Key Dates: 1920-1930

A literary and art movement, dedicated to expressing the imagination as revealed in dreams, free of the conscious control of reason and convention. Surrealism inherited its anti-rationalist sensibility from Dada, but was lighter in spirit than that movement. Like Dada, it was shaped by emerging theories on our perception of reality, the most obvious influence being Freud’s model of the subconscious.

Founded in Paris in 1924 by André Breton with his Manifesto of Surrealism, the movement’s principal aim was ‘to resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality’. Its roots can be traced back to French poets such as Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire and Lautreamont, the latter providing the famous line that summed up the Surrealists’ love of the incongruous; “Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table.”

The major artists of the movement were Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, René Magritte and Joan Miró. Surrealism’s impact on popular culture can still be felt today, most visibly in advertising.

Representative Artists:
Marcel Duchamp
Georgia O’Keeffe
Max Ernst
Sir Henry Moore
Rene Magritte
Joan Miro
Salvador Dali
Pablo Picasso
Man Ray
Dorothea Tanning
MC Escher