bell and dropped in” (qtd. in Carbone).  This sense of community was ironically enhanced by segregation, which kept different racial and ethnic groups “squared off,” as the artist put it. He recalled the neighborhood’s thriving movie theaters and orchestras even as he emphasized deprivation in his art (qtd. in Carbone).

Cortor considered such paintings as Lady Knitting (Fig. 2) as needed social commentary.3 He explained that he wanted to show “the overcrowded conditions of those who are obliged to carry out their daily activities in the confines of the same four walls in a condition of utmost poverty” (qtd. in Jennings 16).

In his art, Cortor evolved a form of realism that reads as fantastic even as it attests to actual living conditions in the city’s slums (Edwards 325–27). Squeezed into tiny quarters, families lived on top of one another with little privacy. Cortor used his observations of life around him to imaginatively distort layers of walls and furniture and to compress space while detailing dilapidated window and door slats; a bald light bulb hanging from exposed wiring; or newsprint on the lap of an elongated black female nude.4 His impastoed surfaces make palpable the materials of life. The artist attributed his elongated figures to astigmatism, even though he remembered studying similar figures in works by the Mannerist El Greco at the Art Institute of Chicago (Carbone).  He also drew inspiration from ethnographic sources he saw at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History under the tutelage of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) teacher Kathleen Blackshear. Cortor’s “primitivist” turn put him in line with the European Surrealists, who admired African and Oceanic art for its capacity to conjure alternative realities. It also aligned him with many of his peers in the Harlem Renaissance, following ideas of the influential African American scholar Alain Locke, who urged black artists to take note of the European appropriation of African Art and to take pride in their presumed roots.

Across clear lines of division, the social circles of Cortor overlapped with those of Gertrude Abercrombie, the doyenne of a diverse cultural community in the nearby South Side neighborhood Hyde Park. Young artists such as Charles Sebree (later a playwright) were connected with the SSCAC and also frequented Abercombie’s salon, which she hosted in her Dorchester Avenue abode. For Abercrombie, home was not only a lively space that broke social codes in the era of Jim Crow and anti-sodomy legislation, but also a ready subject that could be used to stand in for her own psychological state. Domestic interiors became a constant motif in works such as The Past and the Present (Fig. 3), in which Abercrombie combined a view of her first Chicago apartment (in the Weinstein Building at 57th Street and Harper Avenue) with a painting depicting its row-house exterior.

In this “painting within a painting,” Abercrombie placed the city building on an open plain, recalling the landscape of the town in which her father’s family lived, Aledo, Illinois. The composition hangs on the back wall of a tiny interior living space, so cramped that the daybed blocks a side door. A claustrophobic effect is created not only by the shut windows and doors, but also by the work’s strict geometry. With this conflation of city and country, Abercrombie conjured the simultaneity named in the title of the work. The landscape further merges two different moments, both already in the past. By the time Abercrombie executed this work, she had married her first husband, Robert Livingston, and moved into the building on Dorchester where she would spend the rest of her life. The memory of her previous apartment does not reflect a nightmare scenario, as might be expected of a Surrealist work; instead it offers a neat, apparently mundane space that is carefully considered and precisely arranged, yet suffused with a sense of airlessness and alienation. 

The French poet and founding Surrealist André Breton had portrayed Paris as similarly “haunted” in books such as Nadja (1928) and L’Amour fou (1937), using black-and-white photographs of existing locales to produce an aura of foreboding. Brassaï’s nocturnal view of the Tour Saint-Jacques, for example, struck Breton as testament to the psychic disturbance he experienced in that place. By turning to photography, Breton deployed a documentary form to generate a feeling of the uncanny, a term that in German, as Sigmund Freud noted in 1919, specifically references the notion of home: unheimlich, literally un-homely (217–56).  Creating an opposition between heimlich, or familiar, and unheimlich, Freud focused on the “creeping terror” caused by estrangement from the known. In calling his theory “aesthetic,” he was referring to its ability to account for feelings, particularly in relation to the inability of people to repress childhood trauma. The uncanny designates a rupture in the familiar revealing something hidden, the refusal of the feeling or memory to remain concealed and thus its capacity to disturb the present. In its representation of collapsed time, Abercrombie’s Past and the Present confronts the troubling presence of forgotten memories. It leaves the viewer displaced within a familiar setting and vaguely uncertain about how time unfolds. 

In further defining the uncanny, Freud referred to dread at the prospect of an inanimate object assuming a lifelike aura. The apples, lemons, goblet, compote, pocket watch, cigarette holder, and gloves in Ivan Albright’s Wherefore Now Ariseth the Illusion of a Third Dimension (Fig. 4) do just that.

Displayed at The Arts Club of Chicago in a 1939 member exhibition and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA), in American Realists and Magic Realists, the work was praised in Life magazine for the way it animates inert form: “[I]n it, after careful study, all things seem curiously to come alive, in strange contrast to Ivan Albright’s portraits of men and women who look as if they had been dug up from the grave” ("Albright" 66–67).  While the comparison between the still life and Albright’s figurative work may have been intended as a humorous swipe at the artist, in fact it perceptively indicates his ability to marry life and death. Albright identified in himself a predilection to willfully deform what he observed: “[I]t may be that in the wide future I will walk and amuse myself looking at this thing and at that thing through my ill-ground bifocal glasses that make an aberration next to the object I am looking at” ("Untitled" 25).  In Albright’s hands, the presence of the past in things moves the onlooker toward the recognition of mortality.

A different notion of home and its attendant connotations emerged in the phenomenology of Bachelard, whose writing was introduced within a North American art context in the first and most important early Surrealist anthology, Julien Levy’s Surrealism of 1936 ("Surrationalism" 186–89).  The essay published there conveys a theory of “surrationalism,” which privileges “experimental reason” and “free thinking” over the rote methods of science that Bachelard had inherited. Rationalism for him was subjective, as compared to the objectivism of the real. Surrationalism advocated an experimental approach to thought and embraced the deliberate complication of fundamental principles to provoke new ideas. As Bachelard put it, “If, in any experience, one does not risk one’s reason, that experience is not worthwhile attempting” (188).6  Bachelard was well-acquainted with the European Surrealists and named their poetic strategies in his texts, but it is unclear whether the Chicago painters knew of his essay in Levy’s publication or elsewhere.  Nonetheless, the phenomenological notion of an “oneiric house” could not be more relevant to their work.

Bachelard theorized home as a container for reverie, insisting not on concealed trauma, as did Freud, but on the physical presence of thought and the “unity of image and memory” (Poetics 37).  In his analysis of literature, Bachelard distinguished between the actual, or “geometrical” house and that which our memories retain—an image deeply connected to feelings ranging from security, maternity, and protection to reverie and fear (Poetics 68).  Bachelard turned not to Freud but to Carl Jung for an unconscious archetype of the house that encompasses its foundational meanings. He explained, “The act of dwelling is overlaid with unconscious values, unconscious values that the unconscious does not forget” (Earth 87).  Thus, Bachelard did not consider the childhood home as a site of repression but rather as an embodiment of a form of yearning—a place to dwell with thoughts made palpable. The “oneiric house” is an image to which we retreat and that our mind then penetrates. That specific theme—of imagination mingling with physical space—appears repeatedly across Chicago’s brand of Surrealist painting, especially in the work of Julia Thecla. 

Thecla came to Chicago from a farming community in Illinois to study at SAIC. Eventually, she moved into a one-room studio on Ontario, near Clark Street (Panttila 32).  Her images of attic apartments with windows cut into the night sky combine quaint details of décor or fashion with an atmosphere of psychological and poetic contemplation. In Full Moon (Fig. 5), for example, a young girl peers through a glass pane affixed to an easel.

The glass reiterates the exact shape and angle of the window behind her. The girl’s eye penetrates the glass as a full moon appears in the window, making each into a sign for the other. A floral still life hangs on the wall, and on a dresser beside the girl sits a pair of antiquated shoes that dissolve into a cloud of polka dots signifying a scarf or perhaps something less material. While seemingly straightforward, the scene is suffused with a sense of wonder or enchantment, as well as melancholy. The image seems to anticipate Bachelard’s later dialectical reading of the cramped space of the attic: “To those who dream not at but behind their window, behind a little window, behind the attic skylight, the house gives a sense of an exterior whose difference from the interior increases as the interiority of their bedroom deepens" (Earth 84).  The echoing loneliness in Full Moon contrasts with the densely populated, yet lively, city that Cortor remembered, indicating that both racial and gender identity inflected the manner in which each artist experienced the postwar North American home. 

Another space that adheres to Thecla’s “oneiric” understanding of the windowed room appears in Guarded Ones, in which the projection of the imagination becomes explicit even as the imagery is abstracted.  At the center of the composition, a child wearing a party hat reads a book. Around him float various motifs: a bird perched on an upturned hand, two dogs, architectural elements, a girl’s masked eyes, and other facial fragments. The smoky, swirling space has a hallucinatory quality, as if it had emerged from the child’s mind. The house itself has dissolved around him, physically merging with his thoughts. Thecla produced such indeterminate forms using aleatory methods that she developed to generate imagery. As Max Ernst did with frottage and grattage and Oscar Domínguez did with décalcomanie, Thecla sometimes employed an “accidental blotch of paint” or another pre-marked surface to initiate a composition (Panttila 33).  She devised a method using candle soot and smoke that left random smudges on the canvas or paper and combined those effects with watercolor or tempera to articulate mysterious motifs such as are found in Cave Entrance (Fig. 6) (McKenna 22).26

Thecla’s ingenious invention has never been credited as a full-fledged Surrealist method, yet it matches the effects of other more recognized attempts to escape authorial control. 

In line with her stylistically diverse oeuvre, Thecla cultivated an eccentric persona for herself, serving whiskey in tiny tea cups and dressing in outdated garb. Such dramatics can be compared to the more notorious comportment of the German Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, dubbed “the baroness,” whose sartorial antics, erotic poems, and artworks have earned her a place in the annals of Dada. Although Thecla has remained a rather obscure figure, of all the Chicago Surrealists she demonstrated the most direct knowledge of the art scene in New York and beyond. Thecla kept herself au courant by consistently attending art openings in Chicago and by reading widely, including psychoanalytic theory (Panttila 33; Bouras 39).  We know from her friend David Porter as well that in 1947, during her only trip to New York, she expressed an interest in being exhibited by Pierre Matisse, a key gallerist for the midcentury avant-garde.7 Her presumed naiveté and apparent isolation reflect the general preference among American Surrealists for individualism, rather than group identity, and likely served her artistic aims.8  Thecla’s performance of eccentricity was matched by the intimate interiors she composed; they epitomize the Bachelardian house, with its generative nooks and crannies filled with surprising objects and allusions. 

Scholars have noted that the concept of an “oneiric house” derives from the philosopher’s memory of stately country homes and thus resonates most meaningfully for the era and demographic likely to call such places home. Bachelard explicitly decried the apartments of Paris with their stacked “boxes” and horizontal floor plans (he could have said the same of Chicago).9 They lacked the proper rootedness established in the cellar and the nesting capacities of the attic, thereby denying the dreamer adequate accommodation for thought. Bachelard’s nostalgic longing for a multistory country house, Anthony Vidler argued, may in fact have resulted from his personal response to the uncanniness of urban life (63–66; see also Ockman, n. 18). At stake was the connectedness of a subject to an environment that properly housed fantasy. 

John Wilde’s lifestyle probably comes closest among the midwestern Surrealists to that idealized by Bachelard. Wilde spent most of his life in Wisconsin, as a child in Milwaukee and then in Madison, where he attended university and returned, after serving in the military, for graduate school and to teach. From 1952 until his death, Wilde lived twenty miles outside of Madison in a house that he designed and built next to cornfields (Wolff 10).  As Abercrombie did with her Dorchester abode (which he knew well), Wilde turned his own home into a frequent protagonist in his oeuvre. Working in a precise manner with glazed surfaces and minute detail, he produced hyper-realistic yet absurd scenes, very often set in or outside of the region’s typical clapboard houses. The paintings are humorous, dry, creepy, and enigmatic, often suggesting a secret language of objects, nature, and bodies to be decoded. In his landscapes, Wilde made frequent use of the female nude situated amid vernacular architecture. These nudes, sometimes holding beach balls or cavorting in multitudes, appear more absurd than erotic even as they draw upon traditional ideals of feminine beauty. Wilde attributed his meticulously rendered images in part to an affinity for Northern Renaissance art, as well as to his interest in the work of Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí (Danoff).10 

Wilde’s important Wisconsin Wildeworld (Provincia, Naturlica, Classicum) (Fig. 7) splices together, from left to right, a seemingly ordinary Wisconsin street view with houses aligned along a sidewalk and figures nonchalantly walking by, nature populated by exotic and ordinary animals, and a classical idyll with cascading ruins.

The artist, seen from behind and sporting a diamond-patterned harlequin costume, holds aloft his silverpoint stylus as if to take measure of the world. The setting of a decayed ancient civilization may reflect Wilde’s wartime experience, which was emotionally harrowing even though he was never stationed abroad. The destruction echoes Julio de Diego’s much darker critique Meditation over Inexplicable Logic, which places an apparently allegorical figure among architectural ruins, sarcophagi, and artillery lined up for battle.  In contrast to de Diego, Wilde further associated antiquity with the artistic methods he admired and therefore thought of his ambitious Wisconsin Wildeworld as an optimistic summation of his oeuvre (Panczenko 35).

Wilde’s recurring strategy of positioning himself or a surrogate at the psychic center of a work recurs across Chicago Surrealist painting. Noecker’s The Genius? (Fig. 8), for example, presents the artist, shrouded in darkness and doubt—only a small portion of his face is visible—in a sparsely furnished interior with views of an apparently imagined exterior seen both in a painting hanging on a decomposing wall and in a scene beyond its crumbling bricks.

He is seated, sketching a stick figure on a drawing board, at a round table displaying a vase of flowers. The red drapery at the left suggests a theater curtain drawn back to reveal a stage, which emphasizes the scene’s artifice in the manner of Renaissance paintings. In Mary in Blue Shoes (Fig. 9), Thecla similarly portrayed the theatrics of imagination, with a sleeping dancer who dreams a rabbit into her backstage surroundings. Thecla’s This (Fig. 10), shown at MoMA in 1943 in a survey of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Romantic painting, also presents the artist as a dreamer, with vignettes of past lives floating behind her head (Soby and Miller 128).11 

Another portrayal of a dreaming figure whose interior life has taken command of her domestic reality appears in Dorothea Tanning’s Avatar (Fig. 11), which depicts a young woman swinging from a trapeze as her bedroom telescopes away beneath her.

Somnambulant, her eyes conspicuously closed, she is wearing black boots, a blue shirt, and a twisted white skirt. Her swaying form gives way to multicolored layers of wing-like protrusions that funnel into (or perhaps out of) a gilded mirror above a fireplace; her long hair spins into a cyclone of green emerging from a tree trunk planted in the floor. A second trapeze supports an empty dress, a weightless counterpart to the woman’s suspended body. Dramatic shadows fall on the wall, and down below the white sheets of a bed with a bright-red headboard are pulled back, while a small door opens onto a lighted hallway. Here the avatar—a soul that has achieved concrete form—is at once the dreamer and the dreamed. 

Known for particularly vivid dreamscapes, Tanning described her method in these years as “determined by trance, not chance” (McCormick).  It allowed her to explore the capacities of automatism—a central tenet of early Surrealism—and the creativity of unmediated mental activity, even as her style of painting remained quite deliberate. A writer as well, Tanning recorded her musings as an alternative way to track the potential of her unconscious. In one journal, she jotted down a thought: “Have you ever dreamed of flying? I have had this dream often.” The query provided the basis for a story she published in 1947 (Johnson; Tanning, "Dream It").  “Dream It or Leave It,” a literary counterpart to Avatar but not a direct explication, includes a first-person narrative interrupted by poetic passages possibly addressed to the speaker. The tone is erotic and mysterious, as well as disturbing: “Where are you, keeper of dead-end streets, whose breasts are parted by the wind, whose veiled eyes see the depth of the abyss?” The primary tale unfolds as a dream within a fantasy, wherein the most terrifying moments actually take place outside of sleep. In the recurring dream, the speaker becomes aware of a dark red “harness made from bands of cloth knotted together” that she immediately recognizes as a “sort of flying gear” (Tanning, "Rêvez" 86).  Waking at dawn but still caught in the fantasy, she sees a dusty red-velvet gown in the corner of her room and, “trancelike,” begins to rip the dress to shreds, knotting the strips to form the flying gear. As she puts it on, she finds herself levitating in midair. Her flight, which takes her across town, makes her feel at once panicked and exhilarated. She fears discovery by men who will entrap her in order to exploit her magical power, and momentarily contemplates suicide. The knotted apparel sears her flesh and her sex, yet she feels driven to continue her nocturnal flights. These escapades are experienced as a “waking dream,” a classic Surrealist trope in which physical and psychic boundaries merge: “The experience was real, utterly real,” she declares, “and that was fascinating.” 

Significantly, Tanning’s story begins in an abandoned house that the narrator enters despite her many fears. “I am impelled by some curious force to open every door, to enter every cave, to seek among the white birches of dead forests, to wait on the spongy earth of ruined brier-ridden parks, to lie down in abandoned houses” (Tanning, "Rêvez" 86). In Guardian Angels (Fig. 12), Tanning’s dreaming place, populated with shrouded beds, hovers at the edge of nightmare.

Winged creatures sweep up dangling female forms, all conjured by a sleeping girl. The artist’s nocturnal fantasies fully articulate the Bachelardian “oneiric house,” where thoughts wander freely, risking logic in favor of discovery. As he explained, the dream is also a revelation of the self: “When, dreaming, we descend into a world that is in depth, in a dwelling that at our every footstep signals its depth, we are also descending into ourselves” (Earth 90).

The Surrealist house entices, echoes, shelters, terrifies, intrigues, and compels.12  It shapes dreams but also embodies life. A shell that reflects the inhabitant’s psyche, the house also mirrors the human form, its stories corresponding to the body and its parts. The homes portrayed by Chicago Surrealists offer us nightmares and fantasies, daydreams, fictions, and illusions—always in vivid detail—that at once respond to and evade the social conditions of the era. Ultimately, this domesticated form of Surrealism in the United States regarded the home as a site in which to retreat into the imagination, to elaborate psychic demons rather than societal decay. In Surrealist rooms, we are estranged and provoked like Tanning’s avatar, skimming the city with eyes closed, dreaming our own ecstasy or annihilation. 


1 This essay was originally published on the occasion of A Home for Surrealism: Fantastic Painting in Midcentury Chicago at The Arts Club of Chicago (June 7–August 17, 2018). The exhibition was funded in part by the Terra Foundation for American Art, as part of Art Design Chicago, an exploration of Chicago’s art and design legacy.
2 The term “oneiric house” first appeared in 1948 in a chapter of Bachelard’s La Terre et les rêveries du repos: Essai sur les images de l’intimité (Paris: Librairie Jos. Corti). It was published in English as Earth and Reveries of Repose: An Essay on Images of Interiority, translated by Mary McAllester Jones (69–93). Bachelard elaborated on the concept in The Poetics of Space, a recent edition of which, translated by Maria Jolas, was published by Penguin Books, New York, in 2014.
3 Cortor explained that, as a black artist, he felt compelled to convey recognizable subject matter. See Olson.
4 For Cortor’s take on black female subjectivity, see Dallow.
5 The appropriation of African art by African American artists was sanctioned by writers of the Harlem Renaissance. See Locke.
The essay was originally published in French in Inquisitions 1 (June 1936), pp. 1–6.  Bachelard likely met the Surrealists in September 1934 through the French intellectual Roger Caillois, who soon after broke with the group. For specifics on the intellectual exchange between Bachelard and the Surrealists, see Parkinson (58–69, 99–116). As noted in Mileaf and Rossen, Alice Roullier, exhibitions committee chair at The Arts Club of Chicago, reported reading attentively Julien Levy's compilation Surrealism (1936, pp. 186–89), so it is likely that she was not alone—especially in a city where there was keen interest in Surrealism.
7 It is possible, despite the lack of documentation, that Thecla knew of Pierre Matisse through The Arts Club, of which she was a member. A son of Henri Matisse, the dealer was instrumental in facilitating significant exhibitions at the Club by artists such as Joan Miró. (1931) and André Masson (1933). David Porter mentioned the Chicago artist’s aspirations in “A Valentine for Julia Thecla,” in McKenna (31).
8 Joanna Gardner-Hugget argued for a sophisticated understanding of Thecla’s persona. See her “Who Was Julia Thecla,” Julia Thecla: Undiscovered Worlds (7–9).
9 For an analysis of Bachelard’s legacy, see Ockman.
10 On the reception of Dalí and Surrealism in the United States, see Zalman.
11 James Thrall Soby and Dorothy C. Miller, Romantic Painting in America (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1943; p. 128). This exhibition was part of the series of path-breaking shows at MoMA, including Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism (1936) and American Realists and Magic Realists (1943).
12 The centrality of the motif of the house in Surrealism was explored more broadly in a 2010 exhibition: Jane Alison, The Surreal House.

Works Cited

“Albright Twins: They Paint Gruesome Masterpieces in an Abandoned Methodist Church,” Life, Mar. 27, 1944, pp. 66–67.

Alison, Jane. The Surreal House. Barbican Art Gallery, with Yale UP, 2010.

Bachelard, Gaston. Earth and Reveries of Repose: An Essay on Images of Interiority, trans. Mary McAllester Jones. Dallas Institute Publications, 2011.
---.  “Surrationalism,” in Julien Levy, Surrealism. Black Sun Press and Arno-Worldwide, 1936. Originally published in French in Inquisitions 1, June 1936, pp. 1–6.

---. La Terre et les rêveries du repos: Essai sur les images de l’intimité. Librairie Jos. Corti, 1948.

---. The Poetics of Space. 1958. Trans. Maria Jolas. Reprint edition. New York: Penguin Books, 2014.

Carbone, Teresa A. “Eldzier Cortor Oral History,” Bomb Magazine, June 21, 2016, Last accessed December 14, 2018.

Dallow, Jessica. “Reclaiming Histories: Betye and Alison Saar, Feminism, and the Representation of Black Womanhood,” Feminist Studies 30, 1 2004.

Danoff, Michael. “Oral History Interview with John Wilde,” 1979. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.,  Last accessed December 14, 2018.

Edwards, Melvin. “Thinking about Surrealism,” in Black Brown and Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora, edited by Franklin Rosemont and Robin D. G. Kelley, U of Texas P, 2009.

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Gardner-Hugget, Joanna. “Who Was Julia Thecla,” in Julia Thecla: Undiscovered Worlds. DePaul Art Museum, 2006.

Jackson, Kenneth T. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. Oxford UP, 1985.

Jennings, Corrine L. “Eldzier Cortor: The Long Consistent Road,” in Three Masters: Eldzier Cortor, Hughie Lee-Smith, Archibald John Motley Jr.  Kenkeleba Gallery, 1988.

Johnson, Pamela S. “Have You Ever Dreamed of Flying?,” A Public Space 24, Spring 2016,  Last accessed December 14, 2018. 

Lane, Barbara Miller. Houses for a New World: Builders and Buyers in American Suburbs, 1945–1965. Princeton UP, 2015.

Locke, Alain. “The Legacy of the Ancestral Arts,” in The New Negro: An Interpretation.  Albert and Charles Boni, 1925.

McCormick, Carlo. “Interview with Dorothea Tanning,” Bomb Magazine 33, Fall 1990, Last accessed December 14, 2018.

McKenna, Maureen A. Julia Thecla, 1896–1973. Illinois State Museum, 1986.

Mileaf, Janine and Susan F. Rossen, eds. A Home for Surrealism: Fantastic Painting in Midcentury Chicago. The Arts Club of Chicago and U of Chicago P, 2018.

Miller, Dorothy C. and Alfred H. Barr Jr., eds., American Realists and Magic Realists, with statements by artists and intro. by Lincoln Kirstein. Museum of Modern Art, 1943.

Ockman, Joan. “The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard,” Harvard Design Review 6, Fall 1998, Last accessed December 14, 2018.

Olson, Liesl. “Seeing Eldzier Cortor,” Chicago Review 59, 4 / 60, 1, 2016, Last accessed December 14, 2018.

Panczenko, Russell, ed. Wildeworld: The Art of John Wilde. Hudson Hills Press with the Elvehjem Museum of Art, 1999.

Parkinson, Gavin. Surrealism, Art and Modern Science: Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Epistemology. Yale UP, 2008.

Smith, Kent and Susan Weininger. Gertrude Abercrombie. Illinois State Museum, 1991.

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Tanning, Dorothea. “Rêvez-le ou ne le lisez pas,” trans. Jeannine Lambert, Les Quatre Vents 8, 1947, p. 86.  Last accessed December 14, 2018.

Vidler, Anthony. The Architectural Uncanny: Essays on the Modern Unhomely. MIT Press, 1992.

Zalman, Sandra. Consuming Surrealism in American Culture: Dissident Modernism. Ashgate, 2015.

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