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Page 18 || Encyclopedia Article || Fantasy Arts || Modern Surrealism Art Observation || Visual Arts

Surrealism in visual arts
René Magritte's "The Betrayal of Images" (1928-9)The relationship between the movement in visual arts and Surrealism as a political and philosophical movement is complex. Many Surrealist artists regarded their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, and Breton was explicit in his belief that Surrealism was first and foremost a revolutionary movement.

Early visual arts Surrealism
Since so many of the artists involved in Surrealism came from the Dada movement, the demarcation between Surrealist and Dadaist art, as with the demarcation between Surrealism and Dada in general, is a drawn differently by different scholars. The roots of Surrealism in the visual arts run to both Dada and Cubism, as well as the abstraction of Wassily Kandinsky and Expressionism, as well as Post-Impressionism. However, it was not the particulars of technique which marked the Surrealist movement in the visual arts, but an the creation of objects from the imagination, from automatism, or from a number of Surrealist techniques. Masson's automatic drawings of 1923, are often used as a convenient point of difference, since these reflect the influence of the idea of the unconscious mind. Another example is Alberto Giacometti's 1925 Torso, which marked his movement to simplified forms and inspiration from pre-classical sculpture. However, a striking example of the line used to divide Dada and Surrealism among art experts is the pairing of 1925's Von minimax dadamax selbst konstruiertes maschinchen with Le Baiser from 1927 by Max Ernst. The first is generally held to have a distance, and erotic subtext, where as the second presents an erotic act openly and directly. In the second the influence of Miró and Picasso's drawing style is visible with the use of fluid curving and intersecting lines and colour, where as the first takes a directness that would later be influential in movements such as Pop art. Giorgio de Chirico was one of the important joining figures between the philosophical and visual aspects of Surrealism. Between 1911 and 1917, he adopted a very primary colour palette, and unornamented epictional style whose surface would be adopted by others later. La tour rouge from 1913 shows the stark colour contrasts and illustrative style later adopted by Surrealist painters. His 1914 La Nostalgie du poete has the figure turned away from the viewer, and the juxtaposition of a bust with glasses and a fish as a relief which defies conventional realistic explanation. He was also a writer. His novel Hebdomeros presents a series of dreamscapes, with an unusual use of punctuation, syntax and grammar, designed to create a particular atmosphere and frame around its images. His images, including set designs for the Ballet Russe, would create a decorative form of visual Surrealism, and he would be an influence on the two that would be even more closely associated with Surrealism in the public mind: Dalí and Magritte. In 1924, Miro and Masson applied Surrealism theory to painting explicitly leading to the La Peinture Surrealiste Exposition at Gallerie Pierre in 1925, which included work by Man Ray, Masson, Klee and Miró among others. It confirmed that Surrealism had a component in the visual arts (though it had been initially debated whether this was possible), techniques from Dada, such as photomontage were used. Galerie Surréaliste opened on March 26, 1926 with an exhibition by Man Ray. Breton published Surrealism and Painting in 1928 which summarized the movement to that point, though he continued to update the work until the 1960s.1930s The Persistence of Memory (1931) by Salvador Dalí.Dalí and Magritte created the most widely recognized images of the movement. Dalí joined the group in 1929, and participated in the rapid establishment of the visual style between 1930 and 1935.

Surrealism as a visual movement
had found a method: to expose psychological truth by stripping ordinary objects of their normal significance, in order to create a compelling image that was beyond ordinary formal organization, in order to evoke empathy from the viewer. 1931 marked a year when several Surrealist painters produced works which marked turning points in their stylistic evolution: Magritte's La Voix des airs is an example of this process, where three large spheres representing bells hanging above a landscape. Another Surrealist landscape from this same year is Tanguy's Palais promontoire, with its molten forms and liquid shapes. Liquid shapes became the trademark of Dalí, particularly in his The Persistence of Memory, which features the image of clocks that sag as if they are made out of cloth. The characteristics of this style: a combination of the depictive, the abstract, and the psychological, came to stand for the alienation which many people felt in the modern period, combined with the sense of reaching more deeply into the psyche, to be "made whole with ones individuality". Long after personal, political and professional tensions broke up the Surrealist group, Magritte and Dalí continued to define a visual program in the arts. This program reached beyond painting, to encompass photography as well, as can be seen from this Man Ray self portrait whose use of assemblage influenced Robert Rauschenberg's collage boxes. During the 1930s Peggy Guggenheim, an important art collector married Max Ernst and began promoting work by other Surrealists such as Yves Tanguy. However, by the outbreak of the Second World War, the taste of the avant-garde swung decisively towards Abstract Expressionism with the support of key taste makers, including Guggenheim.

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