Surrealism, is an art form and cultural movement that developed in the 1920’s. It’s root begins before the first world war and continued to grow during the war; but it was in the 1920’s that surrealism began to influence the art world, music, literature, philosophical thought social theory and even political thinking and practice.
Useful to photography, surrealist’s work features ideas such as elements of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non-logical inferred conclusions.
The photographers Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson were very much influenced by this movement as was artists such as Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, etc. Writers of the surrealist movement: Andre Bretton, Pierre Reverdy, etc.
Philosophers such as Walter Benjamin and Herbert Marcuse were also influential in the surrealism movement.
Surrealism has the idea that ordinary and depictive expressions are vital and important; but that their arrangements must be open to the full range of imagination. Freud’s ideas of free association, dream analysis and the unconscious was vital to the surrealists for developing methods to liberate imagination. They embraced idiosyncrasy while rejecting any suggestion of underlying madness.
Following this line of thought the surrealists theorised that, ‘one could combine in the same frame elements not normally found together to produce illogical and startling effects’. Pierre Reverdy wrote: “a juxtaposition of two or more or less distant realities. The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is distant and true, the stronger the image will be – the greater its emotional power and poetic reality.”
The surrealism movement aimed to revolutionize human experience, its personal, cultural, social and political aspects. Surrealists wanted to free people from restrictive customs and structures and false rationality and at various times the surrealists aligned themselves with Anarchists and Marxists.