For this week’s assignment, you will delve into the freaky world of Surrealism. Developed in Paris in the early 1920s, Surrealism grew out of the Dada movement, questioning “reality” and harnessing new ways of looking at the world through the current, groundbreaking work in psychology. Artists and writers mined the field of Dream Logic and the Uncanny, creating imagery that worked on the senses in new ways.
The following readings and videos will provide a foundation in what the Surrealists were exploring, highlighting some of the more well-known artists of the movement. These are all relatively short, with the exception of the hour-long BBC Documentary on Salvador Dali.
When you have finished reading and viewing this material, please create a post of three paragraphs(at least 5 developed sentences for each paragraph), covering the following information:
Summarize the Surrealist movement as a whole. How was it influenced by Dada? What were the artists and writers trying to accomplish? What specific techniques and ideas did they use?
Which artist, apart from Salvador Dali, stands out to you the most? Why? Which of their works did you find most interesting or appealing? Embed an image of the work that you choose to write about. Explain why this work exemplifies Surrealism and why it resonates with you in particular.
Summarize the life and work of Salvador Dali (this is thoroughly covered in the BBC Documentary). Which of Dali’s works do you find most interesting? Embed an image of the work that you choose to write about. Explain why you chose this work and describe how it makes you feel. Describe how you think it might have felt in the post-World War I world, coming in on the heels of Dada and received by a society recovering from war.
Respond to at least three of your classmates’ posts, at least three sentences for each response.
1. Surrealism branched off of dadaism in hopes to be more political forward and focused on the expression of the “Inner self” or subconscious, where true expression without social conformities flourished. Starting around 1922 in paris, Writers Andre Breton and Louis Aragon left the Dada movement in search of a more “Social Liberation” focused movement. The writers, artists, sculptors wanted to express the subsurface psychological embodiment through techniques like Cadavre exquis (paper folded many times, and then an artist gets a folded area to make a design that connects to the whole), forms of automatism, seances and other means of provoking subconscious interaction. Surrealism was a movement that was a suppression of conscious thoughts in order to evoke subconscious creative powers. Drugs influenced at times, but the artworks that ensued were of the “Uncanny” type. Whereas things are familiar but oddly obscure.
The Painting i picked is by Max Ernst “The Barbarians” 1937 oil on cardboard. The reason i picked this piece is because i feel it represents surrealism pretty well. It is familiar by obscurely representing two figures with noticeable appendages, torsos and heads. But it is odd because they are clearly not figures, mere abstractions that got tricked into being human esc forms. It would also be a good political symbol of the war, with two huge monstrous creatures fighting and what looks like a lady obviously a fraction of the side.
Salvador Dali was born on may 11th in 1904 in Catalonia, Spain. His father being a lawyer and his mother being the stepping stone to his creative venture. Heavily influenced by the beauty of Cadaques, spain, he further developed his style that later on was fueled by his anxieties and anx. With his mother’s death and moving to Madrid when he was 18 to study fine arts, he reinvented himself. Being expelled he discovered the group that in turn created the word “Surrealism”. Exploring and utilizing his anxieties he manifested his freudien like inhibitions with the Cadaques rocky shoreline as inspiration. Being committed to provoke a reaction he became a champion for the surrealist movement. Buying a fisherman shack in Cadaques where he spent his time building an exotic, centrique estate he created many paintings. His random collecting led to his Surrealist sculptures. He later went to new york, where he spread out his art and influence at a great rate. From films to fashion he influenced and became incredibly popular. Then moved to hollywood and became an icon of centriqueness and infamy.
The piece i picked of Dali’s is “La Pesca del Atun”. Because i feel it is a collective of emotions and the multiple variations of “Catching fish”. From the brutality of catching the sea animal to the angst of not being able to. I like this piece because it uses his usual palette of blues and light browns that seem to be consistent with his other pieces. Unlike other works that have a few focal points, this one has an array of depictions and storytelling to take up the whole canvas.
2. Surrealism was a very interesting art style that was heavily influenced by Dada, however Surrealists aimed for more hard hitting political artworks. Surrealists were very interested in psychology and it’s role in the world of art, capturing one’s subconscious and portraying it in a composition. The movement was first formed by former Dada writers Andre Breton and Louis Aragon who wanted to develop more powerful political influences in the art world. They wanted to focus on “social liberation” and use art as their platform. In order to capture their inner selves many interesting artistic techniques were practiced, one of my favorite being automatism. Automatism focused on letting the art simply flow automatically without any second thoughts or judgement, trying to provoke subconscious actions. Many drugs were experimented with during this time to see how they would alter one’s artwork, many of them resulting in a sort of abstraction of reality.
I am a big fan of Rene Magritte, however I feel that Frida Kahlo is such a wildly emotional artist that talking about her is just purely exciting. The artwork above is Frida Kahlo’s The Broken Column, 1944. In this piece Frida paints herself after having spinal surgery, needed to fix her spine after a severe automobile accident when she was just 18. Frida shows her spine as a column that barely seems stable, as if she is bound to collapse any moment. She uses nails to describe the pain she feels across her entire body, but I do not think this represents a physical pain. She delves deep into her inner emotions when she paints, she is showing the anguish stored within herself. Her face looks strong, but tears cover her cheeks. Frida Kahlo was probably one of the most self aware artists in the world, making her a wrecking ball of Surrealism.
Salvador Dali was an incredibly interesting man and one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. He was born in Catalonia, Spain in 1904 to a rather stiff mother and father. His father was a lawyer, making his mother the real influence on his creative mind. Dali seemed to have different mind sets for different paintings, resulting in a wide variety of work. He was heavily influenced by the beauty of his home country but much of his art is influenced by his own personal inhibitions. He was a very anxious man but he used those anxious traits to his advantage. When Dali was 18 years old his mothered passed away, giving him reason to leave. He left for Madrid where he would study fine arts until further being expelled. While exploring new ways to portray his anxiety he stumbled upon Surrealism. Dali became consumed by the ideas of Surrealism and was committed to provoking his own subconscious feelings. Later in his art career Dali traveled to America, New York to be exact, where he rebounded from one style to another. Not only in painting, but Dali also explored cinematography, fashion, etc. His immense artistic presence and influence spread like wildfire leaving his as an icon in the art world.
The piece by Dali that I chose is The Elephants, 1948. I chose this image because of its vast emptiness. Dali leaves so much negative space in this image and I think it is to emphasize the blood red sky. I bet to folks who fought in war times, this piece looked like a nightmare. The elephants, who are wildly distorted with bug like legs holding their massive torsos, represent two sides, very similar to war. Being in an arid desert like area, the only things there for the elephants to fight are each other. They may not even know why they are fighting, but the red sky drives them. Dali is excellent at portraying emotions through his artwork. I get a strong sense of anger from this piece in particular.
3. Andre Breton and Louis Aragon were involved in the Dada movement, they liked Dada because they were able to express emotions and some art did not have to make sense. Dada was against the norm. However, they felt Dada lacked political action and they wanted to go deeper into the mind. In 1924, Andre Breton made Surrealism known to the public. Surrealism began as a response to the trauma of WWI. Although Surrealism was a literary and artistic movement, it was also a movement to not conform to societies regulations, like Dada. The Surrealists wanted to be social change. Since the Surrealists wanted to look deeper into their thoughts, they were influenced by Sigmund Freud, who was the founder of psychoanalysis. So, they experimented with methods that explored their subconscious. One of the methods included “waking dream,” where a member would place themselves in a trance and recite poetry or visions. It allowed their thoughts and actions to come out. It was soon stopped when one person tried to stab another member. Automatism, also a method to dig deeper, where members allowed their unconscious mind take control over their art. Another technique was called the exquisite corpse, it was a writing game made up by the Surrealists. It is where a paper is folded for every player there is and each player has to draw on one folded side. The first person will start to draw the head and the next person will have to continue to draw the next body part until the last person draw the feet. The final step is to unfold the paper and see what kind of creature they have composed with each of their drawings. Surrealist did not want to suppress their inner thoughts any longer, they were able to unleash their deepest thoughts.
Leonora Carrington is one of the artists that stood out to me. Throughout her life she had traumatic experiences. Carrington was rebellious and would always get into trouble when she as a child. Since she continued to disobey, her parents sent her to Florence, Italy, to study art. Once back in London, her parents then allowed her to study art at the Chelsea School of Art. When she was 19 years old, she visited the London’s New Burlington Galleries, and was mesmerized. She met Max Ernest and they both fell in love. Carrington was then devastated when Ernest had to abandon their relationship because he had to flee since he kept getting in trouble with the law. She then escaped the nazis and headed to Madrid. While in Spain, she had psychotic breakdown and had to be hospitalized in a mental hospital. She then started to have delusions and suffered from anxiety attacks, and soon was treated with shock therapy. Carrington escaped from her suffering and hid in Mexico.
This piece appealed to me because of the bizarre shaped animals, a random egg, and the strange puzzle in the background. Here I can see the characters from the labyrinthine world of Ulu’s Pants. She also painted cultural traditions she learned while she was in Mexico. To me, it seems like the creatures are in line waiting to enter the maze. I believe this work screams out Surrealism, there are weird shaped animals and they are at a place that does not exist. It seems like every piece of the maze has its own emotion that Carrington wants us to feel. Since Carrington presented Mexican culture in this piece, it resonates with me because I am Mexican American and I can see my culture in her work. At the top left of this work, I can see a farmer with their animals, down one triangle, I see a pair with a toro, and down another triangle is a family. It’s the basic life of many Mexicans.
In 1904, Salvador Dali was born 30 miles away from the coast line, north east corner of Spain. His father was a lawyer and was very strict with Dali. On the other hand, his mother spoiled him, she was the one who uplifted his art. In his town of Cadaques, Dali was inspired by the sky, the sea, and the rocks. Without his hometown he would not be the Dali we know today. After his mother died, Dali felt alone and anxious. He decided to move to Madrid to study fine arts. This is wear he started wearing dandyish outfits and grew out his mustache. In his early 20s, he heard about a group of artists who were creating bizarre works. So bizarre that it was described as surreal. The Surrealist movement changed Dali’s live, he finally knew where he belonged. He made art to express his inner desires, fears, obsessions, and anxiety. But, Dali wanted to dig deeper into his thoughts. He then created a technique called, the paranoiac-critical method, which was influenced by Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical theory. This involved delusions, multiple images, and illusions that can be interpreted in different ways. In the summer of 1929, Dali returned to his howetown, Cadaques. There he met his wife, Gala, who was ten years older than Dali and during that time she was married to the French Surrealist poet Paul Eluard. Dali and Gala grew closer and later married. Dali’s home was filled with unexpected objects such as giant eggs, stuffed animals, and weird sculptures. I think he wanted people to feel as if they were walking into his paintings. In 1930s, Dali was popular in New York, which was his goal from the start, he wanted to spread Surrealism around the world. In New York, he was able to design shop windows, clothes, jewelry, etc. As Dali made Surrealism to spread around the world, Andre Benton, who was the founder of surrealism was not happy, and expelled Dali from the Surrealist group. However, Dali did not care because he was Surrealism with or without them. Unbothered, Dali went to Hollywood to be part of a Walt Disney movie. Dali died January 1989, he was buried in the center of his museum. Today, Surrealism is everywhere because of Dali, he made anything possible.
he Royal Heart (1953)
I chose this piece to be most interesting because Dali made hard stones, rubies in this case, look soft, flexible, and tender. He made little stones look like a real heart beating to stay alive. This piece makes me aware of how incredible our bodies can be. It breathes and as illustrated in this work, the heart beats by itself. Recovering from war, I believe Dali’s art felt refreshing. Surrealism was new and instead of thinking about the post war, Dali was able to give people his art to think about instead. He made it fun, witty, and bizarre. Dali was able to take people away from reality and place them in another realm.
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