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Surrealism – More Than a Prank?

September 28, 2016. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday by Jack Dziamba
 Dali, Persistence Of Memory

Dali, Persistence Of Memory

Surrealism – More Than a Prank?
Surrealism “drew upon the private world of the mind, traditionally restricted by reason and societal limitations, to produce surprising, unexpected imagery.” (Source: The MET)

“Surrealism originated in the late 1910s and early ’20s as a literary movement that experimented with a new mode of expression called automatic writing, or automatism, which sought to release the unbridled imagination of the subconscious. Officially consecrated in Paris in 1924 with the publication of the Manifesto of Surrealism by the poet and critic André Breton (1896–1966), Surrealism became an international intellectual and political movement.

Jon Mann, In an Artsy Magazine editorial titled , “How the Surrealist Movement Shaped the Course of Art History,” relates a story about Salvador Dali which, perhaps, captures our popular conception of Surrealism,

“During the 1936 International Surrealist Exposition, held in London, guest speaker Salvador Dalí addressed his audience costumed head-to-toe in an old-fashioned scuba suit, with two dogs on leashes in one hand and a billiard cue in the other. Mid-lecture, constrained by the scuba mask, the Spanish artist began to suffocate and flailed his arms for help.

The audience, unfazed, assumed his gesticulations were all part of the performance. As art legend has it, the Surrealist poet David Gascoyne eventually rescued Dalí, who upon recovery remarked, “I just wanted to show that I was plunging deeply into the human mind.” Dalí then finished his speech—and his accompanying slides, to no one’s surprise, were all presented upside down.”

Surrealism, however, is much more than comic pranks and has its intellectual origin as a reaction to 17th and 18th century rationalism, and emphasized the superior qualities of the subconscious mind. As Jon Mann writes, Surrealism

Surrealism “proposed that the Enlightenment—the influential 17th- and 18th-century intellectual movement that championed reason and individualism—had suppressed the superior qualities of the irrational, unconscious mind. Surrealism’s goal was to liberate thought, language, and human experience from the oppressive boundaries of rationalism.”

What Does Surrealism Look Like?

Since Art is visual, the best way to appreciate the intellectual depth and creativity of Surrealism is to view a few examples. While the names of the artists may be well-known , the works shown are not the ones generally associated with their names.



Dali, Dali, Mae West's Face which May be Used as a Surrealist Apartment, 1934-1935

Dali, Mae West’s Face which May be Used as a Surrealist Apartment, 1934-1935


Frida Kalo, La venadita (little deer), 1946

René Magritte, The Magriet, Menaced Assassin (L'Assassin menacé), 1927

             René Magritte, The Magriet, Menaced Assassin (L’Assassin menacé), 1927


Man Ray, Dust Man Breeding (Dust over work by Marcel Duchamp), ca. 1920

        Man Ray, Dust Man Breeding (Dust over work by Marcel Duchamp), ca. 1920

One comment on “Surrealism – More Than a Prank?

  1. Bought & sold many an early Dali print. A few were hand-painted etchings. Had a pen & ink he drew on a napkin when he was elderly & living in New York. Would have enjoyed hanging around with him & Andre Breton back in the day!

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