In light of this week’s featured artist, I thought I’d write a brief summary on Surrealism, to help give you some background on his painting style.

The Satin Tuning Fork - Yves Tanguy

The Satin Tuning Fork
— Yves Tanguy

What began in the late 1910s to early 20s as an automatic writing style, Surrealism became an international movement encompassing not only writing, but all intellectual, political and artistic styles. Using Freud’s free association, all aspects of “The Arts” entered the realm of the inner psyche, casting off society’s tradition and creating shocking and unpredicted imagery. With compositions that contained no logic, odd creatures from everyday objects, and the use of surprising juxtaposition and non sequitur, Surreal artists allowed their unconscious minds free-reign to create.

The Persistence of Memory - Salvidor Dali

The Persistence of Memory
— Salvidor Dali

Former Dadaists such as Max Ernst, André Masson, and Man Ray were the first to adopt this free-form style of painting, followed closely by René Magritte, Salvador Dali, and Yves Tanguy. Probably the most recognizable piece of Surrealist art is Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” with it’s sandy beach scene of melting pocket watches, and unconscious symbol of the relativity of time and space.

The Elephant Celebes - Max Ernst

The Elephant Celebes
— Max Ernst

Spawned from the Dadaist, Surrealist art emphasized positive expression. According to Andre Breton, a spokesperson for the movement, poet and publisher of “The Surrealist Manifesto”, Surrealism was a way to tie together the conscious and unconscious, so that fantasy or the dream world would be connected to the everyday rational world in “an absolute reality, a surreality.

As Surrealist art gained momentum, two separate groups began to evolve. The Automatists, a group more focused on feeling and less on analytical, believed images should not be burdened by “meaning”. The Veristic Surrealists however, believed academic discipline and form was the way to represent the subconscious,  to capture the images that if unrecorded, would easily slip away. They thought that by following the images, they could understand their meaning.

Surrealism remained until the arrival of World War II. Its profound symbolism, unexpected imagery and contempt for convention would later influence the Abstract Expressionism movement.

For more information on Surrealism, check out Wikipedia’s Surrealism Article.