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.
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.
German Symbolist painter and etcher whose visionary paintings and graphic
art pre-date Freudian theories by two decades.
Italian founder of Metaphysical Painting,
and the celebrated precursor of Surrealism, who created hauntingly empty
townscapes, and juxtapositions of unexpected objects.
Innovative German-Swiss graphic artist and painter in watercolours and
oils; explored human fantasies and fears in a huge output of mainly small-scale
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.
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.
Long-lived Russian artist, active in France. Produced autobiographical
and religious fantasy-style pictures.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
Belgian classical realist painter who produced precise illusionistic images
which transcend normal rules of size/perspective, or allude to unknown
Eileen Agar (1899-1991)
Leading British exponent of surrealism; primarily a painter, but known
also for her mixed-media objects.
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
Victor Brauner (1903-66)
Romanian surrealist painter and sculptor, who also explored collage and
fumage. His specialty was figurative compositions, typically with magical
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).
Mexican painter, whose output included numerous authentic surreal paintings
depicting the detail of her dreams.
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.
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
Born Emmanuel Radinski, he was a painter, sculptor, and film-maker, as
well as one of the greatest art 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).
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
English sculptor whose weird surrealist metamorphoses were strongly influenced
by Tanguy and Picasso.
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)
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.
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).
German-Swiss artist, a surrealist with Dada tendencies, responsible for
the iconic Object (Furry Breakfast) (1936, MoMA New York).
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.