Art History-Baroque 20th Century: Gateway To The Subconscious


For this week’s assignment, you will delve into the freaky world of Surrealism. Developed in Paris in the early 1920s, Surrealism grew out of the Dada movement, questioning “reality” and harnessing new ways of looking at the world through the current, groundbreaking work in psychology. Artists and writers mined the field of Dream Logic and the Uncanny, creating imagery that worked on the senses in new ways.
The following readings and videos will provide a foundation in what the Surrealists were exploring, highlighting some of the more well-known artists of the movement. These are all relatively short, with the exception of the hour-long BBC Documentary on Salvador Dali.
The Uncanny: where psychology meets art

Part One:
When you have finished reading and viewing this material, please create a post of three paragraphs(at least 5 developed sentences for each paragraph), covering the following information:
Paragraph One:
Summarize the Surrealist movement as a whole. How was it influenced by Dada? What were the artists and writers trying to accomplish? What specific techniques and ideas did they use?
Paragraph Two:
Which artist, apart from Salvador Dali, stands out to you the most? Why? Which of their works did you find most interesting or appealing? Embed an image of the work that you choose to write about. Explain why this work exemplifies Surrealism and why it resonates with you in particular.
Paragraph Three:
Summarize the life and work of Salvador Dali (this is thoroughly covered in the BBC Documentary). Which of Dali’s works do you find most interesting? Embed an image of the work that you choose to write about. Explain why you chose this work and describe how it makes you feel. Describe how you think it might have felt in the post-World War I world, coming in on the heels of Dada and received by a society recovering from war.
Part Two:
Respond to at least three of your classmates’ posts, at least three sentences for each response.
Classmates’ posts:
1. Surrealism branched off of dadaism in hopes to be more political forward and focused on the expression of the “Inner self” or subconscious, where true expression without social conformities flourished. Starting around 1922 in paris, Writers Andre Breton and Louis Aragon left the Dada movement in search of a more “Social Liberation” focused movement. The writers, artists, sculptors wanted to express the subsurface psychological embodiment through techniques like Cadavre exquis (paper folded many times, and then an artist gets a folded area to make a design that connects to the whole), forms of automatism, seances and other means of provoking subconscious interaction. Surrealism was a movement that was a suppression of conscious thoughts in order to evoke subconscious creative powers. Drugs influenced at times, but the artworks that ensued were of the “Uncanny” type. Whereas things are familiar but oddly obscure.
The Painting i picked is by Max Ernst “The Barbarians” 1937 oil on cardboard. The reason i picked this piece is because i feel it represents surrealism pretty well. It is familiar by obscurely representing two figures with noticeable appendages, torsos and heads. But it is odd because they are clearly not figures, mere abstractions that got tricked into being human esc forms. It would also be a good political symbol of the war, with two huge monstrous creatures fighting and what looks like a lady obviously a fraction of the side.
Salvador Dali was born on may 11th in 1904 in Catalonia, Spain. His father being a lawyer and his mother being the stepping stone to his creative venture. Heavily influenced by the beauty of Cadaques, spain, he further developed his style that later on was fueled by his anxieties and anx. With his mother’s death and moving to Madrid when he was 18 to study fine arts, he reinvented himself. Being expelled he discovered the group that in turn created the word “Surrealism”. Exploring and utilizing his anxieties he manifested his freudien like inhibitions with the Cadaques rocky shoreline as inspiration. Being committed to provoke a reaction he became a champion for the surrealist movement. Buying a fisherman shack in Cadaques where he spent his time building an exotic, centrique estate he created many paintings. His random collecting led to his Surrealist sculptures. He later went to new york, where he spread out his art and influence at a great rate. From films to fashion he influenced and became incredibly popular. Then moved to hollywood and became an icon of centriqueness and infamy.
The piece i picked of Dali’s is “La Pesca del Atun”. Because i feel it is a collective of emotions and the multiple variations of “Catching fish”. From the brutality of catching the sea animal to the angst of not being able to. I like this piece because it uses his usual palette of blues and light browns that seem to be consistent with his other pieces. Unlike other works that have a few focal points, this one has an array of depictions and storytelling to take up the whole canvas.
2. Surrealism was a very interesting art style that was heavily influenced by Dada, however Surrealists aimed for more hard hitting political artworks. Surrealists were very interested in psychology and it’s role in the world of art, capturing one’s subconscious and portraying it in a composition. The movement was first formed by former Dada writers Andre Breton and Louis Aragon who wanted to develop more powerful political influences in the art world. They wanted to focus on “social liberation” and use art as their platform. In order to capture their inner selves many interesting artistic techniques were practiced, one of my favorite being automatism. Automatism focused on letting the art simply flow automatically without any second thoughts or judgement, trying to provoke subconscious actions. Many drugs were experimented with during this time to see how they would alter one’s artwork, many of them resulting in a sort of abstraction of reality.
I am a big fan of Rene Magritte, however I feel that Frida Kahlo is such a wildly emotional artist that talking about her is just purely exciting. The artwork above is Frida Kahlo’s The Broken Column, 1944. In this piece Frida paints herself after having spinal surgery, needed to fix her spine after a severe automobile accident when she was just 18. Frida shows her spine as a column that barely seems stable, as if she is bound to collapse any moment. She uses nails to describe the pain she feels across her entire body, but I do not think this represents a physical pain. She delves deep into her inner emotions when she paints, she is showing the anguish stored within herself. Her face looks strong, but tears cover her cheeks. Frida Kahlo was probably one of the most self aware artists in the world, making her a wrecking ball of Surrealism.
Salvador Dali was an incredibly interesting man and one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. He was born in Catalonia, Spain in 1904 to a rather stiff mother and father. His father was a lawyer, making his mother the real influence on his creative mind. Dali seemed to have different mind sets for different paintings, resulting in a wide variety of work. He was heavily influenced by the beauty of his home country but much of his art is influenced by his own personal inhibitions. He was a very anxious man but he used those anxious traits to his advantage. When Dali was 18 years old his mothered passed away, giving him reason to leave. He left for Madrid where he would study fine arts until further being expelled. While exploring new ways to portray his anxiety he stumbled upon Surrealism. Dali became consumed by the ideas of Surrealism and was committed to provoking his own subconscious feelings. Later in his art career Dali traveled to America, New York to be exact, where he rebounded from one style to another. Not only in painting, but Dali also explored cinematography, fashion, etc. His immense artistic presence and influence spread like wildfire leaving his as an icon in the art world.
The piece by Dali that I chose is The Elephants, 1948. I chose this image because of its vast emptiness. Dali leaves so much negative space in this image and I think it is to emphasize the blood red sky. I bet to folks who fought in war times, this piece looked like a nightmare. The elephants, who are wildly distorted with bug like legs holding their massive torsos, represent two sides, very similar to war. Being in an arid desert like area, the only things there for the elephants to fight are each other. They may not even know why they are fighting, but the red sky drives them. Dali is excellent at portraying emotions through his artwork. I get a strong sense of anger from this piece in particular.

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