Western Painting - Western Painting - 20th Century - Dada and Surrealism

Dada and Surrealism

  • Francis Picabia, 1916, Dada

  • André Masson, 1922, early Surrealism

  • Kurt Schwitters, 1919, painted collage, Dada

  • Hannah Höch, collage, 1919, Dada

  • Max Ernst, 1920, early Surrealism

  • Joan Miró, 1923–1924, abstract Surrealism

  • René Magritte, 1928–1929, Surrealism

  • Yves Tanguy, 1927, Surrealism

Marcel Duchamp came to international prominence in the wake of the New York City Armory Show in 1913 where his Nude Descending a Staircase became the cause celebre. He subsequently created the The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, Large Glass. The Large Glass pushed the art of painting to radical new limits being part painting, part collage, part construction. Duchamp (who was soon to renounce artmaking for chess) became closely associated with the Dada movement that began in neutral Zürich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1920. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature (poetry, art manifestoes, art theory), theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti war politic through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works. Francis Picabia (see above), Man Ray, Kurt Schwitters, Hannah Höch, Tristan Tzara, Hans Richter, Jean Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, along with Duchamp and many others are associated with the Dadaist movement. Duchamp and several Dadaists are also associated with Surrealism, the movement that dominated European painting in the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1924 André Breton published the Surrealist Manifesto. The Surrealist movement in painting became synonymous with the avant-garde and which featured artists whose works varied from the abstract to the super-realist. With works on paper like Machine Turn Quickly, (above) Francis Picabia continued his involvement in the Dada movement through 1919 in Zürich and Paris, before breaking away from it after developing an interest in Surrealist art. Yves Tanguy, René Magritte and Salvador Dalí are particularly known for their realistic depictions of dream imagery and fantastic manifestations of the imagination. Joan Miró's The Tilled Field of 1923–1924 verges on abstraction, this early painting of a complex of objects and figures, and arrangements of sexually active characters; was Miro's first Surrealist masterpiece. The more abstract Joan Miró, Jean Arp, André Masson, and Max Ernst were very influential, especially in the United States during the 1940s.

Throughout the 1930s, Surrealism continued to become more visible to the public at large. A Surrealist group developed in Britain and, according to Breton, their 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition was a high-water mark of the period and became the model for international exhibitions. Surrealist groups in Japan, and especially in Latin America, the Caribbean and in Mexico produced innovative and original works.

Dalí and Magritte created some of the most widely recognized images of the movement. The 1928/1929 painting This Is Not A Pipe, by Magritte is the subject of a Michel Foucault 1973 book, This is not a Pipe (English edition, 1991), that discusses the painting and its paradox. Dalí joined the group in 1929, and participated in the rapid establishment of the visual style between 1930 and 1935.

Surrealism as a visual movement had found a method: to expose psychological truth by stripping ordinary objects of their normal significance, in order to create a compelling image that was beyond ordinary formal organization, and perception, sometimes evoking empathy from the viewer, sometimes laughter and sometimes outrage and bewilderment.

1931 marked a year when several Surrealist painters produced works which marked turning points in their stylistic evolution: in one example (see gallery above) liquid shapes become the trademark of Dalí, particularly in his The Persistence of Memory, which features the image of watches that sag as if they are melting. Evocations of time and its compelling mystery and absurdity.

The characteristics of this style – a combination of the depictive, the abstract, and the psychological – came to stand for the alienation which many people felt in the modernist period, combined with the sense of reaching more deeply into the psyche, to be "made whole with one's individuality."

Max Ernst, whose 1920 painting Murdering Airplane (above), studied philosophy and psychology in Bonn and was interested in the alternative realities experienced by the insane. His paintings may have been inspired by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud's study of the delusions of a paranoiac, Daniel Paul Schreber. Freud identified Schreber's fantasy of becoming a woman as a castration complex. The central image of two pairs of legs refers to Schreber's hermaphroditic desires. Ernst's inscription on the back of the painting reads: The picture is curious because of its symmetry. The two sexes balance one another.

During the 1920s André Masson's work was enormously influential in helping the young artist Joan Miró find his roots in the new Surrealist painting. Miró acknowledged in letters to his dealer Pierre Matisse the importance of Masson as an example to him in his early years in Paris.

Long after personal, political and professional tensions have fragmented the Surrealist group into thin air and ether, Magritte, Miro, Dalí and the other Surrealists continue to define a visual program in the arts. Other prominent surrealist artists include Giorgio de Chirico, Méret Oppenheim, Toyen, Grégoire Michonze, Roberto Matta, Kay Sage, Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, and Leonor Fini among others.

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... Marcel Duchamp, 1915–23, Dada Francis Picabia 1916, Dada André Masson, 1922, early Surrealism Kurt Schwitters, 1919, painted collage, Dada Marcel Duchamp, came to ... Duchamp became closely associated with the Dada movement that began in neutral Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1920 ... Duchamp and several Dadaists are also associated with Surrealism, the movement that dominated European painting in the 1920s and 1930s ...

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