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Surrealism

As World War I came to an end, the Dada movement evolved into


a new movement called Surrealism. This medium of art created a
palette of purity and hope though automatism and use of
dreams. The Surrealists strove for simplicity and spontaneity or
as some called it, automatism. They wanted to answer the
question "how shall I be free?" and to express thought without
any tainted preconceptions. They believed automatism "would
reveal the true and individual nature of anyone who practiced it,
far more completely than could any of his conscious creations.
For automatism was the most perfect means for reaching and
tapping the unconscious." (Stangos 125) This free style of
expression, first used in literary circles headed by Andre Breton
and then by painters like Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali
and Rene Magritte, upheld the Dadaist rejection of traditional
forms of art. However, by portraying a field of unconscious
thought and thereby, following an uncontaminated reality, the
surrealists avoided the horrors of premeditated warfare and
political, social and economic lies and injustices. Surrealist
theorists found Surrealism to be:
"a certain point of the mind at which life and death, the real and
the imaginary, the past and the future, the communicable and
the incommunicable, the heights and the depths, cease to be
perceived contradictably. Now it is in vain that one would seek
any other motive for Surrealist activity than determining this
point. (Stangos 134)"
By using one's unconscious mind, "the imagination in a
primitive state," (Stangos 126) Surrealism found a place where
contradictory thoughts might not serve as dichotomies. Free of a
socially constructed point of view or "raison", a writer or artist
travels to a place of thinking that is both irrational and rational
at the same time. Through the unconscious or a highly sensitized
state of mind, the surrealist brought forth a new manner of
seeing and feeling the world as it was understood and negotiated
by Western peoples.
In its development, Surrealism celebrated the art of children,
mad people and primitive art. The Surrealists believed in the
innocent eye. They found that art produced by young children
was more real than that produced by adults-- since the art of

adults was usually repressed and contaminated. The Surrealists


often played children's games like the one where each player
draws a head, body or legs then folds the paper after his turn so
that his contribution is not seen. The strange images that
resulted provided Joan Miro and others with inspiration for
works, such as The Harlequin's Carnival. (Stangos 127)
In addition to this technique, Max Ernst, in 1925, began using a
child's technique, which led him in his direction of art for the
next two decades. The technique was termed frottage, or
"rubbing". It involved placing a piece of paper over a textured
surface and then rubbing it with a pencil to record the texture.
Afterwards, the images produced would be rearranged and the
results were new images and associations from these initial
rubbings. These images would then go on to become inspiration
and the groundwork for paintings and sculptures.
Ordinary forms and objects were used to create art. The
Surrealists saw an object and created art out of it because of the
feelings that object inspired or what that object lent itself to be
transformed into. As Miro said, "I begin painting, and as I paint
the picture begins to assert itself, or suggest itself, under my
brush. The form becomes a sign for a woman or a bird as I
work." As a result of these ideas, flea markets boomed because
they were the homes of inspiration and otherwise useless
objects, perfect for the art of the Surrealists.
Miro was an artist that took advantage and used to full potential
the opportunities simple forms offered him. Miro would often
start his canvases with random washes and then build upon the
forms generated by the sponges, rags or burlap he used. After he
had something down on the canvas, the forms would inspire
Miro to carefully work to a full production. As he states, "the
first stage is free, unconscious, but the second stage is carefully
calculated." (Stangos 130) Miro was not really a product of
Surrealism but was rather a necessity for its beginning.
Surrealism needed his work in order to define itself as an art
movement. Breton said "by his 'pure psychic automatism' Miro
might 'pass as the most Surrealist of us all.'" (Stangos 130)
In addition to the childlike innocence the Surrealist sought, Miro
looked into his dreams and into his childhood for ideas for his
art. The Surrealists looked towards dreams because they
believed dreams were thoughts and imaginations in the

primitive state. Dreams were part of the unconscious, and the


unconscious was untainted. In the beginning of the Surrealist
period, artists used hypnotism and drugs to venture into the
unconscious state to extract images, word and ideas. Andre
Breton said that these images and feelings could not be had in
the conscious state. Quite often, the Surrealists would create
dream-like scenes and scenarios, which would otherwise be
impossible in the natural world.
Salvador Dali once said the only difference between himself and
a madman was that he was not mad. His paintings were often a
bizarre and erotic dream world influenced by dreams and his
fear of sex. Dali painted with a photographic like accuracy and
used bright intense colors that made his works look alive.
However, his subjects were obviously static because of the dream
like scenes surrounding them. He described the theoretical basis
of his paintings as "paranoiac-critical": the creation of visionary
reality from elements of visions, dreams, memories and
psychological or pathological distortions through the use of
familiar objects such as watches, insects and telephone and the
primary images of blood decay and excrement. (Wheeler 291)
Dali's images gradually transformed into a visual nightmare
such as the melting watches of The Persistence of Memory.
Like the impossibilities of Dali's scenes, Rene Magritte painted
reality with an illusionistic twist. In The Human Condition and
other works, Magritte uses illusion to fool the eye into thinking
something is what it really is not. In The Human Condition, the
eye is fooled into believing that the painting is of a landscape
being viewed through a window. In reality, the painting is of a
painting on an easel in front of a window containing the view
outside that window. Magritte also demonstrates this
illusionistic quality in The False Mirror where the iris of the
painted eye is filled with a sky scene.
"As beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a
sewing machine and an umbrella" (Stangos 126) is a quote that
basically sums up the principles surrounding Surrealism. It is
this type of dream like scene that the Surrealists were seeking-pure, untainted and spontaneous.

Giorgio de Chirico
(1888-1978)
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Major Italian painter, who founded the metaphysical school. He was born in Volos, Greece, the son of an
Italian engineer. He studied art in Athens and in Munich, where he was strongly influenced by the allegorical
works of the 19th-century Swiss painter Arnold.
In Turin and Florence and in Paris, where he settled in 1911, he painted deserted cityscapes, such as Enigma
of an Autumn Night (1910) and Mystery and Melancholy of a Street (1914).
These early metaphysical works, through sharp contrasts of light and shadow and exaggerated perspective,
evoked an ominous dream world. 1915, an army conscripted him, and he met the futurist painter Carlo.
In 1920, they founded the magazine Pittura Metafisica. From 1915 to 1925 de Chirico painted bizarre,
faceless mannequins, which was a technique adopted by the surrealists.
From 1924 to 1930 de Chirico gave enormous impetus to the surrealist movement and influenced such
surrealists as Yves Tanguy and Salvador Dal? By the mid-1930s he had turned to an outworn academic style
and chose to become a fashionable portraitist.
Max Ernst
(1891 - 1976)
Salvador Dali
(1904-1989)
He is a Spanish painter, writer, and member of the surrealist movement.
He was born in Figueras, Catalonia, and educated at the School of Fine Arts, Madrid.
After 1929 he espoused surrealism. From this period his paintings was depicted. Dream imagery and
everyday objects in unexpected forms, such as the famous limp watches in The Persistence of Memory.
Dali moved to the United States in 1940, where he remained until 1948. His later paintings, often on religious
themes, are more classical in style. They include Crucifixion and The Sacrament of the Last Supper.
Meticulous draftsmanship and realistic detail characterize Dali's paintings, with brilliant colors heightened
by transparent glazes.

Dali designed and produced surrealist films, illustrated books, handcrafted jewelry, and created theatrical
sets and costumes. Among his writings are ballet scenarios and several books, including The Secret Life of
Salvador Dali (1942) and Diary of a Genius (1965).

Joan Miro 1893-1983


Rene Magritte 1898-1967