What is Surrealism? Real Talk


Surrealism channels and unlocks the vast human imagination. It has the ability to turn our wildest dreams and greatest fears into beautiful works of art. Surrealism artists aim to hone in on the unconscious in order to explore fantasy in their work. After reading this article, you’ll be able to tap into surrealism in all its glory.

Surrealism Definition

Surrealism art is defined as an avant-garde art movement that was aimed to unleash the creative potential of our unconscious brain, for example by the irrational use of images. It is known for incorporating unusual objects and proportions. It is made up of both visual art and literature. Surrealism defies logic.

Surrealism Time Period

When did surrealism start? The surrealism art movement began around 1917 and thrived until approximately 1950. It was viewed as a cultural movement that broke through following World War I. It began as a painting and expanded into surrealism in literature.

Surrealism Characteristics

surrealism art
  • dream-like
  • unexpected
  • wild
  • random
  • distorted
  • personal
  • spontaneous
  • creative
  • unpredictable
  • cool
  • captivating
  • unsettling
  • freaky
  • whimsical
  • imaginative
  • colourful
  • symbolic images

Surrealism Artists

Artists in this genre must be able to let go and immerse themselves in their unconscious ideas. It requires creative thinkers with a sense of openness. Their work often feels like a dream and takes the viewer outside of their own experiences. Surrealists are bold.

10 Famous Surrealism Artworks

These surrealism examples are guaranteed to inspire you!

“Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening.”

surrealism definition

Salvador Dalí created this alternate world in 1944. It is a whimsy oil painting on wood. Pictured is a distorted image including a vast seascape and naked sleeping woman. In this alternate universe, two tigers are emerging to attack the woman out of what seems to be an opened pomegranate. It also depicts an elephant with crazy long limbs. Nothing about this painting is realistic, but it immerses you with its wild ideas, storytelling and symbolism. Salvador Dalí is one of the most famous surrealists to date and his work is displayed in countless big-name museums. His pieces are highly acclaimed and still hold great value.

“Mama, Papa is Wounded”

what is surrealism

In 1927, Yves Tanguy created this monumental surrealism painting. Its title alone tells a story. The artist was motivated mostly by the works of other surrealist masters. This painting depicts the war in an unconventional way. It is dark and eerie. The color palette is limited which enhances the dreamlike imagery and composition. During The First World War, Yves’s dear brother passed away. This incident had a strong influence on his life and as a result, his artwork.

“The Human Condition”

surrealism painting

This otherworldly masterpiece was crafted by Renee Magritte in 1933. This artist’s work tends to feel intellectually stimulating and playful. They use clever visual puns to make paintings all the more interesting. In this specific work, a canvas sits on an easel almost perfectly blending into the window behind it. Both images are works of the artist’s imagination. It is dreamy and effortless to create a wonderful facade.

“Carnival of Harlequin”

surrealism artists

This modern surrealism art piece is full of sweet details taken from the creative brain. Joan Miro worked on this famous piece from 1924-1925. It is a collective of objects and shapes that reference reality without being literal. The piece is both chaotic and calming. The palette of warm color complements the scattered composition beautifully. Your imagination will run wild looking at this canvas.

“The Tilled Field”

surrealism artworks

This second work by Joan Miro is one of the most highly acclaimed gems in the history of surrealism. It is one of the first surrealist works he created following his role during the Fauvism period. You can witness his vivid imagination through his use of bright color and playful imagery in this piece. This work pays homage to the political situation in Spain during the 1920s. It was intense, to say the least. The strategic symbolism used by Miro in this masterpiece is overwhelming. He references a dreamy Spain using animals, flags and landscapes. It aims to hold on to free spirit ideals that go against conforming to dictatorship in the country.

“Battle of Fishes”

surrealism in literature

The great surrealist, Andre Masson painted this whimsical battle as a comment on the human condition. He focused on conflicts during World War I in Europe. The idea of conflict is present in the chaotic nature of the scribbled fish and other intense imagery. In this make-believe underwater world, sharp-toothed fish attack each other maliciously. These fish represent us as humans, destructive in nature. This abstract painting propelled surrealism forward.

“The Great Masturbator”

surrealism art movement

This controversial and subversive work was made, again, by the great Salvador Dalí. Its yellow palette is striking in and of itself. This piece came about at a time when Dalí was fascinated by human unconscious ideas surrounding sexuality and ego. This work just might be a self-portrait of Salvador’s enormous ego. How ironic? It poses as an otherworldly landscape and collection of faceless subjects. Layered on top of this boastful work is a prominent sense that the subject must be paranoid. Those faceless bugs are scary. Perhaps about the sexual act or his own self.

“Egg in the Church or the Snake”

surrealism characteristics

Our final selection was crafted by none other than Andre Breton. His role in the surrealist movement cannot be missed. This work is technically not even a painting. It is a collage, yet still radiates surreal energy. This work calls into question specifically the role of an author. This mismatch dream comments on repressed sexual desires at the hands of the Christian religion. This work not only looks interesting but makes a strong statement. This visual montage amplifies Andre’s thoughts surrounding this topic.

Surrealism is an amazing place to watch fantasy and dreams come alive. We hope you enjoyed reading about this amazing style and its artists!

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