Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members. It was an artistic movement that brought together artists, thinkers and researchers in hunt of sense of expression of the unconscious. Surrealists were searching for the definition of new aesthetic, new humankind and a new social order.
Surrealist artists wanted their work to be a link between the abstract spiritual realities and the real forms of the material world. To them, the object stood as a metaphor for an inner reality. Through their craft, whether it be painting, sculpting or drawing, artists could bring the inner realities of the subconscious to the conscious mind, so that their meaning could be deciphered through analysis. Just as Michelangelo and Leonardo advanced the knowledge of the body's anatomy, surrealist artists strive to chart the anatomy of the psyche.
The surrealist movement of visual art flourished in Europe between World Wars I and II. Surrealism grew principally out of the earlier Dada movement, which before World War I produced works of anti-art that deliberately defied reason. Surrealism emphasis was not on negation but on positive expression. The movement represented a reaction against what its members saw as the destruction wrought by the "rationalism" that had guided European culture and politics in the past.
The artistic movement Surrealism came into being after the French poet Andre Breton 1924 published the first Manifeste du surrealisme. In this book Breton suggested that rational thought was repressive to the powers of creativity and imagination and thus inimical to artistic expression. Surrealism was a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely, that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in "an absolute reality, a surrealism." Drawing heavily on theories adapted from Sigmund Freud, Breton saw the unconscious as the wellspring of the imagination. He defined genius in terms of accessibility to this normally untapped realm, which, he believed, could be attained by poets and painters alike.
Rene Magritte was a groundbreaking Surrealist who combined wit and illusion. Magritte, who originally designed wallpaper, posters and ads, began painting full time after receiving a gallery contract. In Magritte’s signature style, he places ordinary objects in unexpected contexts, often blocked faces with floating objects to challenge preconceptions about the unknown. Despite harsh initial criticism of his work, he became one of the world’s most significant artists.
A flamboyant painter and sometime writer, sculptor and experimental film-maker, Salvador Dali used bizarre dream imagery to create unforgettable and unmistakable landscapes of his inner world.
Oscar Dominguez was a Spanish painter. He was associated with the surrealist movement in the 1930's and early 1940s. Dominguez depicted a rich fantasy world of strange beasts and eerie landscapes using the combination of a realistic style and automatic painting. this was a popular Surrealist device in which the artist worked directly from the subconscious, without pre-conceived ideas. The technique is said to have been invented by Dominguez.
The images found in surrealist works are as confusing and startling as those of dreams. Surrealist works can have a realistic, though irrational style, precisely describing dreamlike fantasies, as in the works of René Magritte and Salvador Dali. Surrealism sometimes had a more abstract style, as in the works of Joan Miró, Max Ernst, and Oscar Dominguez.
The Surrealists aimed to revolutionize human experience, including its personal, cultural, social, and political aspects, by freeing people from what they saw as false rationality, and restrictive customs and structures. Breton proclaimed, the true aim of Surrealism is "long live the social revolution, and it alone!" To this goal, at various times surrealists aligned with communism and anarchism.
The Surrealist movement in the mid-1920s was characterized by meetings in cafes where the Surrealists played collaborative drawing games and discussed the theories of Surrealism. The Surrealists developed a variety of techniques such as automatic drawing. Soon more visual artists joined Surrealism including Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dali, Enrico Donati, Alberto Giacometti, and Valentine Hugo. Though Breton admired Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp and courted them to join the movement, they remained peripheral.