Why has an artist painted a massive sunflower at the top of some stairs? What has a lobster got in common with a telephone? Why paint a fish flying?
Dali (one of the most famous Surrealists) once wrote, ‘I do not understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster in a restaurant, I am never served a cooked telephone’.
A bit confused? Don’t worry, so are we.
Let’s start at the beginning. Surrealism began in the 1920s. It was all about experimenting with your imagination. Surrealists looked at Sigmund Freud for inspiration. He thought and wrote about the mind, memories and human instincts.
Surrealists liked to put objects together, that were not normally seen together! Like a starfish and a shoe in this painting below by Marcel Mariën. How about drawing a tree with a scarf on or a squirrel with a monocle?
There are mainly 2 types of Surrealist artworks. The first is about dreams. Here is Paul Nash’s Landscape from a Dream. What do you think about when you look at it? Does it look like your dreams?
If you were to draw your dream what would it look like? Maybe you could make the landscape of your dreams on My Imaginary City?
The painting above looks a bit like a nightmare! Surrealist artists liked looking at dark subjects and things that couldn’t be easily explained. That girl looks like she has had a bit of a shock! What do you think is happening in this painting? I wonder what that light is coming through the door?
The second type of Surrealist artwork is called ‘automatism’. This is about doing things automatically without thinking, like doodling on a page or word-association. For example, when I say ‘green’ what do you think about? Grass? Grapes?
Here’s Joan Miró’s The Great Carnivore. It’s like a big doodle which he then created a monster from! Have you ever drawn a scribble and then tried to find characters in it?
Quite a bit of Surrealist artwork uses collage, like this artwork by Sir Roland Penrose.
If you were to cut up a magazine and then place the different images together, what kind of story could you tell?
Do you like Surrealism? Which Surrealist artist is your favourite? Do you have any other questions about Surrealism? Let us know in the comments below.