The history of art cannot be told without stepping on a few toes. There were many eras in art history, some much more conservative than others, but none as controversial and bold as the Surrealism era. Although many people do not understand surrealism, one should always respect it because it is still an inescapable part of art history, and it gave a real kick to the otherwise contemporary world of art. This era in particular left a great mark behind, that is still seen in the art world today. Surrealism broke tradition and opened minds to a whole new world of possibilities.
This era began as a repercussion of the First World War so that people could escape the harshness of reality. It started during a really melancholy time in history but it was made with a positive purpose. The founders of Surrealism included many out of the box authors and soon after that, included many artists as well. Although the surrealism movement did not last for hundreds of years, it did leave a strong imprint in history, and any time something has left a mark, controversy follows close. Without learning the history of Surrealism and how it really came to be, one cannot expect to understand the impacts and study the artists of the era.
First and foremost, Surrealism did not start out as an artistic movement; it was initially created as a literary movement by a poet named Andre Breton in 1924 after the publication of the Manifesto of Surrealism.  This movement began as a way to really release the unconscious mind and make it a reality; it had no conscious control and was free from all forms of convention. As said by Andre Breton, the reason behind Surrealism is “to resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality,” it was free spirited and automatic.
Since this portion in history was a really bleak time, as the war had just ended and so many people were realizing the true magnitude of what had happened, Surrealism was used as a kind of escape from the harshness of reality; in other words, it was used to escape the truth. Surrealism was heavily influenced by the works and theories of Sigmund Freud because he was a psychologist with many ideas on how the mind works and the mysteries behind it.  The Surrealism movement was also politically influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx.
At first many of the ‘founding fathers’ of Surrealism were unsteady about joining forces with visual artists because they believed that Surrealism was based around spontaneity and impulsiveness so taking the time to sculpt or paint something seemed to contradict their beliefs because it would take time and some conscious thought. Andre Breton, although he was apprehensive, did put visual artists like Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp on a very high pedestal because of their unorthodox, erotic style of work.
These visual artists were the people who really started a new movement in the art world moving further away from the socially acceptable and into the unconscious mind.  Thanks to people like Marcel Duchamp, visual artists really started to embrace the surrealist style. Artists like Salvador Dali became prominent figures in the Surrealist world because they practiced a different form of Surrealism which was called Illusionistic Surrealism. Although Dali is a well-known figure now, there were many others similar to him and there were many before him.
In fact, in 1927 Renee Magritte moved to Paris and became one of the most important artists in the visual surrealist movement. He was the artist who really started illusionistic Surrealism, putting sexually explicit material in dream like surroundings. Two years after Renee moved to Paris, Dali did as well, and this is where he made his first surrealist paintings. He was influenced by Magritte’s images so he expanded on that idea, adding his own sexually charged, confusing and hallucinatory visuals.
In Dali’s 1929 piece The Accommodations of Desire he uses Freudian symbolism like ants and nudity to represent things like his sexual longings. In 1930 Andre Breton, commended Salvador Dali’s ability to depict the unconscious mind.  Surrealist artists were not restricted to national boundaries; the Surrealist movement was a global wave of artists (especially in the early years) traveling the world. There were Surrealist artists in Germany, America and Europe. 
Some noteworthy pieces from the first surrealist artists include, Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale by Marx Ernst, hich depicts oddly placed human figures and a very uncomfortable scene that almost feel disconnected with the title. Another great surrealist piece would be The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali which is a very well-known piece that is almost like an odd spin off of contemporary art, depicting melting clocks in a desert land.  These artists and many others like them are the lead forces behind the visual surrealist movement. Without any one of these people, a piece of art history would have been missing since each one adds their own imagination and feeling to their art.
Although Surrealism had amazing artists and a rich history, as time moved forward, controversy had caught up with the surrealist movement. As said, Surrealism was driven by strong sexual imagery and explicit content of all kinds, so people were bound to disagree. Of course Surrealism rekindled the creative minds of many, but it also awoke angry feminists and many people in general who refuse to understand that art is art, regardless of what the audience may think. Since Surrealism involved a lot of nudity of both men and women alike, many feminists saw it as degrading and crude.
People were failing to see that the whole purpose of Surrealist art was to depict the unconscious mind, to forget about reality, not create new issues within society. Artists like Salvador Dali had to live controversial lives, not because they wanted to, but because wherever they went, criticism would soon follow. Dali was even criticized within surrealists themselves because he refused to change his beliefs solely because that is what other people thought was right.  Since Surrealism reached a global level, there were bound to be problems.
Even within the surrealist group itself, issues arose especially with politics and contradicting views. European surrealists would disagree with the political views of the Spanish surrealists, so there were always conflicts, within and outside of the group. In Conclusion, the visual Surrealist movement branched out of the Dada era and was fueled by the wonders of the unconscious mind. It had a rich history that arose from the roaring 20’s as a way to escape reality, even if it was just for a moment while painting or sculpting.
This is a part of art history that was embraced globally by many and it stretched the minds of artists and viewers everywhere. Legends were born from this era; artists like Salvador Dali Renee Magritte and Man Ray have a spot in history after finding their niches in this illusionistic impulsive style of art. Surrealism artwork is still practiced today, the past works are found in galleries around the world and the artists are like snapshots in history. All in all, surrealism is truly full of surprises.
Courtney from Study Moose
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