The phrase “one-hit wonder” is used by rock critics to describe a singer or musical group whose commercial success is based on a single hit song. While it may not be entirely appropriate to employ the vernacular of the Top Forty in writing about the visual arts, I can think of no better way to describe the contribution of Meret Oppenheim (1913–85) to modernist culture. Her Object (Breakfast in Fur) (1936), commonly referred to as “the furry teacup,” has long been a textbook example of Surrealist art. What student of art history has not suffered a shock of recognition upon encountering it in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection? While it may not have the renown of Dalí’s flaccid watches or Magritte’s bowler-hatted automatons, Object (Breakfast in Fur) is just as pithy a manifestation of the Surrealist ethos and the sine qua non of Oppenheim’s reputation.


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