A voyage into a peculiar world.

3 min readMar 30, 2021
Golgonda (1957) — René Magritte

Surrealism was an 360° artistic movement that involved not only painting but also literature sculpture and even film.

The Surrealists tried to overthrow the oppressive modern society by demolishing its backbone of rational thought. To do so, they attempted to tap into the “superior reality” of the subconscious mind.

Many of the tenets of Surrealism, including an emphasis on automatism, experimental uses of language, and found objects, had been present to some degree in the Dada movement that preceded it. However, the Surrealists systematized these strategies within the framework of psychologist Sigmund Freud’s theories on dreams and the subconscious mind.

Although Surrealism officially began with André Breton, a Dadaist that in 1924 wrote the “Surrealist manifesto”, it started as far back 1917, inspired by the oevres of Giorgio de Chirico who reproduced location with a hallucinatory quality.

Breton defined Surrealism as “psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner — the actual functioning of thought”.

Influenced by Sigmund Freud’s ideas and in particular by “The Interpretation of Dreams” (1899), Breton experimented automatism in writing, creating words with no thought or planning.

Other painters like Miró and Masson followed also his example, beginning their version with pen and ink.

Miró adapted automatism to the first stage of creation in his paintings. He developed abstract coding as a personal Surrealist vocabulary which he repeated in his works. He was heavily influenced by outsider art, drawings by children and primitive art.

Among painters that joined the movement we should remember Yves Tanguym, Alberto Giacometti, Victor Brauner, Rene Magritte and Salvador Dalì that, as we saw on the previous article, joined in 1928.

A significant number of women were, also, involved despite their dismissal by many critics and a tendency by male Surrealists to sideline them.

Most famous were:

Meret Oppenheim that joined the Surrealists through Giacometti in 1932. Her most famous work is 1936’s “Object”.

Leonora Carrington, a young protege of Ernst who fell in. Among her oevres we should rember “Self portrait” (1937/1938)

American painter Dorothea Tanning, an illustrator inspired to Surrealism after having seen the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Works like 1943’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” reveal the complexity of her visual concepts

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was proclaimed a Surrealist by Breton but she refused this designation, despite her paintings show several similarities with Surrealist oevres.

As stated at the beginning Surrealism involved not only painting but also several other artistic areas such as photography and movies.

At the forefront of Photographic Surrealism there were Emmanuel Radnitsky, better known as Man Ray, Maurice Tabard and Dora Maar, tied up for a long time with Picasso. (Famous is “Portrait of Dora Maar”)

The first Surrealist film was “The Seashell and the Clergyman” from 1928, directed by Germaine Dulac but the most famous was “Un Chien Andalou” directed by Luis Buñuel’s (in collaboration with Salvador Dalì)

Dalí as we saw in the previous article collaborated also with Alfred Hitchcock in the movie “Spellbound” and with Walt Disney in “Destino”.

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