Surrealism was a cultural movement that began in the early 20th century and developed out of the Dada movement. Centered in Paris first, it spread in the 1920 around the world. It peaked in the 1930s.

Surrealistic artists used the element of surprise, juxtaposition and non sequitur. These artists saw their work in a framework of a philosophical or even revolutionary movement unless they were Dali; then they saw themselves as Surrealism. Surrealists meant to revolutionize the human experience. They wanted to free people from false realities, restrictive customs and structures. Surrealists in their majority aligned themselves with communism and anarchism to reach their goal.

Surrealism is closely connected to psychology. Freud’s work of free association, dream analysis and the unconscious influenced Surrealists’ methods. They developed a method called automatic drawing & writing in that they let the subconscious take over until the conscious mind recognized representational forms that suggest themselves. This MO is based on the belief that ordinary and depictive expressions are vital and important, yet the arrangement must be open to the full range of imagination. It was first thought that the visual arts were ill equipped for Surrealism as they seemed to be less open for chance and automatism until techniques like frottage (basically chance pencil rubbing) and decalcomania (color spread on an object that is then pressed on a canvas) were developed.

Characteristic for this style: combination of depictive, abstract and psychological elements to express alienation that human beings felt in modern time. Surrealism is part visual art, part Dada techniques. It can be an unornamented, illustrative depictional style with stark color contrasts (Dali, Magritte, Chirico) or more automatic (Miro, Klee, Picasso, Man). But in the end Surrealism as a visual movement had found a method: to expose psychological truth by stripping ordinary objects of their normal significance, in order to create a compelling image that was beyond ordinary formal organization, in order to evoke empathy from the viewer.

Through its influence on American artists in their development of Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism can be seen as apart from Pop Art the single most important influence on the growth of the American art market.

Notable artists: Dali, Magritte, Chirico, Miro, Klee, Picasso, Man

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