One of the most important art movements of the 20thC, inspired by the writings of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. ‘Surrealism’ is a term coined by the art critic G. Apollinaire and adopted by André Breton in Paris with his Manifesto of Surrealism (1924), who applied the new philosophical and political perspectives and exploration of the subconscious to art–it subsequently influenced theatre, literature, fashion, music, and advertising.

Building on Dada and Cubism, surrealism expressed social and political anger at the current political situation: the causes of dictatorship, manipulation and over control of government, the destruction and futility of war–this drove artists such as Picasso and Joan Miro from Northern Spain to silent, artistic protest. In addition, the surrealists sought to reconcile the divide between dreams and reality by exploring an unfettered, ‘automatic’ expression of the human state and the subconscious by doing away with composition and technical conventions: the everyday object became the focus of artistic representation and re-interpretation, as did domestic interiors, the female body, nature and re-creating the feel and themes of dreams.

The surrealists are remembered for striking dream-like sequences, their art becoming “thought in the absence of all reason, outside all aesthetic and moral preoccupation” (André Breton 1924). Other well-known contemporaries include as Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Paul Eluard and Hans Arp.


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