Profile: Surrealism

Surrealism is a movement which can be found in art, but also literature, theatre, music and much more. It’s a reaction to the philosophical movement called existentialism, multiple social problems, like the first world war, Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis and of course the odd anti-artists from the Dada movement.

Dadaists were experimenting with the accident of art, especially Hans Arp and Max Ernst. In Dada, this was to make fun of art and art history. Dadaists explored the boundaries of  ‘what art is’.

When Dada was cancelled – because the lack of audience – many artists kept on making weird art, but with another statement; to explore the unconsciousness and coincidence in art.

André Breton founded Surrealism, he wrote the surrealist manifesto (in 1925 of course)

Surrealists discovered that the unconsciousness goes crazy when there is a sexual impuls.

Coca cola knows how to use this:

Many surrealists used nudity and obscure images, simply to tell us about the unconsciousness, and of course, in combination with a lot of weird things. Sometimes to make a statement about society, sometimes to tell you about their unconsciousness.

Examples for nudity in surrealism:

Rene Magritte – Philosophy in the Boudoir (1947)

Salvador Dalí – Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (1936)

Frida Kahlo – Broken Column (1944)

Some surrealists didn’t sketch and draw like the more figurative sirrealists. Margitte, Dalí, Kahlo and Kush, for example, paint more Naturalist. Those more Naturalist works are named ‘pittura metafysica’ which is a substyle of surrealism. There’s also an abstract-coincidental variant and a half-automatist variant. Some say 3D is a surrealism variant as well.

Míro is one of the most famous automatist surrealists. He didn’t sketch anything, he just painted his impulses. He let his unconscious do the work, without thinking about statemnents or anything. He just let it out.


Carnival of Harlequin (1924)

The Nightingale Song at Midnight and the Morning Rain (1940)

Woman and Little Girl in Front of the Sun (1946)

Max Ernst and Hans Arp were surrealists of the more abstract variant of surrealism. Ernst used a lot of techniques to ruin paintings, like grattage for example. Scraping the paint of the canvas. Dripping the canvas into water or turpetine. Fumage; to smoke his painting, or heatage; to melt the paint, and loads of other crazy techniques to create something random, something accidental, a coincidence or something that came from the unconsciousness.

Here are some examples of Ernst abstract techniques.

Forest and Sun  (1931)

Eye of the Silence (1944)

Surrealism is also a reaction to existentialism. Existentialism is a philosophical movement which gives no answers to life questions; you exist because you do. ”I am, therefore I am”. Chaos.

This is what we see in Surrealism as well.

And as the big finale; two more Surrealist works. Just because I can.

Yves Tanguy – Indefinite Divisibility (1942)

Salvador Dalí – Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening  (1944)