Perhaps most notable by the works of Salvador Dali, surrealism is a cultural movement popularized in Paris during the early 1920s. Surrealism developed mostly from the Dada movement, and was firmly established by André Breton with his writing, Surrealist Manifesto. In this work, Breton described surrealism as “pure psychic automatism”. This phrase captures the freedom from rational control and expression of the subconscious which surrealism seeks to channel. Other attributes include philosophic explorations and the interplay between dream and reality.
Surrealism’s influence expands into works of literature, film, theatre, and music. These forms allow the artist to create works on the verge of the world of dreams and tap into the metaphysical experience. In music, surrealist themes can be found in jazz and blues improvisation and avant-garde styles.
Surrealist ideas still exist and have impacted many modern artistic movements. The main appeal of surrealism to artists seems to be the emphasis on liberation of the mind and the “imaginative powers of the subconscious”. Below, I have included examples of surrealist aesthetics across several mediums.
Salvador Dali — “The Ship”
Yves Tanguy — “Indefinite Divisibility”
Jorge Luis Borges — “Dreamtigers” (interesting read)
Georges Melies — “Trip to the Moon”
Although this film predates the Surrealist movement, it illustrates some surrealistic characteristics.
Scene from a surrealist theatrical.
Miles Davis — “Bitches Brew” album (example of how avant-garde jazz accomplishes surrealistic aesthetics)