What is surrealism?

We explain what surrealism is and when this movement arises. Characteristics of the movement. Representatives and authors.

  1. What is surrealism?

Surrealism is known as an important artistic and aesthetic movement born in France in the 1920s , from the inheritance of the Dadaist movement and the influence of the French writer André Breton, considered its founder and leading exponent. This movement enjoyed wide popularity for decades and had literary, cinematographic and plastic arts aspects .

The surreal term comes from the French, and is attributed to the French writer Guillaume Apollinaire in 1917 , in his dramatic play The Tiresias Tits . Literally it means “above” ( south -) realism ( réalisme ), which means that the Surrealists tried to create an art that went beyond the limiting prospects of realism .

Surrealism was nourished by very diverse aesthetic and philosophical sources, ranging from the avant-garde poetry of Rimbaud, Lautréamont and Alfred Jarry, the painting of the Bosco, the Dadaist explorations and especially the influence of the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud, whose perspective on around the human mind and the dynamics of dreams served as the basis for the surrealists .

Far from being a stable and uniform movement, surrealism established itself in the search and innovation in terms of artistic techniques , construction of objects and pictorial perspectives. In the literary field it was a huge revolution of language, forcing it to break with the rules of the understandable and to embrace strangeness, through methods such as automatic writing (free from the planning of conscience) and poetic visions of dreams.

It was a school of great importance in Europe and the Americas, being adopted by various political and social tendencies as an artistic mechanism of liberation, capable of giving voice to the silenced and of saying everything that was normally silent. Surrealism has its peak before World War II , at which time most of its European farmers move to the United States and Latin America, where the surreal seed will pay off.

  1. Surrealism characteristics

surrealist work

Surrealism aspired to break the barriers of the conscious mind, approaching what Sigmund Freud called “the unconscious.” For this purpose, he aspired to suspend the artist’s control over the manufacture of his work , through automatic painting and writing techniques, or aiming at the reproduction of the dream environment , through relationships, proportions and inventions difficult to translate into ordinary language. In the Surrealist Manifesto of 1924 written by Breton, it is defined as:

“Pure psychic automatism, by means of which one tries to express, verbally, in writing or in any other way, the real functioning of thought . It is a dictation of thought, without the regulatory intervention of reason, oblivious to any aesthetic or moral concern. ”

Among other creations of the surrealists is the “exquisite corpse”, which combines verses from various authors to compose a single poem , without having agreed on a unique sense.

  1. Representatives and authors of surrealism

Surrealism had among its ranks some of the most famous European artists of the first half of the twentieth century. However, it was so widespread and accepted in Europe and other latitudes that it is not possible to list all its authors and representatives. A summary of the most significant would include the names of:

In the literature:

  • André Breton (1896-1966), French writer and poet, founder of the movement.
  • Antonin Artaud (1896-1948), French poet, playwright and actor, creator of the “theater of cruelty”.
  • Federico García Lorca (1898-1936), Spanish poet and playwright, killed and disappeared by the ranks of Franco.
  • Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), French poet, novelist and essayist, famous for his calligrams.
  • Jacques Prévert (1900-1977), French poet and theatrical author, film scriptwriter and communist militant.
  • René Char (1907-1988), French poet, moved away from surrealism in 1938.
  • Octavio Paz (1914-1998), Mexican poet and essayist, Nobel Prize for literature in 1990.

In the plastic arts:

  • Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), Spanish painter, sculptor and writer, was one of the most famous surrealists in the world.
  • René Magritte (1898-1967), a Belgian painter who gave surrealism a conceptual charge, famous for his painting “this is not a pipe”.
  • Joan Miró (1893-1983), Spanish painter, sculptor and engraver, his work investigated the universe of children and local Catalan traditions.
  • Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), French painter and chess player, famous for his work Fuente (delivered to an exhibition under the pseudonym R. MUTT) consisting of a urinal.
  • Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), famous Mexican painter for her self-referential and feminist work, as well as for her romantic relationship with Mexican muralist Diego de Rivera.

At the cinema:

  • Luis Buñuel (1900-1983), Spanish film director, known for his short film An Andalusian Dog (1929) and his numerous collaborations with Dalí.
  • Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), French poet, novelist, playwright, painter and filmmaker.

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