Birmingham Surrealists

The Birmingham Surrealists were an informal grouping of artists and intellectuals associated with the Surrealist movement in art, based in Birmingham, England from the 1930s to the 1950s.

The key figures were the artists Conroy Maddox and John Melville, alongside Melville's brother, the art critic Robert Melville. Other significant members included artists Emmy Bridgewater, Oscar Mellor and the young Desmond Morris.

In its early years the group was distinguished by its opposition to a London-based vision of surrealism epitomized by the English exhibitors at the 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition, that the Birmingham group saw as inauthentic or even anti-surrealist, preferring instead to build links directly with surrealism's French heartland.

As World War II approached, however, and the London-based British Surrealist Group fell under the influence of European exiles such as E. L. T. Mesens and Toni del Renzio, the ideological approaches of the two groups converged and they formed increasingly co-operative and overlapping parts of a wider international surrealist movement.

The Birmingham Surrealists would meet in the Kardomah Café in New Street, the Trocadero pub in Temple Street, or in later years in Maddox's house in Balsall Heath, which would also often play host to more eclectic gatherings including figures such as jazz musician George Melly, poets Henry Reed and Walter Allen and writers Stuart Gilbert and Henry Green.

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Birmingham Surrealists - History - Breakup
... In July 1948 a Short Manifesto from The Surrealist Group in Birmingham was published and signed by twelve Birmingham artists, including Maddox and Mellor but missing major figures such as Bridgewater ... Its call for the formation of an "active surrealist group" to reject the "patriotic myths, official pedagogy, the debris of moral rationing which constitutes much of the art, poetry and philosophy ... John Melville remained in Birmingham, though he withdrew from public exhibition after the failure of his 1951 exhibition at London's Hannover Gallery and was ...