Surrealism was a literary and artistic movement in 1924 in Paris, founded by a poet by the name of Andre Breton. This movement suggested that the intellectual movement of the 1th and 18th centuries, known as the Enlightenment, suppressed the superior workings of the unconscious and irrational mind. The goal in Surrealism is to liberate the human experience, language, and thoughts from the boundaries that were set in place by rationalism.
Breton was a student of psychiatry and medicine and enjoyed the psychoanalytical writings of authors like Sigmund Freud. He was very interested in the part of the mind that produced dreams, the unconscious mind, and believed that was the source of artistic creativity. Breton was a Marxist devotee, as well, and wanted Surrealism to become a movement that was revolutionary and able to unleash the minds of the people from the rationalism of society. How could the movement liberate the minds of humans, though?
Breton believed it was through automatism. This is a kind of practice that is like a stream of consciousness. He thought the Surrealists were to produce their artwork unconsciously through this. It was a form of automatic painting. Andre Masson, a surrealist artist, created a painting called Battle of Fishes in 1926 on a mixed-media canvas as an example. Masson started with a tacky substance called gesso and let it fall freely onto the canvas surface. Next, he threw sand onto the canvas and let stick at random onto the adhesive. He then painted and doodled around the forms that resulted. The Surrealists employed these types of methods to embrace the element of chance and often had results that were quite surprising. The end product of Masson’s painting demonstrates the inherent violence we find in nature as two prehistoric fish fight it out.
Abstract work isn’t the way every Surrealist works, though. Some Surrealist artists believe that using an actual appearance of something that people see in the real world can help them go into a deeper unconscious reality. Because of this, they create hyper-realistic and dreamlike paintings that represent a window into a world that goes beyond our dream world.
Surrealism is a type of painting that tends to make us feel like we are in a state of dreaming. The creativity behind it is quite awe inspiring.