Surrealism Essay

2161 words - 9 pages


Surrealism was one of the most influential artistic movements of the 20th Century. André Breton consolidated Surrealism as a movement in the early 1920s, trying to achieve the “total liberation of the mind and of all that resembles it[1]” through innovative and varied ideas. Surrealism deeply influenced the world in the era between the two world wars and played a big role in the diffusion and adoption of psychology worldwide. Surrealism faded after World War II, but its revolutionary genius has influenced every artistic movement ever since.

It is hard to define and give shape to Surrealism. Surrealism and abstract art have similar origins, “but they diverge on their interpretation of what those origins mean to the aesthetic of art[2].” It all started after World War I with Tristan Tzara and the Dada movement’s desire to attack society through scandal and ugliness. Tzara attacked the new industrialized society – specifically the bourgeoisie – because he believed that “a society that creates the monstrosity of war does not deserve art, so he decided to give it anti-art[3].” To Tzara’s surprise “the bourgeoisie embraced this ‘rebellious’ new art so thoroughly that anti-art became Art, the anti-academy the Academy, the anti-conventionalism the Convention, and the rebellion through chaotic images, the status quo[4].” The use of scandalous and amorphous figures and symbols – the grotesque – as a way of expression acquired a whole new dimension through the Dadaists.

One group of artists, however, decided to rebel against the rebellion and, instead of adopting Dadaism, started their own movement to further emphasized the role of the unconscious; employing psychology in a more orderly and serious manner[5]. This group was the Surrealist Movement, led by French doctor and World War I veteran André Breton. The Surrealist Movement was a big part of Surrealism, but there were many self-proclaimed Surrealists artists who invoked the ideals of the Movement but did belong to the group because they feared loosing their independence. Nonetheless, one cannot truly comprehend Surrealism without delving further into the Surrealist Movement itself.

André Breton ran the Surrealist Movement with impressive discipline and rigidity, making an interesting contrast between what the Surrealists preached and the management style of its leader. An interesting story, for example, tells how Salvador Dalí, one of the most prominent members of the Surrealist movement, attended a New York costume party dressed up as Charles Lindbergh’s son, who had been recently kidnapped and murdered. New York’s society did not take the statement well and eventually made Dalí apologize for his behavior. Breton, however, almost dismissed him from Movement because he claimed that “no one should excuse himself for a Surrealist act[6].” This anecdote demonstrates the seriousness of Breton and his Movement towards its final objective: revolution and the...

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