21 Surrealism Facts To Know About This Astonishing Cultural Movement

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Sep 08, 2022 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Apr 12, 2022
Edited by Pete Anderson
21 Surrealism Facts To Know About This Astonishing Cultural Movement

Surrealism is an artistic movement that grew in Europe after World War I.

Although the movement was primarily expressed through art, it was also a cultural and literary movement. A group of artists named Dadaists popularized the surrealist art form in Europe and around the world.

The surrealist movement grew as a reaction to World War I in Europe. Most of the leaders of the Dada art movement felt that it was an emphasis on rationality and materialistic greed that brought about war and conflict.

As a result, they sought to reject and defy reason and rationality completely but embraced chaos instead. In addition to that, they were also inspired by Sigmund Freud's theories of psychoanalysis.

Engaging with psychoanalysis made the artists realize that there was a subconscious and unconscious part of their minds that they did not have much idea about. Hence, through their art and literature - these artists sought to give a voice to their unconscious desires.

Keep scrolling to learn some more interesting Surrealism Facts!

Historic And Cultural Significance

When the French poet Andre Breton first wrote the 'Surrealist Manifesto,' nobody had realized that this new style of looking at and interpreting art and culture would create a wave in Europe. The history behind the origin of surrealism and how it was one of the most important waves of post-modernism is quite amazing. 

Surrealism initially grew from the Dada art movement. The Dadaists or leaders of the Dada art movement, saw art as somewhat that defied reason and logic.

Surrealism grew as a reaction by a group of artists to the destruction that was brought by World War I. The artists blamed the excessive emphasis on rationalism and materialistic values behind the war.

Andre Breton wrote and published the 'Surrealist Manifesto' in 1924 which set the tone for the movement.

Andre Breton was heavily influenced by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and his theory of the 'unconscious.'

The Surrealist art form brought a fresh alternative as opposed to the Cubist art movement which was formal and followed a strict set of rules. 

Famous Arts Of The Surrealism Period

Most of the famous art and paintings from the surrealist movement have stood out due to their depictions of illogical scenes. However, this is not by accident but because of the important characteristic of the surrealist style that artists like Salvador Dali followed.

French writer Andre Mason had clearly defined the word 'surrealism' and wrote about how it defied reason.

Since surrealism has no distinct art style, it is mostly recognized for the unique features that the paintings brought to their art. 

The French artist Jean Arp was known for being one of the founders of the Dadaist movement. His works included collages and biomorphic images whose meanings were not clear.

The German artist Max Ernst was also known for his photomontages and collages of a random composition of images about different things.

Andre Mason was one of the leading paintings of the surrealist movement who was known for depictions of violence and chaotic images. Some of his best-known works are 'Pedestal Table in the Studio' and 'Automatic Drawing.'

Joan Miro was a Catalan painter who infused abstract art in his surrealist paintings. His most famous works include 'Constellations,' 'Blue II' and 'Dog Barking at the Moon.'

Salvador Dali was a surrealist painter who was the most famous artist to grow out of the movement. He focused on the concept of the 'subconscious' as written by Sigmund Freud.

Some of Dali's best-known works include 'The Andalusian Dog,' 'The Persistence of Memory' and 'The Golden Age.'

Rene Magritte was a Belgian artist and one of the most famous faces of the surrealist movement along with Salvador Dali. Magritte was known for works like 'Golconda' and 'The Forbidden Universe.' He often took common objects like a hat or an apple in his paintings and put them in absolutely unusual or strange settings.

Paul Delvaux was a Belgian artist who had dabbled in many different art styles in his life. In the 1930s, he was inspired by other surrealist painters and created the famous painting 'The Echo.'

French-American painter Yves Tanguy was known for his detailed but ambiguous paintings with strange images of insects or non-vertebrate animals.

Meret Oppenheim was a Swiss surrealist artist and photographer. She is known for works like 'My Nurse' and 'Giacometti's Ear.'

Frida Kahlo was a famous surrealist painter from Mexico.

Impact Of WW2 On Surrealism

Events like war, immigration, and destruction always have an effect on contemporary literature, visual art and cultural movement. Consequently, the organized movement of surrealism was also impacted by World War II.

Many of the well-known visual arts painters and artists had to leave Europe under the fear and threat of persecution. After moving to North America, they met other artists and this led to the formation of newer art styles.

The advent of World War II also affected the contemporary surrealist art movement. Many of the surrealist artists in Europe who opposed Nazism and war had to flee to North America to gain refuge. 

The immigration of surrealist artists to the United States of America and especially in New York led to the convergence of existing and newer art styles in the art community.

Famous American painters like Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Motherwell were hugely influenced by surrealist paintings and artistic ideas.

As a result of the convergence of art styles, the new art form of Abstract Expressionism grew in the United States of America.

The surrealist movement continued to influence art in the U.S. till the emergence of pop art. However, some critics have noted the influence of surrealist humor on pop art paintings and images as well.


Q. What are three characteristics of surrealism?

A: The three characteristics of surrealism are- that this art movement has no strict rule or logic, the artists strove to embrace chaos and express it through their art, and they also tried to explore the unconscious parts of their minds through art.

Q. What started surrealism?

A: World War I had a disastrous effect on Europe which led artists to think that excessive focus on materialistic values led to war and conflicts. Hence, they shifted focus to the irrational and chaos.

Q. Who invented surrealism?

A: Although no one artist can be credited with the invention of surrealism, Andre Breton can definitely be considered the leader of the movement.

Q. What is the definition of surrealism?

A: Andre Breton defined surrealism as a means to combine unconscious and conscious realms by bringing dreams and chaos to the everyday, rational world.

Q. Why was surrealism created?

A: Surrealism was created by a group of artists known as Dadaists who embraced the chaos and irrational thought after the havoc wreaked by World War I.

Q. What influenced surrealism?

A: Surrealism was greatly influenced by the negative impact of World War I all over Europe. The artists were disillusioned by the disastrous effects of war and blamed it on excessive rational thought and materialistic greed.

Q. What is surrealism in literature?

A: Surrealism in literature tried to bring together the two separate realms of imagination and reality. The writers who followed surrealism tried to blend conscious and unconscious thought by writing and painting surreal pictures. Some primary examples of surrealism in literature include poems by Andre Breton, Arthur Rimbaud, and Antonin Arnaud.

Q. What are important facts about surrealism?

A: The important facts about surrealism are that the movement grew out of a reaction to the materialistic culture that brought about World War I. In addition to that, some of the most well-known painters of the 20th century like Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, and Joan Miro belonged to this movement.

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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