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"Surrealism is based on the belief .. in the omnipotence of dreams, in the undirected play of thought."
André Breton - Manifesto of Surrealism
"Beloved imagination, what I most like in you is your unsparing quality."
André Breton
"Knowing how to look is a way of inventing."
Salvador Dalí
"Art is the fatal net which catches these strange moments on the wing like mysterious butterflies, fleeing the innocence and distraction of common men."
Giorgio de Chirico
"Collage is the noble conquest of the irrational, the coupling of two realities, irreconcilable in appearance, upon a plane which apparently does not suit them."
Max Ernst
"Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see."
René Magritte
"Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist."
René Magritte
"The works must be conceived with fire in the soul but executed with clinical coolness."
Joan Miró
"Nature does not create works of art. It is we, and the faculty of interpretation peculiar to the human mind, that see art."
Man Ray
"I would photograph an idea rather than an object, a dream rather than an idea."
Man Ray
"If we had to obey the decrees laid down by the Surrealist group, there would be virtually no Surrealist photography or even any genuinely Surrealist films, but Surrealism is not a theorem"
Henri Cartier-Bresson
"Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision."
Salvador Dalí
"Surrealism had a great effect on me because then I realized that the imagery in my mind wasn't insanity. Surrealism to me is reality."
John Lennon
"[the contribution was in their determination] to tap the creative and imaginative forces of the mind at their source in the unconscious and, through the increase in self-knowledge achieved by confronting people by their real nature, to change society."
Simon Wilson, from preface to Dalí exhibition at Tate Gallery, London, 1980
"Creativity is that marvelous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition."
Max Ernst
"Contrary to prevalent misdefinitions, surrealism is not an aesthetic doctrine, nor a philosophical system, nor a mere literary or artistic school. It is an unrelenting revolt against a civilization that reduces all human aspirations to market values, religious impostures, universal boredom and misery."
Franklin Rosemont, from André Breton and the First Principles of Surrealism
"Putting psychic life in the service of revolutionary politics, Surrealism publicly challenged vanguard modernism's insistence on 'art for art's sake.' But Surrealism also battled the social institutions - church, state, and family - that regulate the place of women within patriarchy. In offering some women their first locus for artistic and social resistance, it became the first modernist movement in which a group of women could explore female subjectivity and give form (however tentatively) to a feminine imaginary."
Whitney Chadwick, from Women, Surrealism, and Self-Representation

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Surrealist Sculpture
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Dada and Surrealist Photography
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Surrealist Film
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Existentialism in Modern Art

KEY ARTISTS

André BretonAndré Breton
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Hans ArpHans Arp
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Max ErnstMax Ernst
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Salvador DalíSalvador Dalí
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Alberto GiacomettiAlberto Giacometti
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Joan MiróJoan Miró
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"Although the dream is a very strange phenomenon and an inexplicable mystery, far more inexplicable is the mystery and aspect our minds confer on certain objects and aspects of life."

Giorgio de Chirico Signature

Synopsis

The Surrealists sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination. Disdaining rationalism and literary realism, and powerfully influenced by psychoanalysis, the Surrealists believed the rational mind repressed the power of the imagination, weighing it down with taboos. Influenced also by Karl Marx, they hoped that the psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spur on revolution. Their emphasis on the power of personal imagination puts them in the tradition of Romanticism, but unlike their forebears, they believed that revelations could be found on the street and in everyday life. The Surrealist impulse to tap the unconscious mind, and their interests in myth and primitivism, went on to shape many later movements, and the style remains influential to this today.

Key Ideas

André 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." What Breton is proposing is that artists bypass reason and rationality by accessing their unconscious mind. In practice, these techniques became known as automatism or automatic writing, which allowed artists to forgo conscious thought and embrace chance when creating art.
The work of Sigmund Freud was profoundly influential for Surrealists, particularly his book, The Interpretation of Dreams (1899). Freud legitimized the importance of dreams and the unconscious as valid revelations of human emotion and desires; his exposure of the complex and repressed inner worlds of sexuality, desire, and violence provided a theoretical basis for much of Surrealism.
Surrealist imagery is probably the most recognizable element of the movement, yet it is also the most elusive to categorize and define. Each artist relied on their own recurring motifs arisen through their dreams or/and unconscious mind. At its basic, the imagery is outlandish, perplexing, and even uncanny, as it is meant to jolt the viewer out of their comforting assumptions. Nature, however, is the most frequent imagery: Max Ernst was obsessed with birds and had a bird alter ego, Salvador Dalí's works often include ants or eggs, and Joan Miró relied strongly on vague biomorphic imagery.

Beginnings

Surrealism Image

Surrealism grew out of the Dada movement, which was also in rebellion against middle-class complacency. Artistic influences, however, came from many different sources. The most immediate influence for several of the Surrealists was Giorgio de Chirico, their contemporary who, like them, used bizarre imagery with unsettling juxtapositions. They were also drawn to artists from the recent past who were interested in primitivism, the naive, or fantastical imagery, such as Gustave Moreau, Arnold Bocklin, Odilon Redon, and Henri Rousseau. Even artists from as far back as the Renaissance, such as Giuseppe Arcimboldo and Hieronymous Bosch, provided inspiration in so far as these artists were not overly concerned with aesthetic issues involving line and color, but instead felt compelled to create what Surrealists thought of as the "real."

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" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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