Surrealism started in the late 1910s and gained populace in theearly 1920s as a literary movement, which was characterized bywriting expressions and imaginations that rejected science and theuse of logic (Matheson 18). Surrealism was manifested in poetry,drawings and writings whereby the authors explored the world of theunconscious and dreams, which were restricted by the traditional bylogic and reason. The Dada Manifesto by Tristan Tzara, as wellas, the artworks from Rene Magritte, Marcel Duchamp and FrancisPicabia among others are some of the literary works that reflect howa people’s culture went mad after the devastation of the FirstWorld War. The erotic, analytic and provocative qualities of theirworks, which borrowed ideas from Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, wereadmired by surrealists in the political, entertainment and academicarenas.
Surrealist Artists and Their Contribution to the SurrealistMovement
Tristan Tzara wrote the Dada manifesto immediately after the end ofthe WWI, and it is evident that he was trying to provoke the massesto think about the unconscious things that had been restricted byreason and logic for a long time. The manifesto lays out the writer’semotions for everybody to see, for example, the quote, ‘Freedom,Dada, Dada, Dada’ is the writer’s appeal to the people to usetheir rights to do what they want by crying out words that meannothing (Dada) (Tzara par. 4). Tzara used Dada Manifesto to show hisanger and anguish by repeatedly saying, Dada a word that meansnothing (Tzara par. 1). It is clear that Tzara had no faith in logicand reason, and thus, could not stand up to make sense since he hadlived in a world of conflict, war, hypocrisy some of the social illsperpetrated by man’s greed for power.
Rene Magritte was not left behind during the Surrealist movementbecause he also drew and painted erotically and provocative objectsthat were juxtaposed in a dream world. He was a Belgian artist, whomoved to Paris in 1927 to join the movement with his artworks thatborrowed ideas from Giorgio de Chirico’spaintings of the 1910s and 1920s. He rejected the traditional way ofdrawing and painting, and produced artworks that combined language,action and visual aspects to support the illusionist Surrealistmovement. For example, in Magritte’s artistic work known as TheExternally Obvoius, he has displayed afemale nude dissected in parts, and from a viewer’s perspective,the drawing is undoubtedly one of the most emotionally shockingartworks in history (Tyson par. 7). Suchexpressions in drawings did not make sense at all and the age ofEnlightenment, reason and logic could not have allowed them.
Marcel Duchamp is another Surrealist artist whohad a significant impact on art in the twentieth century. Heassociated the mayhem and destruction caused by the WWI to thetraditional art, which was intended only to make sense and please theeye. He believed that art should be put back in the memory of themind. His drawings subverted the traditional art with satire andirony while promoting the creative process of developing objects thatpreviously made no sense. Duchamp perceived that painting his workswould still praise the traditional art because paint was anindustrially-made product, thereby using it would limit hisexploration of the world of dreams (Kachur 54).It is absurd how Duchamp distances himself from the old ways ofpainting because the aesthetic and technical aspects of thetraditional art indeed pleased the eye of the viewer. It is only thatDuchamp among other Surrealist artists hated the old regimes of artthat failed to emphasize on dreamlike surroundings.
Francis Picabia is another leading figure that supported Dadaism inthe late 1910s and early 1920s by producing works with doublemeanings, filled hidden jokes, puzzles and messages. Picabiademonstrated that the Dada movement that emerged in Paris wascentered in exploring the subjective/arbitrary life rather than theordinary/objective life that is believed to have caused the WWI. TheFrench-born poet and painter abandoned the technical outlook, whichanimated his old drawings, and began creating explicit objects thatattacked the conventional notions of religion, morality and law(Matheson 23). Picabia believed that by showing disrespect to theconventions of art he attacked the European culture that facilitatedthe WWI since art is a facet of the broader culture he rejected. Heused texts in his collages and pictures to show his anger anddistrust on the traditional conventions that spanned across all theaspects of life.
Other artists associated with the Surrealist literary movement mayinclude Spaniard Salvado Dali, André Breton and PabloPicasso among others. Dali stands out as a surrealist artist becausehis artworks were developed under the themes of eroticism, decay, anddeath some of the psychoanalytical theories that flourished inliterature and art at that time. Despite his expulsion from theSurrealists group in 1934 due to political indifferences he hadadopted the theory of automatism by creatively tapping theunconscious to create meaningful pictures. He cultivated delusion anddemonstrated it in drawings. The end result was imagery that waslater applied by other surrealists in the media, poetry and fashiondesign (Kachur 59). It seems that most ofthe Surrealist artists sought to bring back the dramatic studies orartworks of Sigmund Freud and Pablo Picasso and show that animaginary world also enriches the lives of the people.
Kachur, Lewis. Displaying the marvelous: Marcel Duchamp,Salvador Dalí, and surrealist exhibition installations. London:Mit Press, 2003. Print.
Matheson, Neil. The Sources of Surrealism. Aldershot:Lund Humphries, 2006. Print.
Tyson, Janet Stiles. The Persistence of Mystery: René Magritte asa Regional Artist. New York: Wiley, 2002. Internet Resource.
Tzara, Tristan. “Dada Manifesto.” The Norton Anthology. 2(1918).New York City, NY: W. W. Norton.