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Surrealism

Art as a dream

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Surrealism (Fr. surréalisme) is an avant-garde art movement of the first half of the twentieth century characterized by the fusion of reality with something else, but not oppositional. Surrealism is a dream which is neither real, nor surreal. The style is characterized by allusions and a paradoxical combination of forms, visual deception. In the paintings of the Surrealists hard objects and rocks often melt, and the water, on the contrary, hardens.
The first half of the twentieth century is characterized by the tumultuous course of events, not only in political life but also in the cultural one. Artistic movements and groups arise one after another, disappear, merge, and flow from each other. Many of them weren’t recorded in the memory of history. Some of them left only a small imprint, and some became the symbols of the era. Such was Surrealism, which managed to last for half a century.
As an artistic movement, Surrealism originated from Dadaism. Or rather, replaced it, when the movement was drowning in its own world of chaos. Dadaism was aimed at destroying everything, including itself. Surrealism changed the direction of creative activity. Here it was not just destructive, but creative, although through destruction. That is, the ways remained similar, but the goal was different. Surrealists were trying to build aesthetics using the same methods which served the Dadaists primarily for the dismantling of all senses, stylistic and any other systems.

Let’s start with history. Somewhere in 1919, André Breton, Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault became friends. They can be considered the founders of a new movement, which began to form after The Magnetic Fields by André Breton and Philippe Soupault was published in May 1920. In this book, automatism, the main artistic idea of surrealism was manifested.

André Masson created automatic drawings. He took a sheet of paper, a pen or a pencil, and scribbled lines and spots, until the images began to appear from them.

In 1924, the world saw the first Manifesto of surrealism. There its "father" André Breton gave the definition of the style: "Surrealism. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally or in writing or otherwise, the actual functioning of thought. Dictation of the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, apart from any aesthetic or moral concern."

The development of the style was greatly influenced by the very popular at that time psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud, especially his analysis of dreams. According to Freud, a dream is a work of the unconscious mind, which breaks loose while the conscious mind rests. Surrealists shared the scientist’s views on the importance of the unconscious and its inexhaustibility. The real art is seen by Surrealists in the rejection of their own conscious thought, because the idea is subjective, and art, on the contrary, should be objective. So is the unconscious — dream. A dream is the continuation of reality, but the objective one, which is not imposed by certain ideas of consciousness and not constrained by the super-ego or the so-called "censorship of consciousness".

A dream for the Surrealists is a kind of revelation. It is worth mentioning Salvador Dalí, who started to work immediately after awakening, when his brain was not completely freed from the images of the unconscious. Sometimes he even woke up in the middle of the night for the same purpose. This method corresponds to one of the methods of psychoanalysis — recording of dreams immediately after awakening. It is believed that over time, consciousness dulls, distorts and transforms images from the dream.

Surrealists seek to liberate the "ego", repressed by reality. This art is meant to give a person the opportunity to master their inner essence they know nothing about. The same "father" of Surrealism Breton said that there was nowhere to escape from the oppressive reality, except in childhood, dream and fantasy. It is also worth noting that art wasn’t the only sphere of activity of the Surrealists — they wanted to change life.
Max Ernst. French garden
French garden
1962, 114×168 cm
However, when it comes to the Surrealists art, it’s impossible to find one common feature that could give a clear and unambiguous characterization of the style as a whole. For example, automatism inherent in the works of artists of the early stage of Surrealism — Max Ernst and André Masson, cannot be found in the distinct images and compositions of Salvador Dalí and René Magritte.

By the way, René Magritte was negative about psychoanalysis in art. Unlike in the works by other Surrealists, objects on his canvases do not lose their usual form and qualities. The artists' works can be called philosophical and poetic since his goal was to make the audience think. Often below ordinary things, the author wrote "This is not [the name of the thing]," thus turning the painting into a puzzle, which is completely impossible to solve.

Surrealism is one of the few movements that had its theoretical postulates and truisms, which the members of the group had to strictly follow. Every element was stipulated in detail — what they were allowed and not allowed to paint, what they could and had to paint; even how they had to behave. Non-compliance with strict rules, for example, resulted in Salvador Dalí's expulsion from the group and "anathema" from the leader of the movement André Breton. Nevertheless, Dalí is one of the most famous Surrealist artists, who confirmed the phrase he once said, "Surrealism is me!", with the help of his works. When speaking of Surrealism paintings, we involuntarily imagine Dalí's paintings.
Surrealism could not cope with the tasks that it set for itself, for those tasks were also surreal. Frequent quarrels within the group, the constant imposition of anathemas and amnesties, separation from the individual, the cult of "the father" Breton and much more led to the fact that the existence of a group of Surrealists extinguished almost simultaneously with the life of its leader André Breton. And the style itself was commercialized, partly because of the same Salvador Dalí, who managed to create a lot of quite expensive paintings.
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