Art Encyclopedia: Surrealism

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By Jenny Shen ’23

When most people encounter a surrealist painting for the first time, they might describe it as bizarre, twisted, incomprehensible, and crazy. However, I regard these artworks as masterpieces, and the artists who created them as geniuses. 

André Breton, the author of The Surrealist Manifesto, expresses that Surrealism is a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely that the world of dream and fantasy are joined to the everyday rational world in an absolute reality, a surreality.

He said, “we are all prisoners of the carnival of the unconscious.

Surrealism flourished in Europe between the two World Wars as a reaction against the “rationalism” that had always guided European culture and politics. Inspired by Sigmund Freud’s psychological theories, the surrealist believed that the unconscious is the wellspring of the imagination, and people who can access this normally hidden realm are geniuses.

The Surrealists aimed to revolutionize human experiences, discarding the conventional to discover strange beauty.

Salvador Dalí

In his pursuit of revolutionizing art and bringing up images from his subconscious mind, Dali created a world in his paintings where commonplace objects are juxtaposed, deformed, and reshaped with highly realistic details.

Check out his painting: The Persistence Of Memory

René Magritte

In his goal of challenging the audience’s conventional perception of reality and creating images that blend fantasy, horror, and mystery, Magritte’s works are characterized by symbols such as human torsos, apples, and other ordinary objects in landscapes of seas and vast skies.

Check out his painting: The Son Of Man

Frida Kahlo

Though she never clearly stated herself as a surrealist, Kahlo is renowned for her surrealistic self-portraits under the themes of exploring identity, the human body, and death, through which she also aimed to spread her Mexican culture.

Check out her painting: Self-Portrait With Thorn Necklace And Hummingbird

Remedios Varo:

While Varo never limited herself to one movement, most of her works fall under surrealism, where she explores herself and the environment around her. Not intentionally, Varo’s artwork challenges the traditional patriarchal society and features woman figures as opposed to men in classic surrealism.

Check out her painting: La llamada (The Call)

Photo courtsey, Wikipedia

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