TOYEN stands out among the strong women who worked at the heart of Surrealism. The most important Czech woman artist of the twentieth century was a pioneer – in her home city of Prague as well as in Parisian exile. Marie Čermínová (1902–1980) chose her pseudonym, derived from the French »citoyen« (citizen), early on. A lifelong pusher of limits, she challenged preconceived stereotypes in both her art and her life, whether with regard to common gender roles, prevailing styles, themes or techniques. In the process, she created an oeuvre that was as fascinating as it was diverse, unperturbed by early successes or later oblivion. Her life’s work occupies a unique position in the male-dominated Czech avant-garde art scene as well as in international Surrealism and art up to the 1970s. André Breton celebrated the Surrealist for her moving paintings and graphic work, which she steadfastly pursued between Prague, the »magical capital of Europe«, and her exile in Paris. TOYEN’s images, as poetic as they are provocative, oscillate between reality and imagination, the seductive and the cryptic, and make a deep impression on the memory. They are a revelation. With TOYEN, the Hamburger Kunsthalle is now devoting the first exhibition ever in Germany to this outstanding and influential twentieth-century Czech artist.

The development of the oeuvre

TOYEN already held an important position within the Czechoslovakian avant-garde in the early 1920s. During working stays in Paris, she anticipated with her technical experiments the Informel style of painting of the 1950s. In underscoring the significance of revolt, dream, eroticism and poetry, TOYEN was closely aligned with Surrealism as well, and in 1934 she was a founding member of the group of Surrealist artists in former Czechoslovakia. Her personal acquaintance with André Breton, who would describe her as »mon amie entre les femmes«, and other leading Surrealists in Paris in 1935, including Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, Benjamin Péret, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray and others, encouraged TOYEN on her artistic path and established her lifelong affinity with the group. 

In 1939, when the Prague Surrealists were driven underground by the »protectorate laws« of the German occupying power, TOYEN produced impressive cycles of drawings that evoked the sensory impressions of hearing, seeing, and feeling in a frightening, isolated world. After the Communists took power in Prague in early 1948, TOYEN emigrated to Paris. Due to political developments in her homeland, she would never return, but continued to work in Paris at the heart of the Surrealist group. She persisted until the end of her life in seeking creative exchanges with the younger generation of painters and poets of the movement. 



The TOYEN Event Programme -online


Greeting by director Dr. Alicja Knast ( (National Gallery Prague) to the exhibition TOYEN.

watch now

Quotes on TOYEN

to the quotes

The artist’s importance

Although TOYEN created an extensive oeuvre of paintings and drawings during her sixty-year career, working into old age, although she took a radical artistic approach and was pioneering in her reflections on the role of women and her own eroticism; although she invented new motifs and innovative procedures in drawing, collage and painting that enriched Surrealism in a singular fashion, she nonetheless fell into oblivion during the last twenty years of her life and died unnoticed in Paris in 1980. 

The Hamburger Kunsthalle explores TOYEN from today’s perspective, because the existential issues she personally experienced and addressed in her art with regard to freedom and in terms of social, political, sexual, and artistic identity and the testing of socially prescribed boundaries are particularly topical in our present day.

The exhibition

The first monographic presentation devoted to the artist features more than 300 exhibits from all creative phases, including some 120 paintings as well as drawings, illustrations and prints, collages, illustrated books and a number of personal documents and photographs that allow us to relive her extraordinary life against the backdrop of historical events. Her boundary-shifting combinations of different media become evident here, for example painting and collage, poetry and illustration, fine and applied art. 

The show traces TOYEN’s artistic career and personal life as well as the influences of political events and different cultural realms in chronological order, providing in-depth insights into individual artistic phases. Recurring themes such as eroticism, veiling, humour and alchemy form their own thematic islands. 


Installation views of the exhibition space

Have a look at the photos

Toyen's Biography


The Chapters of the Exhibition

Learn more

The artist’s environment

TOYEN’s international environment and her network are elucidated in individual juxtapositions with selected works by her peers, such as Czech and international Surrealist painters Jindřich Štyrský, Jindřich Heisler, Yves Tanguy and Salvador Dalí, as well as poets including Benjamin Péret, Radovan Ivšić, Annie Le Brun and André Breton.

Works on loan

The exhibition presents selected works on loan from important European museums such as the Moderna Museet Stockholm, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée d’art moderne de Paris, Musée d’art et d’histoire de Saint-Denis, the National Gallery Prague, the Prague City Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, and several other Czech museums. In addition, works from numerous French and Czech private collections are being brought together, for the first time ever in many cases. 



Exhibition catalogue only (in German)

in the museum shop on site for 39 €, online for 45 € plus postage
mehr erfahren

Audio clips from the multimedia guide

listen now

The catalogue

A comprehensive and richly illustrated catalogue in German will be published to accompany the show. It includes numerous essays by world-renowned experts from the USA, the Czech Republic, France and Germany (360 pages). With a wealth of material, some of it never before published, it presents the latest research findings on Toyen’s life and work as well as background information, tracing her artistic development and her role in international Surrealism. Produced in close cooperation with Prague and Paris, the catalogue will also be published in English, Czech and French.

This debut retrospective in Germany is the product of a European collaboration between the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the National Gallery in its twin city of Prague (the city partnership just celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020), where the show will be on view from 9 April to 15 August 2021, as well as the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, Paris Musées (25 March to 24 July 2022).

The exhibition at the Hamburger Kunsthalle is taking place under the patronage of the French and Czech embassies in Berlin.

Hamburger Sparkasse has been committed to the Hamburger Kunsthalle for many years. As a sign of gratitude for this generous support, the 2nd upper floor of the Galerie der Gegenwart, where the exhibition is shown, has been called »Haspa-Galerie« since the end of 2019.

Supported by: Freunde der Kunsthalle e. V., German-Czech Future Fund, Hamburg Ministry of Culture and Media

The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive programme.