Mahon, Alyce

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Mahon, Alyce


Education: Courtauld Institute, Ph.D., 1999.


Office—Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge, 1-5 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge CB2 1PX, England. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Cambridge, Trinity College, Cambridge, England, lecturer in modern art and fellow of Trinity College. Distinguished Scholar for Li Ka Shing Foundation's Scholars Exchange Programme in China, University of Cambridge, 2004; research fellow at Columbia University Institute for Scholars, Paris, 2005; visiting scholar, Princeton University, 2006-07. Advisor on exhibitions to art galleries, including the Tate Gallery.



Eroticism and Art, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Surrealism and the Politics of Eros, 1938-1968, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY), 2005.


Alyce Mahon is a lecturer in the history of art at the University of Cambridge and has served as an advisor to major art exhibitions, including "Surrealism: Desire Unbound" and "Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design." Mahon is also the author of two books, Surrealism and the Politics of Eros, 1938-1968, and Eroticism and Art. In the first book, Mahon gives readers commentary on the international exhibitions of Surrealist art held in Paris in 1938, 1947, 1959, and 1965, focusing on the Surrealists' spatial and installation practices and their importance to the art world in general. In the latter work, Mahon provides a wide-ranging study of erotic art from the mid-1800s until contemporary times, taking in sculpture, painting, photography, and even performance art.

Surrealism and the Politics of Eros, 1938-1968 uses the International Surrealism exhibitions as a means of focusing on the development of the movement from 1938 on into the 1960s. "While the history of French Surrealism before 1945 is well documented, the movement's evolution from the outbreak of World War II to the 1960s remains understudied: thus Mahon's intervention is an important contribution to the literature on the movement," commented Mark Antliff in the H-France Review. After analyzing the 1938 Exhibition at the Galerie Beaux-Arts in Paris, the author goes on to explain how the French Surrealists were scattered during World War II, only to regroup and continue their work in New York City. Mahon also describes what became of the Surrealists who did not leave France, including Hans Bellmer and Victor Brauner. Some of them became active in the French Resistance, working underground to undermine the Nazi-sanctioned Vichy government. Mahon seeks to correct the erroneous view that most of the Surrealists "not only abandoned wartime France but that the movement died as a result," stated Antliff. After the war ended, André Breton, one of the chief figures in the Surrealist movement, returned from New York, and the Surrealist movement experienced a resurgence. The author explores the Surrealists' reaction to France's war in Indochina and to the nationalism that colored postwar politics in France. She contends that the Exposition Internationale du Surrealism, which took place in 1959 and 1960, was a statement against the middle-class values of the De Gaulle era and against France's policies in Algeria, which was still under French dominion. Antliff concluded that Mahon's book "will be essential reading for any scholar interested in Surrealism's French legacy after the mid-1930s." The book was also recommended by Katherine Conley who, in her review for the French Forum, stated: "An excellent critical appraisal and an equally excellent history, this book paves the way for a renewed understanding and appreciation of surrealism as the premier avant-garde movement of the twentieth century. Thoroughly researched, well written, and well-paced, Surrealism and the Politics of Eros is exhilarating to read."

Mahon's Eroticism and Art is "arguably the most thoughtful book on erotic art recently published," said Eugene C. Burt in a Library Journal review. Focusing mainly on work from the mid-1800s to the present, the author muses, from the perspective of an art historian, on the issues raised by the production of erotic art. She broaches her subject chronologically, beginning with the sunbathers and more exotic nudes of the nineteenth century to the erotic expressions found in the more modern works of groups such as the Surrealists. Mark Harris, discussing Mahon's book in the Art Monthly, found that the book improves as it advances into a discussion of more recent works, "with some of its best writing clarifying complex issues surrounding recent gay activist and African American art." Tom Rosenthal, reviewing for the Independent on Sunday, stated that Mahon "is never short of stimulating material. The book is stuffed with the fruits of her wide reading as well as her viewing of thousands of paintings and sculptures."



Art Monthly, October, 2006, Mark Harris, review of Surrealism and the Politics of Eros, 1938-1968, p. 48.

Canadian Art, March 22, 2006, review of Surrealism and the Politics of Eros, 1938-1968, p. 32.

French Forum, September 22, 2006, Katharine Conley, review of Surrealism and the Politics of Eros, 1938-1968, p. 168.

Independent on Sunday, November 20, 2005, Tom Rosenthal, review of Eroticism and Art.

Library Journal, March 1, 2006, Eugene C. Burt, review of Eroticism and Art, p. 84.

Modernism/Modernity, April 1, 2007, Clark V. Poling, review of Surrealism and the Politics of Eros, 1938-1968, p. 380.

Times Literary Supplement, December 15, 2006, Keith Miller, review of Eroticism and Art, p. 30; April 13, 2007, Roger Cardinal, "Enduring Love," p. 6.


H-France Review, (May, 2006), Mark Antliff, review of Surrealism and the Politics of Eros, 1938-1968.

University of Cambridge, Department of History of Art Web site, (April 15, 2008), author profile.