Ambra D’Antone

Associate Lecturer | PhD Student

“Translating Modernity: Surrealism of the Levant”

Supervisors: Prof Gavin Parkinson (The Courtauld Institute of Art) and Dr Matthew Gale (Tate Modern)

Funded by Arts & Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Award

This dissertation is the first analysis in English entirely dedicated to Surrealism in the area of Greater Syria and Turkey between 1920s-1960s, an area which I refer to as the Levant: I understand the Levant as a historical region united by shared artistic and cultural legacies, while it is geographically and ideologically divided by ethnic and nationalist discourses. Through archival research and historical analysis,  I uncover significant and still largely unacknowledged Surrealist productions in this region, and I argue that Levantine artists developed a sophisticated Surrealist vocabulary through a complex act of translation of the dispositions towards modernity that Surrealism espoused and engendered in its ongoing evolutions.

By means of key case studies, I show that Surrealism equipped artists in the Levant with tools for disrupting established models of knowledge and of art production in search of alternative epistemic criteria. Crucial to my work is an investigation of how the reconfiguration of knowledge in the region by means of Surrealist strategies and by the mining of local artistic heritage, as it informed modern art practices, allowed artists to account for experiences of the modern that did not necessarily fall in step with discourses of Euro-American progress. These experiences force us to rethink the ontology of Surrealism’s international profile, and to destabilise some of the narratives that have characterised modernity in art historical discourses thus far.


Research Interests

  • Global Surrealism
  • Global Modernism and Postmodernism
  • Text & Image
  • Middle Eastern Modernisms
  • Orientalism
  • Methodologies of art history


  • Expected 2021: PhD – AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Project |The Courtauld & Tate.
  • 2016-2017: MA History of Art | The Courtauld.
  • 2012-2016: MA (Hons) Art History & Comparative Literature | University of St Andrews.


  • D’Antone, Ambra et al. “Selected Artists’ Biographies”, in Surrealism Beyond Borders. Edited by Stephanie D’Alessandro and Matthew Gale. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021: 316-321.
  • D’Antone, Ambra. Chapter 3 “Looking Past: Turkish Surrealism in Translation”, in Surrealism in North Africa and Western Asia: Crossings and Encounters. Ed. Monique Bellan and Julia Drost, Orient Institut Beirut (Forthcoming 2021)
  • D’Antone, Ambra. “Taking Time: Fateh Moudarres’ Works on Paper and Syrian Chronology between Modernity and Contemporaneity”, in Fateh – Adonis: Hiwar, Atassi Foundation (Forthcoming 2022).
  • D’Antone, Ambra. “Below the Surface: Anneka Lenssen’s Beautiful Agitation: Modern Paintings and Politics in Syria”. Review commissioned by the Association of Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab world (AMCA), May 2021.
  • D’Antone, Ambra and Erica Payet. “A Wandering Light in the Universe: A Conversation with Adonis”. immediations 4, no.4 (2019).


  • Autumn and Spring Term 2021-2022: Associate Lecturer for BA1 Topic “Techniques and Meaning in 20th Century Art”.
  • Autumn and Spring Term 2019: Teaching Assistant for BA 2 Frameworks.
  • Autumn Term 2018: Teaching Assistant for MA Core Methodologies.

Conference Papers

  • “Where Angels Fear to Tread: Mazhar Şevket İpşiroğlu”. Association for Art History Annual Conference. April 2021.
  • “Aleppo 1947-1962: A Laboratory of Surrealism”. Annual Graduate Symposium. The Courtauld, October 2020.
  • “Fateh al-Moudarres’s Nationalism Against the Grain”. International Society for the Study of Surrealism (ISSS) Annual Conference.  University of Exeter, August 2019.
  • “Yüksel Arslan’s Surrealism and Turkish Iconography”. Annual Conference Association for Art History (AAH). Panel: “Global Perspectives of Surrealism”. King’s College London & The Courtauld, April 2018.
  • “Yüksel Arslan: Global Art from the Periphery”. Worlding Art History: Negotiating the Global and the LocalModern and Contemporary Colloquium. The Courtauld, March 2018.