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Surrealistic Art and the Unconscious Mind

Surrealism is an artistic and literary movement that was founded by the writer Andre Breton in Paris in the 1920s. At this time, Breton published The Surrealist Manifesto in which he outlined the concepts of the movement. Whereas the literary movement was largely confined to France, the artistic movement spread internationally and flourished through the 1930s.

Heavily influenced by the psychological theories of Freud and Jung, Surrealism is the attempt by artists to express the unconscious mind, which was recognized as a source of creativity. It was thought that the unification of the unconscious and the conscious minds would produce a more complete reality. Both Surrealism and Dadaism are thought to be a reaction against the rationalism that predominated society in the early 1900s and led to World War I. Unlike Dadaism, which was a negative artistic expression that sought to offend society through the creation of anti-art, Surrealism was a positive artistic expression, sought to uplift society by tapping into the genius of the unconscious mind.

Surrealistic artists use the unconscious mind as a source of inspiration, particularly as exhibited in dreams. Themes that occur frequently in Surrealistic paintings include metamorphosis, fragmentation, chaos, animation of inanimate objects, and placement of objects in unnatural contexts. Objects that appear in Surrealistic paintings are anatomical fragments, fantastic machines and just about any other object that is of interest to the artist, since it is the manipulation of these objects that defines the style. The objects portrayed are often depicted with great realism but are often distorted by twisting, melting, stretching, or flattening, making them appear unnatural. Floating objects and unusual perspectives are also common. Surrealist art can also take a more abstract form as well, foregoing the symbolism that merges the unconscious and the conscious minds without an attempt to analyze its meaning.

Leading artists of Surrealism were Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Giorgio de Chirico, Man Ray, Joan Miro, and Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali and Yves Tanguy.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
   You can see Diana's own artwork by visiting her site at