Art History: Surrealism

In this next part of our Art History series, we turn to Surrealism, a 20th-century cultural movement where artists created moving alternate realities.

Art History: Surrealism

Art History: Surrealism

The Surrealist Era

It all began with a manifesto. Gathered in the cafes of Paris, surrealists discussed the meaning of life, along with many foundational art-making techniques.

Obsessed, or just passionate, these artists shaped vivid worlds with photographic precision. Their subjects, composition, and colors were often a reflection of the things, people, and ideas that meant most to them.

So how do surrealists interpret life differently?

While it took on many forms, surrealism as a visual art form was hugely influential. It drew on collaborative philosophies that wanted to free people from false rationality and restrictive structures.

Art History: Surrealism

Hoping to revolutionize the human experience, Surrealists were often theatrical and dramatic. They incorporated creativity into their daily lives far beyond a canvas or paintbrush, and inspired others to discover new ways to bring art into their lives.

Let’s take a look at the surrealist work from these incredible artists.

Salvador Dalí

For Spanish artist Salvador Dalí, creative expression was simply a lifestyle. From the clothes he wore to his iconic mustache, Dalí had an all-around grandiose personality.

Art History: Surrealism

At an early age he was encouraged to create art, but it wasn’t until he fell in love with Gala, friend and later wife, that he truly began to hone his craft.

His philosophies, though often described as daring yet manic, formed the evolution of his work. He believed in the idea of irrational knowledge and other theories which allowed him to tap into his subconscious in order to create phenomenal 2D pieces.

Art History: Surrealism

Most widely recognized is his pieceThe Persistence of Memory, but he developed many more paintings with great expertise in his later years. Check out “The Elephants,” for example, among many others.

Art History: Surrealism

Max Ernst

German artist Max Ernst loved to explore his creativity. His paintings, illustrations, and sculptures depicted surreal scenes of turbulent relationships, the mental health condition, and modern culture.

Art History: Surrealism

He also developed many art techniques, include frottage, a method of rubbing pastel against a surface to produce a texture or pattern.

Among his most famous surrealist work areThe Elephant Celebes and the Pietà or Revolution by Night, both heavily symbolic paintings made of oil and collage art.

Art History: Surrealism

Frida Kahlo

Her paintings were a window to her pain. With over 140 pieces created over her lifetime, Frida Kahlo remains one of the biggest surrealist influences on modern art.

Art History: Surrealism

Artists know the power of creation, and Frida Kahlo was no different. The therapeutic qualities of creation effectively mix elements of stillness and creativity together to give artists a much-needed release from the world’s problems. For Frida, this cathartic release was very necessary.

Art History: Surrealism

Battling polio at an early age as well as a devastating trolley accident, Kahlo encountered numerous tragedies throughout her lifetime. Her personal work became an autobiography of her life, depicting colorful scenes of Mexican culture, as well as inner pain and conflict.

Among her famous paintings is a divine collection of self-portraits. In The Two Fridas, she shows us this inner turmoil by painting two opposing self-portraits in traditional and modern Mexican-influenced attire. Devastated by her divorce, she effectively illustrates her pain to the viewer.

Art History: Surrealism

Conclusion

Life is what you make it. At least, that’s how surrealists saw the world. Their wide range of culture and influence is a true testament to the evolution of art. And I hope you continue to learn more about these amazing timelines on your own.

For more stories about the Surrealist era, dive into the links below for further reading. And join me next month when we discuss Pop and Abstract art.

The following sources were also included in this article: