Exercise 6: Surrealist Art – Research

I ‘ll begin this exercise by researching  Surrealist Art which I find important in process of understanding concept of visual distortion. From its beginning surrealist art resisted to anything that had to do with classic aesthetic and the surrealists set out to create new rules and demands on reality. Through using irrationality, enigma, terror and eroticism they created a new form of sensibility that influenced modern art. Unlike Romanticism, Surrealism sets poetry at the center of everything and used art to transform poetry into something that could be seen and touched. Therefore surrealist painters and sculptors considered themselves as poets.

Famous surrealist painter Rene Magritte wrote before his death “I conceive art art of painting as the science of juxtaposing  colours in such a way that their actual appearance disappears and lets poetic image emerge… There are no subject  no themes in my painting”If surrealist art rejected to be literary it is because they consider poetry opposite to literature.

Andre Breton is regarded as a founder of surrealism and although he didn’t invent the word, he made a fortune of idea. To understand the Surrealism we must be aware that those artists didn’t believe that art was the end of itself; it was more a tool to create awareness of all secret, precious and surprising in life.

One of the most important  pre-surrealist visionary was Hieronymus Bosch whose artwork The Garden of Earthly Delights was something surrealist relied most. He was playing with an exhaustive repertoire of prodigies which included wheeled dragons, fish with legs, hybrid demons, living rocks, weird vegetables, large birds, dizzy battles, people vomiting frogs and walking on their hands. This was all part of Gothic art but Bosch reinvented them in his own manner.


The Garden of Earthly Delights by H. Bosch



Triptych of the Temptation of St. Anthony by H. Bosch

Antoine Caron, the court painter of Valois has a place of honour  in surrealist’s ideal museum. He painted two pictures of massacre,  in one of them (The Massacre of Triumvirs) he portrayed the convulsion of beheaded victims and the bloody rage of soldiers which are in contrast with the smiling calm of statues and the harmony of architecture. This odd contrast contributes to cruel atmosphere of the image. At first site I didn’t get feeling of cruelty as nice architecture drew my attention and I only had a feeling of  movement and action, more like dancing but more careful look gave a site into odd contrasting atmoshere. Almost like a Ying Yang. Beautiful architecture, yellow day light that suggests optimism to me and a bloody battle.

acaron-massacre of the triumvire



Antoine Caron – The Apothesis of Semele

Semele in Greek Mythology was a daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia was a mortal mother of  Dionysus by Zevs. When it comes to classical tradition  Semele was thought to embody intellectual imagination so this work of art may symbolize the culmination (through fire) of intellectual imagination  and offertory as an act of submission. At least I conceive it that way.


Giuseppe Arcimboldo, an official Roman Emperor was noted for his composite figures ( heads) in which he used assembled objects to make up allegories and objects. He painted “Summer”, “The Librarian”, “The Cook” and “The Market Gardner”

Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Female Cook


The Cook – Giuseppe Arcimboldo


Librarian – Giuseppe Arcimboldo




Summer- Giuseppe Arcimboldo


Market Gardner – Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Henry Fuseli , a Swiss-born painter who lived in England liked to paint his his dreams in which sleeping figures were surrounded by unreal creatures. Conjunction of lightning effects, fairy landscape and odd creatures make up his evident  literary inspiration as the most of its subjects were drawn from Shakespeare. His most famous picture is “The Nightmare” which portrays sleeping figure in little awkward position surrounded by horse with scarry illuminated eyes and creature which is believed to be a hag (a nightmare spirit).



Max Ernst was a painter who took a part in formation of surrealism. After he arrived to Paris in 1922 he painted At the Rendezvous of Friends that portrays “literature group”. His work is full of ferocity and humor in a half sleeping and half waking state of mind. As a young man he had vivid dreams and his visions led him toward the invention of collage. He began using catalog clippings for his ideas. His two famous paintings “The revolution by the Night” and “Men shall know nothing of it” are based on his experience with collage.

Ernst-man shall know nothing


Men shall know nothing of it – Max Ernst


The revolution by the Night – Max Ernst


Yves Tunguy a recognized surrealist with a melancholic character who was in search for excitement made some great work inspired by his memories of the breton Beaches, sea-inspired dreams and Celtic background. He started by doing humorous drawings which were quite different comparing to his later paintings such as “Infinite divisability” and “The rapidity of Sleep”. He painted like a sleepwalker without any need to explain his images even to himself.

Tanguy - storm-1926


Infinite divisibility – Yves Tanguy

Yves Tanguy:  The Rapidity of Sleep (1945)

The rapidity of Sleep – Yves Tanguy


Towards the revolutionary art

Salvador Dali later declared “Le surrealisme c’est moi” and he is the one who breathed new dynamism into this movement. His father was a layer who put all hopes to his son but Dali lived in idea that everything was permitted to him so he rejected lawyer vocation and dedicated himself to art. In Art School he was known for his eccentric appearance which reflected through extravagant cloth and stubborn will to do things opposite to conventional. Due to his rebellious nature he was expelled from school which made him even more wild and disobedient. With the painting “Blood is sweeter than honey”  he begun to develop his style which will be widely recognized later.


Blood is sweeter than honey – Dali


Le Jeu Lugubre – Dali


The persistence of memory – Dali



Birth of Liquid Desire -Dali



Dancers, lion,horse, …invisible – Dali



Mae West – Dali



City of Drawers – Dali



Sleep – Dali


Soft construction with boiled bean – Dali

source: Surrealist Art by Sarane Alexandrian (Themes&Hudson world of art)

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