Surrealism is associated the weird and bizarre. It has been described as one of the most important intellectual movements of the 20th Century, and actually began as a literary movement, and was intended partly as a political vehicle to bring about social revolution. Many were very politically conscious and active, being aligned with different ideologies such as Communism, Anarchism, Republicanism. It’s foundations are in previous movements, such as Dada, influenced by the war of 1918 and the ensuing economic and social changes . The formal founder of Surrealism is considered to be French poet Andre Breton (1896-1966)., who in his ‘ Manifesto of Surrealism’, gives his definition as
“SURREALISM, n. 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. Dictated
by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason,
exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern” (1)
Surrealism, as a pure expression of the mind, the unconscious, without the control of reason or logic to hinder it , is borne out of the world of dreams, subconcious, imagination and reality.
Many artists had an interest in philosophy and psychoanalysis, particularly the work of Freud, seeing Surrealism as having practical importance to every day life, by freeing mankind from conventions, restrictions, and rationality imposed by the world on the human mind.
“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality,
which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality,
a surreality, if one may so speak.” (2)
Original Surrealist writings, had a focus on ‘Automism’ – allowing the unconscious mind and freedom of imagination expression, similar to Freud’s method of Free Association. This method was soon extended to included drawings and paintings, collage, photography and even film and objects.By the 1930’s Surrealist ideas and creations were being seen in number of international exhibitions, in a variety of countries, from London to New York and Tokyo., with Surrealist groups establishing themselves in various countries. In Britain the International Surrealist Exhibition opened in London in 1936 featuring works by British artists alongside Dali, Miro, and Ernst. In 1938 Paris held the highly successful ‘Exposition Internationale du Surrealisme’, exhibiting works by Dali, Ernst, Magritte, Man Ray, Marc Chagall, but there were also number female artists in the movement, their works regularly included in exhibitions., such as Lenor Fini, Dorothea Tanning, Kay Sage, and Toyen who was a founding member of the Czech Surrealist group in Prague established in 1934.
Surrealism and the unconscious mind still fascinates today as much as it did as in Freud’s and the early Surrealist’s day. The ‘style’ has great freedom of expression, and open interpretation of the images – two people may have very different interpretations of the image and it’s meaning. A Surrealist image may have an elusive and very subjective meaning . The growth of the Internet has made art of all styles highly accessible, and greater opportunity for artists to show works than before . There is an enormous pool of modern Surreal art to discover . Neosurrealism has arisen, a modern style of surrealist art, ( without the original focus of Automasim or free reliance on the subconscious rather than the conscious), It blends surrealism, fantasy art and visionary art, in varying degrees depending on artists, such as Jacek Yurka, Frank Picini,Georges Grie.
(1), (2), Andre Breton ‘The Surrealist Manifesto’ 1924.