Surrealism | Wikipedia audio article

Surrealism | Wikipedia audio article


Surrealism is a cultural movement that started
in 1917, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. Artists painted unnerving,
illogical scenes, sometimes with photographic precision, creating strange creatures from
everyday objects, and developing painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to
express itself. Its aim was, according to Breton, to “resolve the previously contradictory
conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality”, or surreality.Works
of surrealism feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur;
however, many surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the
philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact. Leader André
Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was, above all, a revolutionary
movement. Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities
during World War I and the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the
1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts,
literature, film, and music of many countries and languages, as well as political thought
and practice, philosophy, and social theory.==Founding of the movement==
The word ‘surrealism’ was first coined in March 1917 by Guillaume Apollinaire. He wrote
in a letter to Paul Dermée: “All things considered, I think in fact it is better to adopt surrealism
than supernaturalism, which I first used” [Tout bien examiné, je crois en effet qu’il
vaut mieux adopter surréalisme que surnaturalisme que j’avais d’abord employé].Apollinaire
used the term in his program notes for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Parade, which
premiered 18 May 1917. Parade had a one-act scenario by Jean Cocteau and was performed
with music by Erik Satie. Cocteau described the ballet as “realistic”. Apollinaire went
further, describing Parade as “surrealistic”: This new alliance—I say new, because until
now scenery and costumes were linked only by factitious bonds—has given rise, in Parade,
to a kind of surrealism, which I consider to be the point of departure for a whole series
of manifestations of the New Spirit that is making itself felt today and that will certainly
appeal to our best minds. We may expect it to bring about profound changes in our arts
and manners through universal joyfulness, for it is only natural, after all, that they
keep pace with scientific and industrial progress. (Apollinaire, 1917)
The term was taken up again by Apollinaire, both as subtitle and in the preface to his
play Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Drame surréaliste, which was written in 1903 and first performed
in 1917.World War I scattered the writers and artists who had been based in Paris, and
in the interim many became involved with Dada, believing that excessive rational thought
and bourgeois values had brought the conflict of the war upon the world. The Dadaists protested
with anti-art gatherings, performances, writings and art works. After the war, when they returned
to Paris, the Dada activities continued. During the war, André Breton, who had trained
in medicine and psychiatry, served in a neurological hospital where he used Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic
methods with soldiers suffering from shell-shock. Meeting the young writer Jacques Vaché, Breton
felt that Vaché was the spiritual son of writer and pataphysics founder Alfred Jarry.
He admired the young writer’s anti-social attitude and disdain for established artistic
tradition. Later Breton wrote, “In literature, I was successively taken with Rimbaud, with
Jarry, with Apollinaire, with Nouveau, with Lautréamont, but it is Jacques Vaché to
whom I owe the most.”Back in Paris, Breton joined in Dada activities and started the
literary journal Littérature along with Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault. They began experimenting
with automatic writing—spontaneously writing without censoring their thoughts—and published
the writings, as well as accounts of dreams, in the magazine. Breton and Soupault continued
writing evolving their techniques of automatism and published The Magnetic Fields (1920).
By October 1924 two rival Surrealist groups had formed to publish a Surrealist Manifesto.
Each claimed to be successors of a revolution launched by Appolinaire. One group, led by
Yvan Goll consisted of Pierre Albert-Birot, Paul Dermée, Céline Arnauld, Francis Picabia,
Tristan Tzara, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Pierre Reverdy, Marcel Arland, Joseph Delteil, Jean
Painlevé and Robert Delaunay, among others The group lead by Andre Breton claimed that
automatism was a better tactic for societal change than those of Dada, as lead by Tzara,
who was now among their rivals. Breton’s group grew to include writers and artists
from various media such as Paul Éluard, Benjamin Péret, René Crevel, Robert Desnos, Jacques
Baron, Max Morise, Pierre Naville, Roger Vitrac, Gala Éluard, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Luis
Buñuel, Man Ray, Hans Arp, Georges Malkine, Michel Leiris, Georges Limbour, Antonin Artaud,
Raymond Queneau, André Masson, Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Prévert, and Yves
Tanguy. As they developed their philosophy, they believed
that Surrealism would advocate the idea that ordinary and depictive expressions are vital
and important, but that the sense of their arrangement must be open to the full range
of imagination according to the Hegelian Dialectic. They also looked to the Marxist dialectic
and the work of such theorists as Walter Benjamin and Herbert Marcuse.Freud’s work with free
association, dream analysis, and the unconscious was of utmost importance to the Surrealists
in developing methods to liberate imagination. They embraced idiosyncrasy, while rejecting
the idea of an underlying madness. As Dalí later proclaimed, “There is only one difference
between a madman and me. I am not mad.”Beside the use of dream analysis, they emphasized
that “one could combine inside the same frame, elements not normally found together to produce
illogical and startling effects.” Breton included the idea of the startling juxtapositions in
his 1924 manifesto, taking it in turn from a 1918 essay by poet Pierre Reverdy, which
said: “a juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities. The more the relationship
between the two juxtaposed realities is distant and true, the stronger the image will be−the
greater its emotional power and poetic reality.”The group aimed to revolutionize human experience,
in its personal, cultural, social, and political aspects. They wanted to free people from false
rationality, and restrictive customs and structures. Breton proclaimed that the true aim of Surrealism
was “long live the social revolution, and it alone!” To this goal, at various times
Surrealists aligned with communism and anarchism. In 1924 two Surrealist factions declared their
philosophy in two separate Surrealist Manifestos. That same year the Bureau of Surrealist Research
was established, and began publishing the journal La Révolution surréaliste.===Surrealist Manifestos===Leading up to 1924, two rival surrealist groups
had formed. Each group claimed to be successors of a revolution launched by Apollinaire. One
group, led by Yvan Goll, consisted of Pierre Albert-Birot, Paul Dermée, Céline Arnauld,
Francis Picabia, Tristan Tzara, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Pierre Reverdy, Marcel Arland, Joseph Delteil,
Jean Painlevé and Robert Delaunay, among others.The other group, led by Breton, included
Aragon, Desnos, Éluard, Baron, Crevel, Malkine, Jacques-André Boiffard and Jean Carrive,
among others.Yvan Goll published the Manifeste du surréalisme, 1 October 1924, in his first
and only issue of Surréalisme two weeks prior to the release of Breton’s Manifeste du surréalisme,
published by Éditions du Sagittaire, 15 October 1924.
Goll and Breton clashed openly, at one point literally fighting, at the Comédie des Champs-Élysées,
over the rights to the term Surrealism. In the end, Breton won the battle through tactical
and numerical superiority. Though the quarrel over the anteriority of Surrealism concluded
with the victory of Breton, the history of surrealism from that moment would remain marked
by fractures, resignations, and resounding excommunications, with each surrealist having
their own view of the issue and goals, and accepting more or less the definitions laid
out by André Breton.Breton’s 1924 Surrealist Manifesto defines the purposes of Surrealism.
He included citations of the influences on Surrealism, examples of Surrealist works,
and discussion of Surrealist automatism. He provided the following definitions: Dictionary: Surrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism,
by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real
functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by
reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.Encyclopedia: Surrealism. Philosophy.
Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected
associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends
to ruin once and for all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving
all the principal problems of life.===Bureau of Surrealist Research===
The Bureau of Surrealist Research (Centrale Surréaliste) was the center for Surrealist
writers and artists to meet, hold discussions, and conduct interviews. They investigated
speech under trance.==Expansion==The movement in the mid-1920s was characterized
by meetings in cafes where the Surrealists played collaborative drawing games, discussed
the theories of Surrealism, and developed a variety of techniques such as automatic
drawing. Breton initially doubted that visual arts could even be useful in the Surrealist
movement since they appeared to be less malleable and open to chance and automatism. This caution
was overcome by the discovery of such techniques as frottage and decalcomania.
Soon more visual artists became involved, including Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, Joan
Miró, Francis Picabia, Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Alberto Giacometti, Valentine
Hugo, Méret Oppenheim, Toyen, Kansuke Yamamoto and later after the second war: Enrico Donati.
Though Breton admired Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp and courted them to join the movement,
they remained peripheral. More writers also joined, including former Dadaist Tristan Tzara,
René Char, and Georges Sadoul. In 1925 an autonomous Surrealist group formed
in Brussels. The group included the musician, poet, and artist E. L. T. Mesens, painter
and writer René Magritte, Paul Nougé, Marcel Lecomte, and André Souris. In 1927 they were
joined by the writer Louis Scutenaire. They corresponded regularly with the Paris group,
and in 1927 both Goemans and Magritte moved to Paris and frequented Breton’s circle. The
artists, with their roots in Dada and Cubism, the abstraction of Wassily Kandinsky, Expressionism,
and Post-Impressionism, also reached to older “bloodlines” or proto-surrealists such as
Hieronymus Bosch, and the so-called primitive and naive arts.
André Masson’s automatic drawings of 1923 are often used as the point of the acceptance
of visual arts and the break from Dada, since they reflect the influence of the idea of
the unconscious mind. Another example is Giacometti’s 1925 Torso, which marked his movement to simplified
forms and inspiration from preclassical sculpture. However, a striking example of the line used
to divide Dada and Surrealism among art experts is the pairing of 1925’s Little Machine Constructed
by Minimax Dadamax in Person (Von minimax dadamax selbst konstruiertes maschinchen)
with The Kiss (Le Baiser) from 1927 by Max Ernst. The first is generally held to have
a distance, and erotic subtext, whereas the second presents an erotic act openly and directly.
In the second the influence of Miró and the drawing style of Picasso is visible with the
use of fluid curving and intersecting lines and colour, whereas the first takes a directness
that would later be influential in movements such as Pop art. Giorgio de Chirico, and his previous development
of metaphysical art, was one of the important joining figures between the philosophical
and visual aspects of Surrealism. Between 1911 and 1917, he adopted an unornamented
depictional style whose surface would be adopted by others later. The Red Tower (La tour rouge)
from 1913 shows the stark colour contrasts and illustrative style later adopted by Surrealist
painters. His 1914 The Nostalgia of the Poet (La Nostalgie du poète) has the figure turned
away from the viewer, and the juxtaposition of a bust with glasses and a fish as a relief
defies conventional explanation. He was also a writer whose novel Hebdomeros presents a
series of dreamscapes with an unusual use of punctuation, syntax, and grammar designed
to create an atmosphere and frame its images. His images, including set designs for the
Ballets Russes, would create a decorative form of Surrealism, and he would be an influence
on the two artists who would be even more closely associated with Surrealism in the
public mind: Dalí and Magritte. He would, however, leave the Surrealist group in 1928.
In 1924, Miró and Masson applied Surrealism to painting. The first Surrealist exhibition,
La Peinture Surrealiste, was held at Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1925. It displayed works
by Masson, Man Ray, Paul Klee, Miró, and others. The show confirmed that Surrealism
had a component in the visual arts (though it had been initially debated whether this
was possible), and techniques from Dada, such as photomontage, were used. The following
year, on March 26, 1926 Galerie Surréaliste opened with an exhibition by Man Ray. Breton
published Surrealism and Painting in 1928 which summarized the movement to that point,
though he continued to update the work until the 1960s.===Surrealist literature===The first Surrealist work, according to leader
Brêton, was Les Chants de Maldoror; and the first work written and published by his group
of Surréalistes was Les Champs Magnétiques (May–June 1919). Littérature contained
automatist works and accounts of dreams. The magazine and the portfolio both showed their
disdain for literal meanings given to objects and focused rather on the undertones, the
poetic undercurrents present. Not only did they give emphasis to the poetic undercurrents,
but also to the connotations and the overtones which “exist in ambiguous relationships to
the visual images”Because Surrealist writers seldom, if ever, appear to organize their
thoughts and the images they present, some people find much of their work difficult to
parse. This notion however is a superficial comprehension, prompted no doubt by Breton’s
initial emphasis on automatic writing as the main route toward a higher reality. But—as
in Breton’s case—much of what is presented as purely automatic is actually edited and
very “thought out”. Breton himself later admitted that automatic writing’s centrality had been
overstated, and other elements were introduced, especially as the growing involvement of visual
artists in the movement forced the issue, since automatic painting required a rather
more strenuous set of approaches. Thus such elements as collage were introduced, arising
partly from an ideal of startling juxtapositions as revealed in Pierre Reverdy’s poetry. And—as
in Magritte’s case (where there is no obvious recourse to either automatic techniques or
collage)—the very notion of convulsive joining became a tool for revelation in and of itself.
Surrealism was meant to be always in flux—to be more modern than modern—and so it was
natural there should be a rapid shuffling of the philosophy as new challenges arose.
Surrealists revived interest in Isidore Ducasse, known by his pseudonym Comte de Lautréamont,
and for the line “beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing
machine and an umbrella”, and Arthur Rimbaud, two late 19th-century writers believed to
be the precursors of Surrealism. Examples of Surrealist literature are Artaud’s
Le Pèse-Nerfs (1926), Aragon’s Irene’s Cunt (1927), Péret’s Death to the Pigs (1929),
Crevel’s Mr. Knife Miss Fork (1931), Sadegh Hedayat’s the Blind Owl (1937), and Breton’s
Sur la route de San Romano (1948). La Révolution surréaliste continued publication
into 1929 with most pages densely packed with columns of text, but also included reproductions
of art, among them works by de Chirico, Ernst, Masson, and Man Ray. Other works included
books, poems, pamphlets, automatic texts and theoretical tracts.===Surrealist films===Early films by Surrealists include: Entr’acte by René Clair (1924)
La Coquille et le clergyman by Germaine Dulac, screenplay by Antonin Artaud (1928)
L’Étoile de mer by Man Ray (1928) Un Chien Andalou by Luis Buñuel and Salvador
Dalí (1929) L’Âge d’Or by Buñuel and Dalí (1930)
Le sang d’un poète by Jean Cocteau (1930)===Surrealist theatre===
The word surrealist was first used by Apollinaire to describe his 1917 play Les Mamelles de
Tirésias (“The Breasts of Tiresias”), which was later adapted into an opera by Francis
Poulenc. Antonin Artaud, an early Surrealist, rejected
the majority of Western theatre as a perversion of its original intent, which he felt should
be a mystical, metaphysical experience. He thought that rational discourse comprised
“falsehood and illusion”. Theorising a new theatrical form that would be immediate and
direct, that would link the unconscious minds of performers and spectators in a sort of
ritual event, Artaud created the Theatre of Cruelty, in which emotions, feelings, and
the metaphysical were expressed not through language but physically, creating a mythological,
archetypal, allegorical vision, closely related to the world of dreams.The other major theatre
practitioner to have experimented with surrealism in the theatre is the Spanish playwright and
director Federico García Lorca, particularly in his plays The Public (1930), When Five
Years Pass (1931), and Play Without a Title (1935). Other surrealist plays include Aragon’s
Backs to the Wall (1925) and Roger Vitrac’s The Mysteries of Love (1927) and Victor, or
The Children Take Over (1928). Gertrude Stein’s opera Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights (1938)
has also been described as “American Surrealism”, though it is also related to a theatrical
form of cubism.===Surrealist music===In the 1920s several composers were influenced
by Surrealism, or by individuals in the Surrealist movement. Among them were Bohuslav Martinů,
André Souris, Erik Satie, and Edgard Varèse, who stated that his work Arcana was drawn
from a dream sequence. Souris in particular was associated with the movement: he had a
long relationship with Magritte, and worked on Paul Nougé’s publication Adieu Marie.
Germaine Tailleferre of the French group Les Six wrote several works which could be considered
to be inspired by Surrealism, including the 1948 Ballet Paris-Magie (scenario by Lise
Deharme), the Operas La Petite Sirène (book by Philippe Soupault) and Le Maître (book
by Eugène Ionesco). Tailleferre also wrote popular songs to texts by Claude Marci, the
wife of Henri Jeanson, whose portrait had been painted by Magritte in the 1930s.
Even though Breton by 1946 responded rather negatively to the subject of music with his
essay Silence is Golden, later Surrealists, such as Paul Garon, have been interested in—and
found parallels to—Surrealism in the improvisation of jazz and the blues. Jazz and blues musicians
have occasionally reciprocated this interest. For example, the 1976 World Surrealist Exhibition
included performances by David Honeyboy Edwards.==Surrealism and international politics==
Surrealism as a political force developed unevenly around the world: in some places
more emphasis was on artistic practices, in other places on political practices, and in
other places still, Surrealist praxis looked to supersede both the arts and politics. During
the 1930s, the Surrealist idea spread from Europe to North America, South America (founding
of the Mandrágora group in Chile in 1938), Central America, the Caribbean, and throughout
Asia, as both an artistic idea and as an ideology of political change.Politically, Surrealism
was Trotskyist, communist, or anarchist. The split from Dada has been characterised as
a split between anarchists and communists, with the Surrealists as communist. Breton
and his comrades supported Leon Trotsky and his International Left Opposition for a while,
though there was an openness to anarchism that manifested more fully after World War
II. Some Surrealists, such as Benjamin Péret, Mary Low, and Juan Breá, aligned with forms
of left communism. Others fought for complete liberty from political ideologies, like Wolfgang
Paalen, who, after Trotsky’s assassination in Mexico, prepared a schism between art and
politics through his counter-surrealist art-magazine DYN and so prepared the ground for the abstract
expressionists. Dalí supported capitalism and the fascist dictatorship of Francisco
Franco but cannot be said to represent a trend in Surrealism in this respect; in fact he
was considered, by Breton and his associates, to have betrayed and left Surrealism. Benjamin
Péret, Mary Low and Juan Breá joined the POUM during the Spanish Civil War.Breton’s
followers, along with the Communist Party, were working for the “liberation of man”.
However, Breton’s group refused to prioritize the proletarian struggle over radical creation
such that their struggles with the Party made the late 1920s a turbulent time for both.
Many individuals closely associated with Breton, notably Aragon, left his group to work more
closely with the Communists.Surrealists have often sought to link their efforts with political
ideals and activities. In the Declaration of January 27, 1925, for example, members
of the Paris-based Bureau of Surrealist Research (including Breton, Aragon and Artaud, as well
as some two dozen others) declared their affinity for revolutionary politics. While this was
initially a somewhat vague formulation, by the 1930s many Surrealists had strongly identified
themselves with communism. The foremost document of this tendency within Surrealism is the
Manifesto for a Free Revolutionary Art, published under the names of Breton and Diego Rivera,
but actually co-authored by Breton and Leon Trotsky.However, in 1933 the Surrealists’
assertion that a ‘proletarian literature’ within a capitalist society was impossible
led to their break with the Association des Ecrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires, and
the expulsion of Breton, Éluard and Crevel from the Communist Party.In 1925, the Paris
Surrealist group and the extreme left of the French Communist Party came together to support
Abd-el-Krim, leader of the Rif uprising against French colonialism in Morocco. In an open
letter to writer and French ambassador to Japan, Paul Claudel, the Paris group announced: “We Surrealists pronounced ourselves in favour
of changing the imperialist war, in its chronic and colonial form, into a civil war. Thus
we placed our energies at the disposal of the revolution, of the proletariat and its
struggles, and defined our attitude towards the colonial problem, and hence towards the
colour question.”The anticolonial revolutionary and proletarian politics of “Murderous Humanitarianism”
(1932) which was drafted mainly by Crevel, signed by Breton, Éluard, Péret, Tanguy,
and the Martiniquan Surrealists Pierre Yoyotte and J.M. Monnerot perhaps makes it the original
document of what is later called ‘black Surrealism’, although it is the contact between Aimé Césaire
and Breton in the 1940s in Martinique that really lead to the communication of what is
known as ‘black Surrealism’. Anticolonial revolutionary writers in the
Négritude movement of Martinique, a French colony at the time, took up Surrealism as
a revolutionary method – a critique of European culture and a radical subjective. This linked
with other Surrealists and was very important for the subsequent development of Surrealism
as a revolutionary praxis. The journal Tropiques, featuring the work of Césaire along with
Suzanne Césaire, René Ménil, Lucie Thésée, Aristide Maugée and others, was first published
in 1941.In 1938 André Breton traveled with his wife, the painter Jacqueline Lamba, to
Mexico to meet Trotsky (staying as the guest of Diego Rivera’s former wife Guadalupe Marin),
and there he met Frida Kahlo and saw her paintings for the first time. Breton declared Kahlo
to be an “innate” Surrealist painter.===Internal politics===
In 1929 the satellite group associated with the journal Le Grand Jeu, including Roger
Gilbert-Lecomte, Maurice Henry and the Czech painter Josef Sima, was ostracized. Also in
February, Breton asked Surrealists to assess their “degree of moral competence”, and theoretical
refinements included in the second manifeste du surréalisme excluded anyone reluctant
to commit to collective action, a list which included Leiris, Limbour, Morise, Baron, Queneau,
Prévert, Desnos, Masson and Boiffard. Excluded members launched a counterattack, sharply
criticizing Breton in the pamphlet Un Cadavre, which featured a picture of Breton wearing
a crown of thorns. The pamphlet drew upon an earlier act of subversion by likening Breton
to Anatole France, whose unquestioned value Breton had challenged in 1924.
The disunion of 1929-30 and the effects of Un Cadavre had very little negative impact
upon Surrealism as Breton saw it, since core figures such as Aragon, Crevel, Dalí and
Buñuel remained true the idea of group action, at least for the time being. The success (or
the controversy) of Dalí and Buñuel’s film L’Age d’Or in December 1930 had a regenerative
effect, drawing a number of new recruits, and encouraging countless new artistic works
the following year and throughout the 1930s. Disgruntled surrealists moved to the periodical
Documents, edited by Georges Bataille, whose anti-idealist materialism formed a hybrid
Surrealism intending to expose the base instincts of humans. To the dismay of many, Documents
fizzled out in 1931, just as Surrealism seemed to be gathering more steam.
There were a number of reconciliations after this period of disunion, such as between Breton
and Bataille, while Aragon left the group after committing himself to the French Communist
Party in 1932. More members were ousted over the years for a variety of infractions, both
political and personal, while others left in pursuit of their own style.
By the end of World War II the surrealist group led by André Breton decided to explicitly
embrace anarchism. In 1952 Breton wrote “It was in the black mirror of anarchism that
surrealism first recognised itself.” “Breton was consistent in his support for the francophone
Anarchist Federation and he continued to offer his solidarity after the Platformists supporting
Fontenis transformed the FA into the Fédération Communiste Libertaire. He was one of the few
intellectuals who continued to offer his support to the FCL during the Algerian war when the
FCL suffered severe repression and was forced underground. He sheltered Fontenis whilst
he was in hiding. He refused to take sides on the splits in the French anarchist movement
and both he and Peret expressed solidarity as well with the new Fédération anarchiste
set up by the synthesist anarchists and worked in the Antifascist Committees of the 60s alongside
the FA.”==Golden age==
Throughout the 1930s, Surrealism continued to become more visible to the public at large.
A Surrealist group developed in London and, according to Breton, their 1936 London International
Surrealist Exhibition was a high-water mark of the period and became the model for international
exhibitions. Another English Surrealist group developed in Birmingham, meanwhile, and was
distinguished by its opposition to the London surrealists and preferences for surrealism’s
French heartland. The two groups would reconcile later in the decade.
Dalí and Magritte created the most widely recognized images of the movement. Dalí joined
the group in 1929, and participated in the rapid establishment of the visual style between
1930 and 1935. Surrealism as a visual movement had found
a method: to expose psychological truth; stripping ordinary objects of their normal significance,
to create a compelling image that was beyond ordinary formal organization, in order to
evoke empathy from the viewer. 1931 was a year when several Surrealist painters
produced works which marked turning points in their stylistic evolution: Magritte’s Voice
of Space (La Voix des airs) is an example of this process, where three large spheres
representing bells hang above a landscape. Another Surrealist landscape from this same
year is Yves Tanguy’s Promontory Palace (Palais promontoire), with its molten forms and liquid
shapes. Liquid shapes became the trademark of Dalí, particularly in his The Persistence
of Memory, which features the image of watches that sag as if they were melting.
The characteristics of this style—a combination of the depictive, the abstract, and the psychological—came
to stand for the alienation which many people felt in the modern period, combined with the
sense of reaching more deeply into the psyche, to be “made whole with one’s individuality”.
Between 1930 and 1933, the Surrealist Group in Paris issued the periodical Le Surréalisme
au service de la révolution as the successor of La Révolution surréaliste.
From 1936 through 1938 Wolfgang Paalen, Gordon Onslow Ford, and Roberto Matta joined the
group. Paalen contributed Fumage and Onslow Ford Coulage as new pictorial automatic techniques.
Long after personal, political and professional tensions fragmented the Surrealist group,
Magritte and Dalí continued to define a visual program in the arts. This program reached
beyond painting, to encompass photography as well, as can be seen from a Man Ray self-portrait,
whose use of assemblage influenced Robert Rauschenberg’s collage boxes. During the 1930s Peggy Guggenheim, an important
American art collector, married Max Ernst and began promoting work by other Surrealists
such as Yves Tanguy and the British artist John Tunnard.
Major exhibitions in the 1930s 1936 – London International Surrealist Exhibition
is organised in London by the art historian Herbert Read, with an introduction by André
Breton. 1936 – Museum of Modern Art in New York shows
the exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism. 1938 – A new Exposition Internationale du
Surréalisme was held at the Beaux-arts Gallery, Paris, with more than 60 artists from different
countries, and showed around 300 paintings, objects, collages, photographs and installations.
The Surrealists wanted to create an exhibition which in itself would be a creative act and
called on Marcel Duchamp, Wolfgang Paalen, Man Ray and others to do so. At the exhibition’s
entrance Salvador Dalí placed his Rainy Taxi (an old taxi rigged to produce a steady drizzle
of water down the inside of the windows, and a shark-headed creature in the driver’s seat
and a blond mannequin crawling with live snails in the back) greeted the patrons who were
in full evening dress. Surrealist Street filled one side of the lobby with mannequins dressed
by various Surrealists. Paalen and Duchamp designed the main hall to seem like subterranean
cave with 1,200 coal bags suspended from the ceiling over a coal brazier with a single
light bulb which provided the only lighting, as well as the floor covered with humid leaves
and mud. The patrons were given flashlights with which to view the art. On the floor Wolfgang
Paalen created a small lake with grasses and the aroma of roasting coffee filled the air.
Much to the Surrealists’ satisfaction the exhibition scandalized the viewers.===World War II and the Post War period===World War II created havoc not only for the
general population of Europe but especially for the European artists and writers that
opposed Fascism and Nazism. Many important artists fled to North America and relative
safety in the United States. The art community in New York City in particular was already
grappling with Surrealist ideas and several artists like Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock,
and Robert Motherwell converged closely with the surrealist artists themselves, albeit
with some suspicion and reservations. Ideas concerning the unconscious and dream imagery
were quickly embraced. By the Second World War, the taste of the American avant-garde
in New York City swung decisively towards Abstract Expressionism with the support of
key taste makers, including Peggy Guggenheim, Leo Steinberg and Clement Greenberg. However,
it should not be easily forgotten that Abstract Expressionism itself grew directly out of
the meeting of American (particularly New York) artists with European Surrealists self-exiled
during World War II. In particular, Gorky and Paalen influenced the development of this
American art form, which, as Surrealism did, celebrated the instantaneous human act as
the well-spring of creativity. The early work of many Abstract Expressionists reveals a
tight bond between the more superficial aspects of both movements, and the emergence (at a
later date) of aspects of Dadaistic humor in such artists as Rauschenberg sheds an even
starker light upon the connection. Up until the emergence of Pop Art, Surrealism can be
seen to have been the single most important influence on the sudden growth in American
arts, and even in Pop, some of the humor manifested in Surrealism can be found, often turned to
a cultural criticism. The Second World War overshadowed, for a time,
almost all intellectual and artistic production. In 1939 Wolfgang Paalen was the first to leave
Paris for the New World as exile. After a long trip through the forests of British Columbia,
he settled in Mexico and founded his influential art-magazine Dyn. In 1940 Yves Tanguy married
American Surrealist painter Kay Sage. In 1941, Breton went to the United States, where he
co-founded the short-lived magazine VVV with Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and the American
artist David Hare. However, it was the American poet, Charles Henri Ford, and his magazine
View which offered Breton a channel for promoting Surrealism in the United States. The View
special issue on Duchamp was crucial for the public understanding of Surrealism in America.
It stressed his connections to Surrealist methods, offered interpretations of his work
by Breton, as well as Breton’s view that Duchamp represented the bridge between early modern
movements, such as Futurism and Cubism, to Surrealism. Wolfgang Paalen left the group
in 1942 due to political/philosophical differences with Breton.
Though the war proved disruptive for Surrealism, the works continued. Many Surrealist artists
continued to explore their vocabularies, including Magritte. Many members of the Surrealist movement
continued to correspond and meet. While Dalí may have been excommunicated by Breton, he
neither abandoned his themes from the 1930s, including references to the “persistence of
time” in a later painting, nor did he become a depictive pompier. His classic period did
not represent so sharp a break with the past as some descriptions of his work might portray,
and some, such as André Thirion, argued that there were works of his after this period
that continued to have some relevance for the movement.
During the 1940s Surrealism’s influence was also felt in England, America and the Netherlands
where Gertrude Pape and her husband Theo van Baaren helped to popularize it in their publication
The Clean Handkerchief. Mark Rothko took an interest in biomorphic figures, and in England
Henry Moore, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Paul Nash used or experimented with Surrealist
techniques. However, Conroy Maddox, one of the first British Surrealists whose work in
this genre dated from 1935, remained within the movement, and organized an exhibition
of current Surrealist work in 1978 in response to an earlier show which infuriated him because
it did not properly represent Surrealism. Maddox’s exhibition, titled Surrealism Unlimited,
was held in Paris and attracted international attention. He held his last one-man show in
2002, and died three years later. Magritte’s work became more realistic in its
depiction of actual objects, while maintaining the element of juxtaposition, such as in 1951’s
Personal Values (Les Valeurs Personnelles) and 1954’s Empire of Light (L’Empire des
lumières). Magritte continued to produce works which have entered artistic vocabulary,
such as Castle in the Pyrenees (Le Château des Pyrénées), which refers back to Voix
from 1931, in its suspension over a landscape. Other figures from the Surrealist movement
were expelled. Several of these artists, like Roberto Matta (by his own description) “remained
close to Surrealism”.After the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Endre Rozsda
returned to Paris to continue creating his own word that had been transcended the surrealism.
The preface to his first exhibition in the Furstenberg Gallery (1957) was written by
Breton yet.Many new artists explicitly took up the Surrealist banner. Dorothea Tanning
and Louise Bourgeois continued to work, for example, with Tanning’s Rainy Day Canape from
1970. Duchamp continued to produce sculpture in secret including an installation with the
realistic depiction of a woman viewable only through a peephole.
Breton continued to write and espouse the importance of liberating the human mind, as
with the publication The Tower of Light in 1952. Breton’s return to France after the
War, began a new phase of Surrealist activity in Paris, and his critiques of rationalism
and dualism found a new audience. Breton insisted that Surrealism was an ongoing revolt against
the reduction of humanity to market relationships, religious gestures and misery and to espouse
the importance of liberating the human mind. Major exhibitions of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s 1942 – First Papers of Surrealism – New York
– The Surrealists again called on Duchamp to design an exhibition. This time he wove
a 3-dimensional web of string throughout the rooms of the space, in some cases making it
almost impossible to see the works. He made a secret arrangement with an associate’s son
to bring his friends to the opening of the show, so that when the finely dressed patrons
arrived they found a dozen children in athletic clothes kicking and passing balls, and skipping
rope. His design for the show’s catalog included “found”, rather than posed, photographs of
the artists. 1947 – International Surrealist Exhibition
– Galerie Maeght, Paris 1959 – International Surrealist Exhibition
– Paris 1960 – Surrealist Intrusion in the Enchanters’
Domain – New York==
Post-Breton Surrealism==In the 1960s, the artists and writers associated
with the Situationist International were closely associated with Surrealism. While Guy Debord
was critical of and distanced himself from Surrealism, others, such as Asger Jorn, were
explicitly using Surrealist techniques and methods. The events of May 1968 in France
included a number of Surrealist ideas, and among the slogans the students spray-painted
on the walls of the Sorbonne were familiar Surrealist ones. Joan Miró would commemorate
this in a painting titled May 1968. There were also groups who associated with both
currents and were more attached to Surrealism, such as the Revolutionary Surrealist Group.
During the 1980s, behind the Iron Curtain, Surrealism again entered into politics with
an underground artistic opposition movement known as the Orange Alternative. The Orange
Alternative was created in 1981 by Waldemar Fydrych (alias ‘Major’), a graduate of history
and art history at the University of Wrocław. They used Surrealist symbolism and terminology
in their large scale happenings organized in the major Polish cities during the Jaruzelski
regime, and painted Surrealist graffiti on spots covering up anti-regime slogans. Major
himself was the author of a “Manifesto of Socialist Surrealism”. In this manifesto,
he stated that the socialist (communist) system had become so Surrealistic that it could be
seen as an expression of art itself. Surrealistic art also remains popular with
museum patrons. The Guggenheim Museum in New York City held an exhibit, Two Private Eyes,
in 1999, and in 2001 Tate Modern held an exhibition of Surrealist art that attracted over 170,000
visitors. In 2002 the Met in New York City held a show, Desire Unbound, and the Centre
Georges Pompidou in Paris a show called La Révolution surréaliste.
Surrealists groups and literary publications have continued to be active up to the present
day, with groups such as the Chicago Surrealist Group, the Leeds Surrealist Group, and the
Surrealist Group of Stockholm. Jan Švankmajer of the Czech-Slovak Surrealists continues
to make films and experiment with objects.==Impact of Surrealism==
While Surrealism is typically associated with the arts, it has impacted many other fields.
In this sense, Surrealism does not specifically refer only to self-identified “Surrealists”,
or those sanctioned by Breton, rather, it refers to a range of creative acts of revolt
and efforts to liberate imagination. In addition to Surrealist theory being grounded in the
ideas of Hegel, Marx and Freud, to its advocates its inherent dynamic is dialectical thought.===Other sources used by Surrealism epigons
===Surrealists have also drawn on sources as
seemingly diverse as Clark Ashton Smith, Montague Summers, Horace Walpole, Fantômas, The Residents,
Bugs Bunny, comic strips, the obscure poet Samuel Greenberg and the hobo writer and humourist
T-Bone Slim. One might say that Surrealist strands may be found in movements such as
Free Jazz (Don Cherry, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor etc.) and even in the daily lives of people
in confrontation with limiting social conditions. Thought of as the effort of humanity to liberate
imagination as an act of insurrection against society, Surrealism finds precedents in the
alchemists, possibly Dante, Hieronymus Bosch, Marquis de Sade, Charles Fourier, Comte de
Lautreamont and Arthur Rimbaud.===1960s riots===
Surrealists believe that non-Western cultures also provide a continued source of inspiration
for Surrealist activity because some may induce a better balance between instrumental reason
and imagination in flight than Western culture. Surrealism has had an identifiable impact
on radical and revolutionary politics, both directly — as in some Surrealists joining
or allying themselves with radical political groups, movements and parties — and indirectly
— through the way in which Surrealists emphasize the intimate link between freeing imagination
and the mind, and liberation from repressive and archaic social structures. This was especially
visible in the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s and the French revolt of May 1968, whose slogan
“All power to the imagination” quoted by The Situationists and Enragés from the originally
Marxist “Rêvé-lutionary“ theory and praxis of Breton’s French Surrealist group.===Postmodernism and popular culture===
Many significant literary movements in the later half of the 20th century were directly
or indirectly influenced by Surrealism. This period is known as the Postmodern era; though
there’s no widely agreed upon central definition of Postmodernism, many themes and techniques
commonly identified as Postmodern are nearly identical to Surrealism.
Many writers from and associated with the Beat Generation were influenced greatly by
Surrealists. Philip Lamantia and Ted Joans are often categorized as both Beat and Surrealist
writers. Many other Beat writers show significant evidence of Surrealist influence. A few examples
include Bob Kaufman, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Artaud
in particular was very influential to many of the Beats, but especially Ginsberg and
Carl Solomon. Ginsberg cites Artaud’s “Van Gogh — The Man Suicided by Society” as a
direct influence on “Howl”, along with Apollinaire’s “Zone”, García Lorca’s “Ode to Walt Whitman”,
and Schwitters’ “Priimiititiii”. The structure of Breton’s “Free Union” had a significant
influence on Ginsberg’s “Kaddish”. In Paris, Ginsberg and Corso met their heroes Tristan
Tzara, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, and Benjamin Péret, and to show their admiration Ginsberg
kissed Duchamp’s feet and Corso cut off Duchamp’s tie.William S. Burroughs, a core member of
the Beat Generation and a postmodern novelist, developed the cut-up technique with former
surrealist Brion Gysin—in which chance is used to dictate the composition of a text
from words cut out of other sources—referring to it as the “Surrealist Lark” and recognizing
its debt to the techniques of Tristan Tzara.Postmodern novelist Thomas Pynchon, who was also influenced
by Beat fiction, experimented since the 1960s with the surrealist idea of startling juxtapositions;
commenting on the “necessity of managing this procedure with some degree of care and skill”,
he added that “any old combination of details will not do. Spike Jones Jr., whose father’s
orchestral recordings had a deep and indelible effect on me as a child, said once in an interview,
‘One of the things that people don’t realize about Dad’s kind of music is, when you replace
a C-sharp with a gunshot, it has to be a C-sharp gunshot or it sounds awful.'”Many other postmodern
fiction writers have been directly influenced by Surrealism. Paul Auster, for example, has
translated Surrealist poetry and said the Surrealists were “a real discovery” for him.
Salman Rushdie, when called a Magical Realist, said he saw his work instead “allied to surrealism”.
For the work of other postmodernists, such as Donald Barthelme and Robert Coover, a broad
comparison to Surrealism is common. Magic realism, a popular technique among novelists
of the latter half of the 20th century especially among Latin American writers, has some obvious
similarities to Surrealism with its juxtaposition of the normal and the dream-like, as in the
work of Gabriel García Márquez. Carlos Fuentes was inspired by the revolutionary voice in
Surrealist poetry and points to inspiration Breton and Artaud found in Fuentes’ homeland,
Mexico. Though Surrealism was a direct influence on Magic Realism in its early stages, many
Magic Realist writers and critics, such as Amaryll Chanady and S. P. Ganguly, while acknowledging
the similarities, cite the many differences obscured by the direct comparison of Magic
Realism and Surrealism such as an interest in psychology and the artefacts of European
culture they claim is not present in Magic Realism. A prominent example of a Magic Realist
writer who points to Surrealism as an early influence is Alejo Carpentier who also later
criticized Surrealism’s delineation between real and unreal as not representing the true
South American experience.===Surrealist groups===Surrealist individuals and groups have carried
on with Surrealism after the death of André Breton in 1966. The original Paris Surrealist
Group was disbanded by member Jean Schuster in 1969, but another Parisian surrealist group
was later formed. The current Surrealist Group of Paris has recently published the first
issue of their new journal, Alcheringa. The Group of Czech-Slovak Surrealists never disbanded,
and continue to publish their journal Analogon, which now spans 80 volumes.===Surrealism and the theatre===
Surrealist theatre and Artaud’s “Theatre of Cruelty” were inspirational to many within
the group of playwrights that the critic Martin Esslin called the “Theatre of the Absurd”
(in his 1963 book of the same name). Though not an organized movement, Esslin grouped
these playwrights together based on some similarities of theme and technique; Esslin argues that
these similarities may be traced to an influence from the Surrealists. Eugène Ionesco in particular
was fond of Surrealism, claiming at one point that Breton was one of the most important
thinkers in history. Samuel Beckett was also fond of Surrealists, even translating much
of the poetry into English. Other notable playwrights whom Esslin groups under the term,
for example Arthur Adamov and Fernando Arrabal, were at some point members of the Surrealist
group.Alice Farley is an American-born artist who became active during the 1970s in San
Francisco after training in dance at the California Institute of the Arts. Farley uses vivid and
elaborate costuming that she describes as “the vehicles of transformation capable of
making a character’s thoughts visible”. Often collaborating with musicians such as Henry
Threadgill, Farley explores the role of improvisation in dance, bringing in a automatic aspect to
the productions. Farley has performed in a number of surrealist collaborations including
the World Surrealist Exhibition in Chicago in 1976.===Surrealism and comedy=====
Alleged precursors in older art==Various much older artists are sometimes claimed
as precursors of Surrealism. Foremost among these are Hieronymus Bosch, and Giuseppe Arcimboldo,
who Dali called the “father of Surrealism.” Apart from their followers, other artists
who may be mentioned in this context include Joos de Momper, for some anthropomorphic landscapes.
Many critics feel these works belong to fantastic art rather than having a significant connection
with Surrealism.==See also==Bizarre object
Neo-Fauvism Outsider art – Art created outside the boundaries
of official culture by those untrained in the arts
Psychedelic art Salón de Mayo (Cuba

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