For some reason, not many art movements have impacted me such as surrealism. I believe this took place because it was trough surrealism that art began to sound like art for me. Surrealism was what made me join the conversation. They say art is supposed to ask you questions – not give you answers. That’s what happen with me, once I met surrealism.
The surrealism had its origins on the Dada movement – both were artistic, intellectual, middle-class driven movements of the 1920ths and are commonly referred as “instrumental in defining Modernism“. The movement was officially launched due to André Breton and Tristan Tzara differences about what the Dada was supposed to be – Breton was looking for purpose in the art in opposite of the e Dada’s “unfocused activities”. That lead him to found the new movement through in his 1924 “The Surrealist Manifesto”, a term that was previously used in 1917 by Guillaume Apollinaire, a french poet, for the notes of the ballet Parade. The surrealist movement had the purpose to incentive, explore and expose the liberation of the man from a “predominantly utilitarian life“.
According to Breton, surrealism is “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.” It is safe to say that the surrealism was the “mind scream” – it focus on unleashing the unconscious, exploring every artistic endeavor without committed with reality conventions. Not surprisingly, it was influenced by the psychoanalysis theory of Sigmund Freud and its peers (Lacan, Jung, among others), since surrealism encourages the scape from the reality and invite you to explore dreams and impulses. Max Ernst for example often would work with birds, considering a bird as his own alter ego and intentionally exploring this concept through his art.
Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Man Ray, Joan Miró, Marcel Caram, Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso were some of the most prestigious artists of the surrealism art movement – and, it is safe to say, of the art history of all time, as well. In Brazil, its influences were present among modernist artists, specially Tarsila do Amaral in her famous Abaporu piece.
“Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.” – Magritte’s statement about his The Son of Man iconic painting.
The movement overflowed the plastic arts environment and influenced also literature, design and even ballet – in 1929, the famous Ballets Russes of Serge Diaghilev had design sets of Ernst and Miró. In Fashion, surrealism was present in Vogue editorials and also translate in designers creations such as Karl Lagerfeld corset hat, inspired by Salvador Dalí and Elsa Schiaparelli shoe hat exposition. Even today, surrealism still a great part of our expressions – can anyone forget Björk and Lady Gaga’s red carpets?
Besides that, it was in the cinema where surrealism had it’s most scandalous outcome.Luis Buñuel, a spanish director consider the father of surrealist cinematic and one of Hitchcock biggest influences, made history with his Un Chien Andalou (1929) who shock the audience with explicit sliced eyeball scene master pieces and, a surrealist masterpiece, L’Age d’Or (1930) that caused the anger of fascists who invaded the premiere in Paris trew ink on the screen, beat the audience and destroyed Dalí and Miró’s paintings that were at the lobby.
When the World War II began, many artists fled to New York which became the art center for surrealism. In these new moment the surrealistic art began to be expressed through abstraction as opposed to the Salvador Dalí’s “hand-painted dreams“. The collage are also an expression of surrealism which combine the metaphorical and the intangible – my personal favorites.
With the new dynamics and influences the artists of the movement began to interact and engage with the Existentialism and went on, still exploring the self, but a bit more rationally than surreal.