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Video:What is Surrealism?

with Briana Bonome

Surrealism was a 20th century art movement that tried to represent the subconscious mind. This video from About.com will give you a brief overview of the surrealist era in art.See Transcript

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Transcript:What is Surrealism?

Hi, I'm Alan Seise for About.com, and I'll be talking to you about surrealism.

Definition of Surrealism

Surrealism is any art form stemming from the unconscious mind. It often features strange, hallucinatory visuals or absurd juxtapositions of objects or words. Surrealist artwork can be an object or an idea, and it represents the artist's idea of what that is, based on their own subconscious. A surrealist painting can look like a dream, or an object can be appropriated to look like something completely different.

Origin of Surrealism

The surrealist movement was officially launched in 1924 when Andre Breton wrote the surrealist manifesto. Breton, the founder of surrealism, described it as pure psychic automatism. Breton traces the movement back to 1869 with the novel Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautreamont.

Significance of Surrealism

What makes the surrealist movement unique is their fascination with the unconscious mind. Surrealism rose at the same time as the writings of Sigmund Freud and the artists involved in the movement were highly interested in the ideas of dreams and the subconscious.

Surrealism is significant in the history of art. It rose from Dadaism, which was a movement focused on chance and nihilism. Surrealism represents an important part of history between WWI and WWII, when certain groups, particularly those aligned with leftist groups, like communism and socialism, saw rational thought and technology as the root of the development of machinery and the disasters of war. The artists associated with these groups, saw the unconscious mind as a link that united all human beings and could free them from the restrictions of nationalism.

Famous Surrealist Artists

Some of the more notable artists associated with surrealism include:

  • Pablo Picasso
  • Andre Masson
  • Joan Miro
  • Max Ernst
  • Meret Oppenheim
  • Salvador Dali

While Pablo Picasso's cubist style was highly analytical, it offered a new way to view reality. Andre Masson employed automatic drawing; this could be considered the visual art form of stream of consciousness writing.

Popular Surrealist Works

Perhaps one of the most famous art works to rise out of the surrealistic movement was The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali. The Persistence of Memory is actually a small painting, about the size of a postcard. It features melting clocks, crawling ants, and a face that appears to be melting in the middle of a dessert landscape.

Another famous artwork to arise from the surrealist movement is The Luncheon in Fur by Meret Oppenheim. This is actually an appropriated found object. By taking a teacup, a saucer, and a spoon and covering them in fur, Oppenheim reveals a fetishized side to what would be considered an ordinary, everyday object.

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