Surrealism is more than a form of art; it is a creative movement. Surrealist artists, such as Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Michael Cheval, among many others, strive to investigate the unconscious mind as a means of making art, resulting in surreal, sometimes grotesque imagery in a variety of media. The term "surreal" comes from the French word for dream, "souvenir," which refers to the feeling that accompanies some dreams. As early as 1914, Andre Breton wrote about dreams as a source of inspiration for artists, claiming that they were "the most direct route to the unconscious."
Breton was one of the first people to use the term "surrealism" to describe his own artistic practice and belief system. He was also one of the main proponents of this new art movement, writing extensively about it and showing its evolution throughout the years. In addition to being an artist himself, Breton was also a writer, poet, and political activist, so he was responsible for defining exactly what surrealism was and wasn't. He believed that only certain types of dreams could be used as inspiration for art, including dreams with vivid images that have no possible connection to reality. Using ideas from psychoanalysis, he also believed that exploring the unconscious mind was necessary for true creativity.
Other surrealists shared these beliefs and worked to apply them into their art.
Surrealism is one of the twentieth century's most important art trends. Surrealists frequently employed "automatic" techniques—creating art without conscious thought—to bring visions from the unconscious to the surface. As such, they are considered precursors to modern artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.
Surrealist artwork has a dreamlike quality with references to myths, literature, and everyday life. Artists often used visual cues like punctuation marks or symbolic figures to create tension or surprise in their works. Common themes include dreams, madness, sexuality, and death.
Many famous artists were influenced by surrealism including Pablo Picasso, René Magritte, Max Ernst, and Alice Neel.
Surrealism came into being around 1910 with the work of French artist Salvador Dalí. Initially, he was a painter but later became involved in other arts too like sculpture, photography, and music. One of his first major success stories came when he designed the cover for the jazz album Something New by Miles Davis in 1958. This marked the beginning of what is known today as the "jazz poster" movement.
Dalí used images that had sexual undertones which shocked audiences at the time. He also used objects like knives or shells in his paintings which reflected his interest in violence and destruction.
Surrealism was concerned with releasing creativity by delving into the unconscious psyche. The Surrealist Manifestos were two texts written by Andre Breton describing the Surrealist movement. Surrealistic art is distinguished by dream-like visions, symbolism, and collaged elements. Many great artists have been influenced by Surrealism including Salvador Dalí, Paul Klee, and Jackson Pollock.
Breton first used the term "surreal" in a publication called Le Surréalisme au Maréchal Pétain in 1926. He introduced the word as a contrast to "rationalism", which he associated with previous European art styles. Breton argued that only the subconscious could produce images and ideas capable of challenging the rational mind. He proposed making use of this ability by writing, "Let us try to free ourselves from all reason, even our own."
The manifesto also called for eliminating traditional narrative content in paintings. It suggested that true freedom could only be achieved by abandoning any desire for understanding or explanation from the visual world.
In addition to being one of the most important influences on Dali, Breton's views on art were also influential on later movements such as abstract expressionism and minimal art.
Surrealism had its origin in France but soon spread to other countries. In the United States, it was popular among artists in New York City during the 1930s and 1940s.