Surrealism explained

An introduction to a strange and exciting 20th century art movement
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René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (1928–29)

1 / 5 René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (1928–29)

Salvador Dalí, The Dream (1931)

2 / 5 Salvador Dalí, The Dream (1931)

René Magritte, The Son of Man (1964)

3 / 5 René Magritte, The Son of Man (1964)

Yves Tanguy, Indefinite Divisibility (1942)

4 / 5 Yves Tanguy, Indefinite Divisibility (1942)

Joan Miró, Woman and Bird in the Moonlight (1949)

5 / 5 Joan Miró, Woman and Bird in the Moonlight (1949)


What would your dreams look like if, when you woke up, you painted them onto canvasses with photographic precision? Would they feature melted timepieces dropping wax-like over tree branches? Or plain-clothed businessmen with suspended apples obscuring their faces? Or how about strange creatures made out of everyday objects? If you answered yes to any of the above, don't worry, you wouldn't be the first.

The great Surrealist painters, armed with dynamic imaginations they weren't afraid to use, created brilliant, colourful paintings crowded with surprising objects in unexpected juxtapositions. The movement originated in France in the 1920s and, as its main theorist André Breton explained, its aim was to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality." That meant creating paintings filled with unnerving and illogical scenes – paintings through which an artist's unconscious might be allowed to express itself.

Click through the slideshow above to see the work of some of Surrealism's greatest painters, and read more about the art movement in The Art Book New Edition.

 


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