Surrealism has caught up with us
Last week I was reading Inez Holden’s diary of the Blitz, It was Different at the Time, published in 1943. This is from the entry of a day after a night of particularly heavy bombardment: ‘One morning I walked back through the park, and saw the highest branches of a tree draped with . . . some sort of silk, with two or three odd stockings and, wrapped round the top of a tree, like a cloak quick-thrown over the shoulder of some high-born hidalgo, some purple damask. Below it, balanced on a twig, as if twirled round a finger, was a brand new bowler hat. A surrealist painter whom I know slightly was staring at it, too. He said, “Of course we were painting this sort of thing years ago, but it has taken some time to get here.”‘
I was reminded of this a day or two later when I was having dinner with two friends at a restaurant where all the waiting staff were wearing black masks. They looked terrifically chic and would also have looked rather sinister if they hadn’t been so friendly and smiling. It made me think of Magritte and Max Ernst and the films of Buñuel. The illustration is from Amazon, but it could easily be from a Max Ernst collage. The surreal has become the everyday. We are indeed living in strange times.