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Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. The aim was to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality. ” Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. 1] Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artefact. Leader Andre Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was above all a revolutionary movement. Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities during World War I and the most important center of the movement was Paris.

From the 1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music of many countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy, and social theory About 1937, Ernst, a former Dadaist, began to experiment with two unpredictable processes called decalcomania andgrattage. Decalcomania is the technique of pressing a sheet of paper onto a painted surface and peeling it off again, while grattage is the process of scraping pigment across a canvas that is laid on top of a textured surface.

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He used a combination of these techniques in The Barbarians (1999. 363. 21) of 1937. This composition of sparring anthropomorphic figures in a deserted postapocalyptic landscape exemplifies the recurrent themes of violence and annihilation found in Surrealist art. In 1927, the Belgian artist Rene Magritte (1898–1967) moved from Brussels to Paris and became a leading figure in the visual Surrealist movement.

Influenced by de Chirico’s paintings between 1910 and 1920, Magritte painted erotically explicit objects juxtaposed in dreamlike surroundings. His work defined a split between the visual automatism fostered by Masson and Miro (and originally with words by Breton) and a new form of illusionistic Surrealism practiced by the Spaniard Salvador Dali (1904–1989), the Belgian Paul Delvaux (1897–1994), and the French-American Yves Tanguy (1900–1955). In The Eternally Obvious (2002. 56. 12a-f), Magritte’s artistic display of a dismembered female nude is emotionally shocking. In The Satin Tuning Fork (1999. 363. 80), Tanguy fills an illusionistic space with unidentifiable, yet sexually suggestive, objects rendered with great precision. The painting’s mysterious lighting, long shadows, deep receding space, and sense of loneliness also recall the ominous settings of de Chirico. In 1929, Dali moved from Spain to Paris and made his first Surrealist paintings.

He expanded on Magritte’s dream imagery with his own erotically charged, hallucinatory visions. In The Accommodations of Desire (1999. 363. 16) of 1929, Dali employs Freudian symbols, such as ants, to symbolize his overwhelming sexual desire. In 1930, Breton praised Dali’s representations of the unconscious in the Second Manifesto of Surrealism. They became the main collaborators on the review Minotaure (1933–39), a primarily Surrealist-oriented publication founded in Paris.

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