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  • gerard van weyenbergh

Surrealism, a basic description.

An avant-garde movement born in the wake of Dada after the First World War, surrealism embodies both an attitude and a group of artists and intellectuals. Transdisciplinary, he is nevertheless led by a dominant personality, that of André Breton, author of a Manifesto of Surrealism in 1924. According to Andre Breton, the surrealist approach lies in the exploration of the unconscious, whether in writing or art. By using the universal theme of dreams, he updates the principles of symbolism.

"The idea of ​​surrealism tends to the total recovery of our mental strength. " - André Breton

History of movement

Dada, who appeared during the First World War, was the first movement to emphasize the irrationality of human beings, the absurdity of the world, and the need for a spirit of revolt. The future members of surrealism lived the war up close, and it was from the friendship between André Breton (passed by the Dada movement), Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault that a new state of mind embodied in creation was going to germinate. of a review, Literature, published in 1919. Francis Picabia and Georges Bataille joined them.

In 1924, André Breton published the Manifeste du surréalisme. A whole college of friends and admirers, including Louis Aragon, Robert Desnos, René Crevel, forming his circle. He defines surrealism as a "pure psychic automatism," allowing to express the reality of his thoughts, without censorship, whether by writing, drawing, or in any other way. Surrealism is the exploration of the dream world, in the hope of reconnecting Man with his interiority. Automatic writing (initiated by Breton in 1919), for example, allows this liberation. In essence, it is supposed to involve neither consciousness nor will, by writing thoughts as quickly as possible in a state of letting go, between sleep and wakefulness. Knowledge of Freudian theories (notably the notion of the unconscious) has played an essential impact on surrealism.

Many painters and sculptors have joined the surrealist movement, in a more or less sustainable way: Salvador Dalí, Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, René Magritte, Max Ernst, André Masson, Joan Miró, Dora Maar, Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, Dorothea Tanning. Some will make their visions, conscious or unconscious, through dreamlike figuration, others by abstract expressions.

So many artists and authors have contributed that it is difficult to define a dominant line, aesthetic or philosophical. Several points in common unite despite all its members, such as the taste for freedom and the poetic quest.

During the 1920s, tensions appeared between the members of the group, due to Breton's considered despotic attitude. Some are moving away from the movement, in particular Jacques Prévert and Yves Tanguy. From 1930, surrealism took on a clear political dimension, at the will of André Breton, and placed itself "at the service of the communist revolution." It is a subject of contention between the members of the group. During this decade, the surrealists organized significant international exhibitions, the main of which was held at the Galerie des Beaux-arts in Paris in 1938.

The influence of surrealism has been crucial in multiple fields, whether cinema or posters. The Second World War will end dissolving the movement. Breton will try to reconstitute it until his death in 1966. However, surrealism remains alive in the minds as a liberating movement, emphasizing the psyche and sexuality.


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