• © Fundación Gala Salvador Dalí
    Image Fundación Gala Salvador Dalí


Modern Art: Surrealism

List some famous modern artists, Paul Eluard, Joan Miro, Rene Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, what do they all have in common?  All of them are Surrealist artists.

Breton died in Paris in 1966 and with him the surrealist movement which he had founded in the 1920s.

Surrealism, is the name given to the cultural movement in visual arts and literature, that flourished in  Europe between World Wars I and II. The movement represented a reaction against what its members saw as the destruction wrought by rationalism which had shaped history, art and politics; it was characterized by unexpected juxtapositions in ordinary scenes that challenge the viewer’s imagination. Think of Magritte’s Son of Man where an apple is suspended in front of the man’s  face, apparently a self -portrait of the artist imbued with meaning, and Dalí’s Woman Aflame with her front full of open drawers.

According to the major spokesman of the movement, the poet and critic André Breton, who published The Surrealist Manifesto in 1924, Surrealism was a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely,  that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in “an absolute reality, a surreality.

Dalí and Surrealism

Drawing heavily on theories adapted from Sigmund Freud, Breton saw the unconscious as the wellspring of the imagination.

Dalí’s painting, The Persistence of Memory is a striking example of a surrealist artwork: the ants and melting clocks are familiar objects placed in a strange and odd setting.  Dalí wants to twist our usual ideas about what is ‘normal’ and ‘accepted.’ 

Dalí was interested in Freud’s writings on psychology. Freud was an Austrian psychologist (b.1856, d.1939) who wrote about the theory of subconscious. According to Freud, dreams are coded messages from the subconscious and Surrealists, like Dalí, were interested in what could be revealed by their dreams.