Intro to Surrealism
Surrealism is a cultural movement from the early part of the 1900's, originating sometime around 1920. It involves a form of abstract art that takes its roots from Tristan Tzara and the Dada Art Movement, also from the 20th century. The movement for Surrealism gained momentum after the Dada movement, and soon became popular among the upper classes because they supported rebellious art. The Surrealism movement was led by Andre Breton, a French doctor who had served in WWI; he wanted to create a revolutionary movement. He began to develop an art style in which the artist expressed their work in abstract or symbolic forms. This was soon expanded into 2 forms: Automatism and Veristic Surrealism; both with their unique differences.
How do you recognize Surrealism?
A common theme of Surrealism is the element of suprise. Many surrealist paintings contain a suprising element to them, or something that you wouldn't expect to be in there. There is a lot of juxtaposition going on in the paintings, and humor is commonly present as well. Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Memory (The picture to the left) is an example of Surrealism.
The two forms of Surrealism are Automatism and Veristic Surrealism. Automatism is defined as a style of abstraction, and it focused on feelings and expressions, as well as an interest in the subconscious. Automatism also usually had a lack of form, which signified rebellion. To one viewing Surrealist Automatism for the first time, the style may seem like simple erratic scribbles, however, if they look closer, there are various abstract shapes that can be seen. Automatic drawing by André Masson (1924) is a great example of this style.
On the other hand there was Veristic Surrealism, which focused on letting the subconscious be analyzed to find out the true meanings of something. An object symbolized an inner reality, and one had to explore everything until they could make some sense out of it. Paintings in this style were often highly realistic, but they involved paintings that had nothing to reality. Instead the subject of these paintings were fantastical images filled with fantasy elements. Most of these paintings don't make logical sense, especially when viewing them for the first time. Usually there is a inner meaning to Veristic style paintings. Yves Tanguy's Indefinite Divisibility (1942) is a good example of Veristic Surrealism.
Painters that practiced this art style
Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Enrico Donati, Alberto Giacometti, Valentine Hugo, Méret Oppenheim, Toyen, Grégoire Michonze, and Luis Buñuel were all avid practitioners of Surrealism.