Surrealist Artists
List of Painters, Sculptors, Photographers Associated with Surrealism.

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List of Surrealist Artists

Surrealist Artists

The Surrealism Movement

Surrealism was the most important international art movement of the inter-war years. It began in 1924 with a manifesto written by Andre Breton (1896-1966) the school's founder and chief theorist. Many initial members had previously been associated with Dada, the anti-art movement which appeared in Zurich, Paris and Berlin during the period 1916-1922. Although Surrealism had a formal identity as a movement, it is really an umbrella term which refers to any fantastic, weird or semi-real imagery. The word 'surrealism' was coined in 1917 by the French Poet and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) to describe the work of certain artists, in particular the Russian fantasy painter Marc Chagall (1887-1985).

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Surrealism was centred on Paris - at the time, the capital of world art - although the style spread rapidly across Europe and later to America. The main vehicle for the dissemination of surrealist ideas and work was a series of magazines including: La Revolution Surrealiste (1924-9), Le Surrealisme au service de la Revolution (1930-3), Minotaure (1933-9), Bulletin Internationale du Surrealism (1935,40). The movement flourished during the 1920s and 1930s, and has never really died out. Indeed painters and sculptors continue to create surrealist works around the globe.

Types of Surrealism

There are/were two basic types of Surrealism: abstract and figurative. Surrealist abstraction avoided the use of geometric shapes in favour of the more emotive impact of natural organic forms (real or imagined), as exemplified by the work of Jean Arp, Andre Masson, Joan Miro, Yves Tanguy, Robert Matta and others. The representational style of Surrealism (Verism) deployed true-life imagery in an impossible form or location. See for instance the work of Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali and Paul Delvaux. Central to a number of surrealist artists was the technique of subconscious or automatic painting; other artistic techniques included Frottage, Decalcomania, and Grattage.

Famous Surrealist Artists

Because of Surrealism's popularity, almost all famous painters during the late 1920s and 1930s produced surrealist works. Here is a selected list of important visual artists associated with the style.

Max Klinger (1857-1920)
German Symbolist painter and etcher whose visionary paintings and graphic art pre-date Freudian theories by two decades.
Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Innovative German-Swiss graphic artist and painter in watercolours and oils; explored human fantasies and fears in a huge output of mainly small-scale works.
Francis Picabia (1879-1953)
French painter and designer, pioneer of Dada in Paris, noted for collages and constructions, and Cubist paintings.
Pierre Roy (1880-1950)
French illustrator, designer and painter whose surrealism was based on bizarre juxtapositions of objects in the manner of Magritte.
Jean Arp (1887-1966)
French sculptor and painter, known for his Dadaist wood-reliefs, cardboard cut-outs and paper collages, his surrealist work included simple biomorphic shapes sometimes with echoes of primitive art.
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
One of the most influential early 20th century avant-garde artists. Had huge influence on Surrealism due to his Dadaist readymades; also known for his surrealist designwork and installations at the First Papers of Surrealism exhibition (1942) in New York.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Long-lived Russian artist, active in France. Produced autobiographical and religious fantasy-style pictures.
Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Italian founder of Metaphysical Painting, and the celebrated precursor of Surrealism, who created hauntingly empty townscapes, and juxtapositions of unexpected objects.
Paul Nash (1889-1946)
English painter, designer, photographer and illustrator, best known for his abstract landscapes like Landscape from a Dream (1937-8, Tate London), as well as the unreal Totes Meer (Dead Sea) (1940-1, Tate).
Max Ernst (1891-1976)
German-born artist; his Dadaist photomontages are seen as the first examples of Surrealist visual art. Inventor of several surrealist techniques including Frottage, Decalcomania, and Grattage.
Joan Miro (1893-1983)
Spanish painter, sculptor, designer, famous for his 'automatic' paintings and random shapes, as in Birth of the World (1925 MoMA).
Antonin Artaud (1896-1948)
French writer, actor and artist, known for his figurative drawings executed while a mentally unstable drug-addict.
Tristan Tzara (1896-1963)
Romanian performance artist, writer and art critic, best known as one of the founders of the Dada movement.
Andre Masson (1896-1987)
A major figure in the Surrealism movement. Known for his Juan Gris-like architectural grids giving rise to fantastic shapes. His 'automatic' painting method involved applying glue to the canvas followed by a random sprinkling of sand. (See also: Automatism in Art.)
Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)
Best known for his haunting paintings which depict suburbs of lonely isolation haunted by trains and trams, occupied by silent waiting women. Produced some of the most intense surrealistic realizations of dreams/nightmares.
Maurits Escher (1898-1972)
Dutch draughtsman and graphic artist, celebrated for his brilliantly calculated drawings - effectively games with perspective - depicting with quiet precision a variety of 'impossible' images.
Rene Magritte (1898-1967)
Belgian classical realist painter who produced precise illusionistic images which transcend normal rules of size/perspective, or allude to unknown presences.
Eileen Agar (1899-1991)
Leading British exponent of surrealism; primarily a painter, but known also for her mixed-media objects.
Yves Tanguy (1900-55)
French-born painter best known for his barren lunar-like landscapes, infused with a hallucinatory stillness and amorphous marine-like organisms. He was a key exponent of biomorphic/organic abstraction during the 1930s.
Roland Penrose (1900-84)
British artist who created a number of surrealist collages, paintings and objects; best remembered for his promotion of surrealism in Britain, notably the International Surrealist Exhibition (1936) in London.
Hans Bellmer (1902-75)
Polish-born artist best known for his exceptional erotic drawings and graphics.
Victor Brauner (1903-66)
Romanian surrealist painter and sculptor, who also explored collage and fumage. His specialty was figurative compositions, typically with magical themes.
Salvador Dali (1904-89)
Spanish painter who created the most original and surreal figurative and representational imagery, based on his 'dream experience', as in his masterpiece The Persistence of Memory (1931, MoMA NY).
Frida Kahlo (1907-54)
Mexican painter, whose output included numerous authentic surreal paintings depicting the detail of her dreams.
Francis Bacon (1909-92)
Extraordinary artist whose nightmarish figurative Surrealism reflects his own disturbing vision of life.
Dorothea Tanning (b.1910)
Heavily influenced by the art show Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1936, she developed a superrealist style of surrealism, portraying the fantasies of young girls, as in Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943, Tate, London). In 1946 she married Max Ernst, and later turned to surrealistic sculpture.
Roberto Matta (1911-2002)
Chilean-born surrealist painter known for his organic abstractionism suffused with sensual and science-fiction overtones.
Lenora Carrington (b.1917)
Extraordinary British-born lifelong surrealist painter, pre-war partner of Max Ernst, close friend of the Spanish surrealist painter Remedios Varo (1908-63); known for her insect-like humanoid imagery.
Alex Colville (b.1920)
Canadian Magic Realist painter, noted for offbeat genre paintings such as The Swimming Race (1959, National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa), and To Prince Edward Island (1965, National Gallery of Canada).
Bernard Requichot (1929-61)
French painter and sculptor whose disturbing surreal vision of life was illustrated by his weird combinations of animals, humans, plants and other objects. Committed suicide the day before his first major solo exhibition in Paris.

Surrealist Photographers

Man Ray (1890–1976)
Born Emmanuel Radinski, he was a painter, sculptor, and film-maker, as well as one of the greatest photographers of his day, who explored numerous styles including Cubism, Dada, packaged objects, Surrealism and portrait photography. A highly inventive photographer, known for his techniques of solarization, 'Rayographs', he also produced sculptures and paintings. His masterpiece is Enigma of Isadore Ducasse (1920).
Claude Cahun (1894-1954)
Born Lucy Schwob, she is best known for her self-portrait photographs showing herself dressed as a man or made up like a doll.
Raoul Ubac (1910-85)
Belgian photographer, painter, graphic artist, sculptor, celebrated for his chemical manipulation of the photographic print, as exemplified by Woman Cloud (1939, Pompidou Centre).
Wols (1913-51)
Born Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, he was a German painter and photographer who is now best remembered for his close-up surrealist photographs of kitchen objects, including skinned animals as well as more conventional utensils.

Surrealist Sculptors

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
English sculptor whose weird surrealist metamorphoses were strongly influenced by Tanguy and Picasso.
Alberto Giacometti (1901-66)
Swiss sculptor and early surrealist artist, known for works like Woman With Her Throat Cut (1932), a bronze construction of a dismembered female corpse, and The Invisible Object (Hands Holding the Void) (1934).
Salvador Dali (1904-89)
Who in addition to his unique paintings also produced iconic sculptures like Mae West Lips Sofa (1937, Private Collection) and Lobster Telephone (1936, Tate Collection).
Yolande Fievre (1907-83)
French artist who gave up traditional art for automatic painting and drawing, after meeting Andre Breton. Influenced also by Bernard Requichot, her best work - small-scale box constructions made out of wood, clay and stones, and populated by tiny figures - was completed during the 1950s and 1960s.
FE McWilliam (1909-92)
Northern Ireland's greatest ever sculptor, whose surrealist works include Eyes, Nose and Cheek (1939, Tate Collection, London) and Legs Static (c.1960, Banbridge, Co Down).
Meret Oppenheim (1913-85)
German-Swiss artist, a surrealist with Dada tendencies, responsible for the iconic Object (Furry Breakfast) (1936, MoMA New York).
Claes Oldenburg (b.1929)
Swedish-born sculptor and Pop-artist, famous for his huge surreal sculptures of everyday objects, including: a giant lipstick, cigarette, and hamburger.

Other artists associated with Surrealism include: Valentine Hugo (1887-1968), Frederick Kiesler (1896-1965), Joseph Cornell (1903-73), Arshile Gorky (1905-48), Leonor Fini (1908-96), Enrico Donati (1909-2006), Jacqueline Breton (1910-2003), and Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), among many others.


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