Monday, August 12, 2013


This is not a pipe.

Surrealism is a major cultural movement that shot off of Dada after the World War 1. This was a movement in many forms of media, and officially began with the publication of poet André Breton's Manifesto of Surrealism. He, and other poets like him, drew influence from the ideas of Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx. Instead of causing them to "admire" their daughters or overthrow the Russian czar,  these new ideas caused them to try and create the mixture of reason and the unexpected. These poets admired the works of artist Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, and their work was seen a major precursor to surrealist art.

Surrealist art was obsessed with showing the weird and the confusing with extreme amount of precision. Now, I write my blog entries like production companies remake horror movies, lets cherry-pick the best and brightest of Surrealism. One of the early pioneers was German artist Max Ernst. He became interested in psychology and mental illness after a short stint in college. After he was fought for the Germans during WW1, his art became increasingly abstract. He, like Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, saw art a way of apposing the warfare that had caused him so much distress. Ernst had also been a major player in the Dada movement, and he helped form the translation between the two styles. Some of his works include the Elephant Celebes (c. 1921) and the Fireside Angel (c.1937) which is seen below.
Scary stuff
 After moving to Paris in 1922, Ernst started to experiment with where he could take art. He adopted techniques like decalcomania ( transferring paint from one surface to another by pressing them together) and frottage (making pencil rubbings of leaves and other rough surfaces). He would become interested in sculpture later in life.

For me, the pinnacle of what surrealism can bring us is René Magritte. Magritte was a belgian artist who made thought-provoking images that transfixed new meanings to common items. While Ernst made images that didn't quite make sense, Magritte actively tried to make images that absolutely didn't resonated within the mind of the viewer. He made a series of images that involved painting a simple object, often a pipe or apple, and then wrote at the bottom of the painting that that was not a pipe or apple respectively. The idea behind it was it was an image of an apple, not a real apple. This would resemble the existentialist movement that was propagated by the likes of Albert Camus and Martin Heidegger. Other works by Magritte would actively push the boundaries on what people would comprehend.  He would often paint everyday plain jane objects and throw something different in there. I'm talking about having a train coming out of fireplace, men raining from the sky and shoes with toes on them, thus predicting a recent trend in "fashion".
Magritte's most famous painting would have to be The Son of Man (c. 1964), which is an portrait of a man with an apple in front of his face. This painting has been shown and referenced in a good amount of movies including the Thomas Crown Affair and (500) Days of Summer.

While there are many other artist that I could cover, including Joan Miró and possible Spongebob villain Man Ray, I would like to close out this conversation by talking about one of the most famous members of the surrealist movement, Salvador Dali. Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domènech, 1st Marqués de Dali de Pubol was one of the most unique artist to ever walk the earth. His exploits were legendary. He once went went to costume party with his wife dressed as the Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper; he became friends with Alice Cooper after using him as a model several times; he would never pay for anything, opting to draw on the receipt instead.  He is best known for the painting known as the Persistence of Memory which showed clocks melting under the hot sun.

time keeps on slippin'
All in all, Surrealism has had far reaching impact on the world. Surrealism taught you to see things differently. To not go into a situation with preconceived notions clotting your judgement. Without surrealism the world would be dull and far less interesting. This work would influence later greats in modern history like Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono. The absurd comedy styles of comedians like John Hodgman, Anthony Jeselnik and the members of Monty Python wouldn't have come to be. Criticism of surrealism said that it furthered the detachment that the average person had with the arts, but I say that this doesn't matter. Todays society has embraced and felt the impact of the good this movement can offer. I for one, am glad that surrealism changed the world.

The Menil Collection in Houston, Tx has a permanent collection on Surrealism

André Breton's Manifesto of Surrealism

The Ernst Museum in Budapest, Hungary

The Musée Magritte Museum in Brussels, Belgium

The Dali Museum in St. Pettersberg, Florida

Female Surrealist artists

Surrealistic Love poems

Dada, Surrealism and their Heritage by William S. Rubin

Subversive art, Dada to present

Surrealism and Comedy


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