Meret Oppenheim, seen yesterday, naturally gravitated to the Surrealists when she arrived in Paris in 1932. For a woman, entrée to André Breton’s clique customarily came in one or more of three modes: model, muse or mistress. Oppenheim was all of these things, for a time, but far too talented to inhabit these roles for long, and too self-possessed to be defined by them.
One of the most famous images of Oppenheim shows her nude behind the wheel of a printing press, a hand and forearm smeared with ink. It was taken by Man Ray in 1933, and between then and 1935 (around the time of her affair with Max Ernst), she also appeared in Man Ray’s short film Poison, along with the filmmaker himself. Even for a Man Ray film there’s not much going on, with the pair smoking and mugging, then Man Ray drinking and giving a hammy preview of his own death. Poison was included in a reel of “home movies“, indicating that it was little more than an experiment. You could see it as a screen test for the role of Surrealist muse; it was a role that Oppenheim, knowing it to be a poisoned chalice, ultimately rejected.
(click here if you don’t see the video embedded below)