Surrealism Discover the art of DalíMiró Magritte Ernst Oppenheim Kahlo
Surrealism was an artistic and literary movement that emerged in reaction to the devastation of World War I. Artists responded to the horrors of war by challenging the prevalent norms of society and its values. With a spirit of idealism, artist and writers shared a belief that they could change the world by freeing the unconscious mind from rational thought. History
In 1924, the French poet André Breton founded the first official Surrealist group in Paris. It was comprised of gifted writers and poets; later visual artists joined the movement. History
Within the movement of Surrealism, there was a rich diversity in approach and style. For some artists, the Surrealist attack on prevalent values involved an element of surprise in which they sought to release their creativity from rational control. History
They practiced automatic techniques — writing, speaking, or making art without thinking about what they were creating, allowing images and ideas to flow freely from their imagination. Often they then worked back into a painting to “pull out” fantastic imagery. History
History Influenced by Sigmund Freud’s notion that the subconscious mind is expressed in dreams, Surrealists drew upon the realm of the inner mind and dreams. Some painted bizarre scenes with minute detail and heightened realism that added to the paintings’ shock value. They sought to jar our perception of everyday things by creating unusual juxtapositions of images or actual objects, changing their appearance, scale, or placement.
By opening a door to the realm of imagination, the Surrealists had an international impact on the arts, and their work still has an important influence on art today. History
SalvadorDalí painted what he saw in his dreams and his inner mind. In this picture, we see the rocky cliffs of the Catalonian seashore in Spain, where Dalí grew up. Yet everything seems strange. Clocks seem to be melting. A mysterious object sits in the center of the painting. Some people think it is Dalí’s face in a profile. Do you see its long eyelashes and funny-looking tongue? Others think it is a strange animal. Salvador Dalí
Dalí wanted his pictures to puzzle us. He left it up to us to decide what his pictures mean. As you can see, he painted his imaginary scenes with great detail. The soft objects and shadows look so real, it is as if we could step right into this dream world and touch them. Salvador Dalí
Close your eyes and picture yourself traveling to a make-believe place. Open your eyes and imagine that this is where you landed.
Salvador Dalí The Persistence of Memory, 1931oil on canvas, 9 ½ x 13 inchesThe Museum of Modern Art, New York
Look all around. What do you see here?
What would it be like to be in this place?
Notice the clocks. What is unusual about them?
Why are the clocks soft? How would you explain this mystery?
Take a close look at the large object on the ground. What could it be?
Find a tree. What is strange about it?
Travel to the background of the picture. What do you see there?
What is the weather like in this place?
What time of day or night is it? How can you tell?
What other odd things do you see in the picture?
What about this place is like a dream?
Would you want to be in this picture? Why or why not?
Salvador Dalí Make up a story about your adventures in this strange land.
René Magritte created this mysterious scene by changing the size of ordinary things. A giant comb stands on a bed, and a huge glass glass sits in the center of the room! How can this mystery be explained? Is this a magic room where ordinary things have suddenly become gigantic? Or perhaps it is a dollhouse filled with household objects. René Magritte
Notice the strange walls. Some people think the room is covered in cloud wallpaper. Others imagine it is floating way up in the air. René Magritte
Magritte looked at the world around him and sketched out his ideas. He made many drawings to plan his mysterious paintings. As you can see, everything in this imaginative room is painted with great detail to look very real. René Magritte
Imagine if you woke up and your room looked like this! What would you think?
René Magritte Personal Values, 1952oil on canvas, 31 ½ x 39 inchesSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art
What everyday objects do you see?
What is the object in the bottom right corner of the picture?
What are all of these things doing together in the picture?
A comb is larger than a bed!How can it be?
Notice the sizes of things. What is strange about them?
Can you explain why the sizes of things are so mixed up?
Look into the cabinet. What do you notice?
Walls are made of clouds! How can you explain this mystery?
What else is strange about this room?
Look closely. How can you tell that the furniture is inside a room and not outside?
Use your imagination. What would it be like to live in a house like this?
What would you do with all of these things?
René Magritte Make up a story about this dream house.
For Max Ernst, art was an adventure. He wanted his pictures to flow freely from his mind without controlling exactly what they would be. He invented all kinds of new ways to make art to inspire his wild imagination. Sometimes he swung point from a can and let it spill all over, or he might press materials onto a wet painting to get surprising effects. Max Ernst
He also made hundreds of collages by cutting and pasting magazine pictures in strange combinations to tell bizarre stories. In his art, we find imaginary beings, monsters, and fantastic dream scenes. Max Ernst
Look closely at this painting. You will notice many things that are strange. Who might these odd people be? One has a blue body and a long head. The other seems to have a lace face and no hair! The pair seems to be made of scraps of lace that have been cut and pasted together, like a collage. But Ernst actually painted this funny-looking couple. Max Ernst
Enter the world of imagination and meet some strange beings.
Max Ernst The Couple, 1925oil on canvas, 40 x 56 inchesMuseum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Take a close look at these unusual people. Notice the figure on the left. What is funny about this person? Look at the face. How would you describe it?
Look at the other person. What is strange about the body? How would you describe the head? What is this person doing?
Do you think these people are men or women? What gives you that idea?
Who are these people? Why do you think they look this way?
What do you think they are doing together in the picture?
Look into the background of the picture. Notice some of the details. What do you see there?
Where is this scene taking place? What seems to be make-believe about this place?
What will happen next?
Max Ernst Make up a story about these strange people in this strange place.
The Spanish artist Joan Miró painted a world of wondrous creatures that seem to dance before our eyes. He got ideas for his pictures by remembering his family’s farm, drawing inspiration from the animals, plants, and insects he saw there. JoanMiró
Rather than paint nature exactly as it looks, Miró invented all kinds of colorful creatures. As you can see, Miró especially liked to paint flowing curvy shapes. They seem to wiggle and squiggle in a carnival of imagination. Joan Miró
Even though Miró painted in a playful style, if you look closely, you will notice that he carefully arrange the shapes in this picture. Notice all the circles that seem to move across the painting and the curvy shape in the center that forms a cross. Joan Miró
Welcome to a world of imaginary creatures.
Joan Miró Carnival of Harlequin, 1924-1925oil on canvas, 26 x 35 inchesAlbright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Play a looking game. Describe one of the creatures in the painting in detail. Ask a friend to guess which creature you are talking about. If he or she cannot find it right away, add more clues.
Can you find a creature that seems to be made from a guitar and has a circle for a head? Here’s a clue: Its face is half red and half blue.
Find a creature that is coming out of a box. It has two colored wings, one yellow andone blue. It has black antennae and two tiny black arms.
Look for two creatures in the front of the picture. They have striped bodies and curvy arms. What do you think they are doing?
Notice the ladder. What do you see as you climb to the top of it?
What are all these crazy-looking creatures doing?
Whatmusical instruments can you find? Why do you think they are in the picture?
Make up a title for this scene. Why would you call it that?
Joan Miró Write a story about these creatures. Tell about where they are from and what is happening in the picture.
Imagine drinking from a teacup lined with fur! The Swiss artist Meret Oppenheim made this way-out sculpture by combining everyday items in surprising ways that do not make any sense at all. Meret Oppenheim
Oppenheim got her idea for the sculpture when she was sitting at a café in Paris with the famous artist Pablo Picasso. That day she was wearing a fur-trimmed bracelet. Picasso looked at her bracelet and commented that anything could be covered with fur. Oppenheim replied, “Even this cup and saucer!” Later she bought a teacup and actually lined it with fur. This strange artwork became one of the most famous Surrealist sculptures. Meret Oppenheim
What in the world is going on? Imagine yourself sitting down for a meal and finding this!
Meret Oppenheim Object, 1936fur-lined cup, saucer, and sppon, overall height 2 inchesThe Museum of Modern Art, New York
What objects do you see here? What seems to be really weird about them?
Picture yourself drinking from this cup. Take a sip! What would that be like?
Would you be able to use a cup like this? Why or why not?
How do you think the artist made this sculpture?
How did she change an ordinary object into an outrageous work of art?
In what ways is this artwork different from most sculptures you have seen?
Imagine. What would it be like if everything in the world were made from something strange and unexpected? What if buildings were made of chocolate and cars were made of cotton candy?
Meret Oppenheim Invent a story about what it would be like to live in a mixed-up world.
FridaKahlo painted pictures that told about the events of her life. Kahlo painted this picture when she was traveling through the United States with her husband, the artist Diego Rivera, who was working as a muralist. Kahlo longed to return to her homeland, Mexico. Frida Kahlo
Kahlo stands with a Mexican flag in hand, like a statue caught between two worlds. One side of the picture shows her beloved Mexico, with its ancient temples, artifacts, and bright flowers. Frida Kahlo
Travel to the other side and you will find a very different place. The American flag floats by smokestacks and skyscrapers in the industrial city of Detroit. Chimneys seem to march like robots and light bulbs grow from the soil instead of plants. Kahlo tells us bout her thoughts and feelings in an imaginative way. Notice the sun, spitting fire, and the moon, bowing its head as if it were sad. Frida Kahlo
This picture is a self-portrait. It tells about the artist who made it. Frida Kahlo. Look at the picture and see if you can figure out the story.
Frida Kahlo Self-Portrait on the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States, 1932oil on tin, 11 ¾ x 13 ½ inchesCollection of Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Reyero
How would you describe the placeon the right side? What do you see there? Where is this? How can you tell?
Travel to the left side of the picture. Where might this be? What things do you see there?
What is happening in the sky?
Notice the objects along the bottom of the picture. What do you think they are?
Describe the woman. What is she doing?
What is she wearing? What do her clothes say about her?
What does her face tell us about how she feels? What might her pose say?
Look closely. What is she holding? What might that mean?
The picture shows two places that Kahlo lived. Compare the two sides of the picture. How do you think Kahlo felt about each place?
Frida Kahlo Write about two places that are important in your life.