Surrealism, which had many international manifestations and which began as a literary movement before developing into an artistic one, was pioneered in France under the leadership of André Breton in the 1920s.
Surrealism, which had many international manifestations and which began as a literary movement before developing into an artistic one, was pioneered in France under the leadership of André Breton in the 1920s. Breton’s circle of poets and artists was deeply influenced by Comte de Lautréamont’s vision of unexpected poetic combinations of objects. In their visual and written work the Surrealists explored Sigmund Freud’s notions of the dream-work and the uncanny, stressing the relationship of the unconscious to lived reality and using techniques of psychic automatism as a way of tapping into the unconscious and detaching themselves from habitual thought processes. They were inspired by the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé and Arthur Rimbaud, the writing of Guillaume Apollinaire (from whom the notion of surreality derived), Symbolism, Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical painting, and then-current notions of ethnography. Advocating an art of pure imagination, Surrealists deployed the imagery of hysteria, primitive art, hallucinatory experiences, and phenomena associated with the radically other to effect a revolution in everyday consciousness based on a critique of rationalist thought. This critique, also posed by Georges Bataille and the dissident Surrealists, took the form of disturbing images and juxtapositions to disrupt stable, conventional notions of form. Through the influence of Joan Miró’s paintings and Jean Arp’s sculptures and reliefs, the abstract realm of biomorphic forms also became a primary element in much Surrealist work. Artists affiliated with Surrealism include Hans Bellmer, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Frida Kahlo, Paul Klee, Wifredo Lam, Dora Maar, René Magritte, Man Ray, André Masson, Matta, Meret Oppenheim, Pablo Picasso, Yves Tanguy, and Dorothea Tanning, among others.