What is Surrealism:

Surrealism was an artistic and literary movement of French origin, characterized by the expression of thought spontaneously and automatically , governed only by the impulses of the subconscious , disregarding logic and rejecting the established standards of moral and social order.

The origin of the term “surrealism” occurred in 1917 through G. Apollinaire, being a word meaning “what is above realism”. Nevertheless, as an artistic and literary movement, it only appeared in France in the 1920s.

Surrealism aimed to push the boundaries of imagination that had been created by bourgeois thought and its logical tradition and the artistic ideas that had been in place since the Renaissance.


The surrealist movement evolved despite being in danger of being exterminated, because contrary manifestations emerged based on anarchism. Many thinkers of the movement exchanged accusations, claiming that they did not follow the purposes of surrealism. Despite this climate of tension, surrealism prospered and influenced human thinking because it created a new conception of the world and the human being, but also a relevant change in the artistic process.

Some scholars claim that surrealism was in the process of gestation until 1924, when the Manifeste du Surréalisme (Manifesto of Surrealism) by Breton appeared. In place of the value system they intended to abolish, the Dadaists and early Surrealists resorted to the recently disseminated psychoanalytic theories to formulate a new poetic thought.

With the onset of World War II, the Surrealists spread and shortly thereafter the movement was dissolved in Europe, because there were differences of opinion between members and different political positions.

Check out the main features of Surrealism


Surrealism in Literature

Surrealists defended a particular view to interpret the world of nature and human actions. This view also explained the function of poetry and art in a way totally free from the predominance of reason.

The literary works Les Chants de Maldoror (The Cantos de Maldoror) by Count De Lautréamont and the poem Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat) by Rimbaud are cited by many experts as the main works before surrealism, because they explore with intentionality the dream and the unconscious.

The creators of surrealism were L. Aragon, Ph. Soupault, P. Éluard, B. Péret and, above all, André Breton, after the demise of the Dadaist group, which was led by T. Tzara. This group’s mission was to abolish traditional aesthetic and ethical rules because they believed that they had contributed to the outbreak of World War I.

Surrealism in Art

In the field of art, the Catalan painter Salvador Dalí is one of the best known names of surrealism. In the first phase of the movement, notions of Dada were followed as pre-judgments, which created objects out of context, or surrealistic objects.

Many artists used traditional technical means of painting, and represented myths, fables, and dreams that followed the surrealist norms created in 1924 by Breton. Some of these norms were the exaltation of dream processes and imagination, as well as demonstrations of erotic passion and corrosive humor, which were opposite manifestations of traditional bourgeois culture and the moral values ​​defined in society.

The Surreal Galerie ( Surrealist Gallery) was founded by a group in 1926 and from 1930 surrealism began to spread beyond France. Some important exhibitions were organized in Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Canary Islands, London, New York and also in Paris (1938), where works by artists from 22 countries were revealed. During this period new members joined the movement, including Salvador Dali and Giacometti.

An important international exhibition of surrealism was organized in Paris in 1947, when the most important members met again.

In Brazil, surrealist notions began to emerge between 1920 and 1930, through elements of the Modernist Movement of Brazil.

Some of the best known surrealist Brazilian artists (or with surrealist tendencies) are: Tarsila do Amaral, Maria Martins, Cicero Dias, Ismael Nery, etc.

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