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The Concept of Surrealism

Updated on September 17, 2017

Surrealism began in Europe, specifically France, in the 1920’s after World War I and before the start of the Second World War. Times were tough; people were of course happy to be out of war, but the state of things had not much improved since. An air of rightfully felt gloom hung about, and people sensed the overhanging emotions of despair and misplacement in the world. The war was over, but something was still not right. Innocent people were still oppressed, a select few continued to hold power over all others, and the economy was a constant enemy.

Artists sought an outlet for this societal induction of emotional chaos and so turned to an exploration of the subconscious. They began a struggle against what was considered real, logical, and normal. The movement started with literary art such as poetry, lyrics, and literature using train of thought tactics called “automatic writing” --free writing without the boundaries of structured thinking. Once this creative strategy increased in popularity, visual artists started to use it with other artistic mediums, giving surrealism a stereotypical relation to painting especially. Artists such as Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, André Masson, and René Magritte introduced the public to a world where the lines of reality, the subconscious, and the dream world were vague if existent at all. It was a deliberate defiance of reason and regularity, a contradiction to the traditional artistic values and methods of thinking.

It is characteristic of surrealism to present visual comparisons in plain sight such as the well-known clock melting on a tree in Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” (shown below).

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali
The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

It was also commonplace for these juxtapositions to occur in seemingly arbitrary or out-of-the-ordinary manner, for example a sewing machine and umbrella sitting on a dissecting table. This created a strange yet intriguing combination of visual ideas relating in an otherwise unrelated manner. An air of mystery and strangeness tends to be a central theme in this style of art. Oftentimes images were drawn completely out of scale with abstract coloration and an ever-changing sense of light and shade. Surrealism brought about the ideas that not everything that we as humans perceive is actually as it is, and that the subconscious holds secrets about the fabrication of life just waiting to be discovered.

As years went by surrealism blossomed into an incredible abstract display of the abilities and disabilities of the human mind. What was once locked inside the heads of these artists became unleashed in a creative explosion of contorted visual representations. Unusual combinations of objects and symbols came together to create an artistic synthesis of irregularities brimming with meaning and aesthetic power that contradicted the currently accepted structures of society. What many people considered bizarre and even uncomfortable became, in this context, something beautiful and awe-inspiring. It turned the public’s idea of art upside down, making a dark, foreboding manner of expression into something that the common person can relate to and respect. Feelings of hardship, struggle, and disempowerment were brought to life in a refined form of new artistry.

Surrealism is still practiced to this day and continues to develop in art from artists such as Vladimir Kush, Carrie Ann Baade, and Daniel Chiriac (shown below).

New York Masquerade by Daniel Chiriac
New York Masquerade by Daniel Chiriac

Though the style has taken on a more contemporary form and the images and beliefs alter with a changing society, the structure and concept remain true to surrealism. It seems that people will never cease to find creative ways to express their emotions, and that the human fascination with the subconscious and its imagery is nearly limitless.

Here is a link to the artist Daniel Chiriac's website where you can find some more examples of his work (It's not spam, I promise) please do check it out, his work is amazing:

Here are some more examples of surrealism below:


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    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 5 years ago from LA

      This is exciting! It must be rewarding to be an artist working, working alone for hours upon hours to get some notice! The great thing about artists is that they go somewhere beyond the ego for their inspirations and reveal something beyond the ego to all of us. I love Daniels work, especially the still-lifes!

    • Daniel Chiriac profile image

      Daniel Chiriac 5 years ago

      Thank you very much for such a fast replay and action! And also for the kind words.

      I don't post paintings too often. About a painting per 2 or 3 months. But I do post more often about other art related things.

      Thank you again!


    • InterestCaptured profile image

      InterestCaptured 5 years ago

      Thanks for taking the time to read my article, and I'll absolutely add a link to your site. Your creations are an inspiration! Do you post new art often?

    • profile image

      Daniel Chiriac 5 years ago

      Hi InterestCaptured,

      I'm glad that you used one of my painting as an example of contemporary surrealism and named me as a exponent of this art style. Thank you.

      Would you mind to add a link to my website related to my name?

      Please, I'd be honored.

      Best regards,

      Daniel C. Chiriac

    • InterestCaptured profile image

      InterestCaptured 6 years ago

      thank you : )

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 6 years ago from LA

      Great Info!