Surrealism - (from the French. Surrealisme) - a trend in avant-garde art of the first half of the twentieth century, characterized by the merging of reality with something else, but not opposition. Surrealism is a dream - it is not real, but also not surreal. The style is characterized by allusions and a paradoxical combination of forms, visual deception.
The surrealist movement began as a literary group in the 1920s. Founded by the poet André Breton, it was rooted in the psychoanalytical writings of Sigmund Freud. Armed with Freud’s theories on the unconscious mind, Breton sought to create a revolutionary artistic movement that could release the masses from society’s rational order. In doing this, Breton hoped to merge the “real” and “dream” worlds. Soon, the surrealist group expanded to include other forms of art aside from literature. Due to the great success of artists such as Salvador Dalí and Yves Tanguy, it would become increasingly associated with the visual arts.
The surrealist group’s popularity continued into the 1940s. As political upheaval increased and World War II began, many artists turned to surrealism as a way to express the world’s state of crisis. However, as the movement grew, it eventually broke off into smaller factions. Breton and many of his followers believed more and more in creating art that was inherently political, while others such as Dalí focused more on the self and the dream world.
Surrealist artists employed a number of techniques to help bring their unconscious thoughts to the forefront of their work. Automatism was a favorite practice, which embraced the element of chance in artmaking, as opposed to meticulously planning out a composition. This could involve letting paint or other media fall freely onto the canvas and then creating the composition around these results, as well as other techniques of chance and uncertainty.
Other artists chose to bring dreamlike visions to life through hyper realistic paintings, drawings ;and sculptures. According to Freud, dreams were the only place the deepest unconscious thoughts were allowed to roam free, so it’s no surprise that many surrealist artworks have a dreamlike quality to them. Surrealism was not confined to two dimensional art, though. In order to further personify the dream world, many artists experimented with sculpture, design, mixed media, and film.