1.6.6 Surrealism (1917-1964)

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I and the Village, Chagall
Place d’Italie, de Chirico
Uncertainty of the Poet, de Chirico
Song of Love, de Chirico
Mystery and Melancholy of a Street, de Chirico
Ubu Imperator, Ernst
Harlequin’s carnival, Miró
Painting, Miró
False Mirror, Magritte
Treachery of Images, Magritte
A world, Santos Torroella
The Great Mastrubator, Dali
Persistence of Memory, Dali
La Condition Humain, Magritte
Woman (Opera Singer), Miró
La Ville Entiere, Ernst

Soft Construction with Baked Beans, Dali
Self Portrait (Inn of the Dawn Horse), Carrington
Metamorphose de Narcisse, Dali
Mountain Lake, Dali
Two Friedas, Kahlo
Soft Self-portrait with Fried Bacon, Dali
The War, Chagall
Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, Dali
Empire of Light, II, Magritte
Golconda, Magritte
The Screaming Pope, Bacon
Soft Watch at the Moment of Explosion, Dali
Meditative Rose, Dali
The Son of Man, Magritte

The Surrealists sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination.

Disdaining rationalism and literary realism, and powerfully influenced by psychoanalysis, the Surrealists believed the rational mind repressed the power of the imagination, weighing it down with taboos.

Influenced also by Karl Marx, they hoped that the psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spur on revolution.

Their emphasis on the power of personal imagination puts them in the tradition of Romanticism, but unlike their forebears, they believed that revelations could be found on the street and in everyday life. The Surrealist impulse to tap the unconscious mind, and their interests in myth and primitivism, went on to shape many later movements, and the style remains influential to this today.

Surrealist imagery is probably the most recognizable element of the movement, yet it is also the most elusive to categorize and define. Each artist relied on their own recurring motifs arisen through their dreams or/and unconscious mind. At its basic, the imagery is outlandish, perplexing, and even uncanny, as it is meant to jolt the viewer out of their comforting assumptions.

Nature, however, is the most frequent imagery: Max Ernst was obsessed with birds and had a bird alter ego, Salvador Dalí‘s works often include ants or eggs, and Joan Miró relied strongly on vague biomorphic imagery.

[Source: theartstory.org]


Image source: chagallpaintings.com
At the centre of this painting, the faces of a goat and a man meet, their pupils connected by a faint and uneven white line. The contours of their noses, cheeks, and chins form the basis of a set of interlocking diagonals, concentric circles, planes of colour, and fragmented forms.

This central pair is joined by floating figures and vignettes that are interspersed, dreamlike, throughout the composition: at left, a woman milks a cow; above, a floating face appears in a church entrance; a row of houses features two that are upside down.

Chagall painted I and the Village one year after moving from Russia to Paris, where he joined a vibrant community of international artists known as La Ruche (The Beehive), so called for their proximity and productive exchange, which took place in the neighborhood of Montparnasse.

Inspired in part by the recent development of Cubism, I and the Village displays Chagall’s distinct vocabulary of abstraction, characterised by fantastic colours and folkloric imagery drawn from memories of the artist’s Belarus home, a peasant town on the outskirts of Vitebsk.

The title of this work, supplied by the poet Blaise Cendrars, Chagall’s close friend, evokes the relationship of the artist to his home and puns on the interpenetrating eyes of its central figures.
[Source: moma.org]
I and the Village1911Oil/CanvasAbstract
Chagall, Marc1887 – 1985, aged 97Russian-French artist Surrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-11]

MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA192 x 151  
This Piazza d’Italia, formerly in the Mercurio Collection in Milan, painted by Giorgio De Chirico in 1952, displays all the elements favoured by the artist’s metaphysical poetics, chiefly a square with architectural structures and porticoes. The statue portraying the sleeping Ariadne, the presence of two men conversing in a corner, a smokestack and a train.   

Over the years, the artist would employ and return to these themes, sometimes after long spells of time, shaping an outright method and especially allowing the infinite combinations it could achieve to surprise him.

In his 1929 Hebdomeros, De Chirico would write When you have found a sign, turn it back and forth, look at it from the front and the side, by three quarters and as a foreshortening; remove it and observe what shape is created by the memory of its appearance.
[Source: salamongallery.com]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Place d’Italie1912-3Watercolour/IvoryLandscape
de Chirico, Giorgio1888 – 1978, aged 90Italian painterSurrealist
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-12]

Private Collection6 x 8  
Image source: tate.org.ukL’Incertitude du poète – De Chirico’s quiet square evokes the classical arcades and statuary of antiquity, the sculpture is a torso of Aphrodite.

In contrast, the passing train and perishable bananas suggest a sense of the contemporary and immediate. The distorted perspective and shadows undermine the conventions of pictorial space and time.

De Chirico’s early works were enthusiastically embraced by the Surrealists, who saw in them a dream-like parallel existence.

The poet Paul Eluard wrote: these squares are outwardly similar to existing squares and yet we have never seen them … We are in an immense, previously inconceivable, world.
[Source: tate.org.uk]
Uncertainty of the Poet, The1913Oil/CanvasAbstract
de Chirico, Giorgio1888 – 1978, aged 90Italian painterSurrealism/
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-13]

Tate Galleries, Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG UK106 x 94  
The Song of Love (Le chant d’amour), with its mysterious and incongruous combination of a classical head, a rubber glove and a ball, was typical of those metaphysical works by de Chirico that so appealed to the Surrealism movement.

When, for example, the Belgian artist Rene Magritte first saw a reproduction of it in the early 1920s, he could not stop tears coming to his eyes: to see thought for the first time, he later said, was one of the most emotional moments in his life.

Influenced by contemporary psychology, and in particular by the idea of a stream of consciousness, the Surrealists held that, at an unconstrained or almost unconscious level, thought consisted of jumbled images and impulses; and they believed that de Chirico’s early work showed him to be in touch with these lower layers of the mind, the source of verbal and visual poetry.

De Chirico, however, had a different view of his work. He talked of the importance of dreams, of a mentality of childlike innocence, and of the need to avoid logic in the creation of beautiful images; but his focus was less on his own thoughts and psychology than on revealing the strangeness of the world. In manuscripts of this period he described the experience of seeing the world as “an immense museum of curiousness, full of odd toys”, of grasping the enigma of seemingly insignificant things.
[Source: visual-arts-cork.com]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Song of Love1914Oil/CanvasAbstract
de Chirico, Giorgio1888 – 1978, aged 90Italian painterSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-14]

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven CT USA196 x 215  

Image source: artsandculture.google.com
Mystery and Melancholy of a Street is one of Giorgio de Chirico’s unmatched images of deserted public spaces rendered in simple geometric forms.

The painting represents an encounter between two figures: a small girl running with a hoop and a statue that is present in the painting only through its shadow. The girl is moving towards the source of bright light coming from behind the building on the right and illuminating intensively the arcades on the left. The bright yellow corridor stretched up to the horizon separates two zones: light and darkness.

If you look closely at the two sharply contrasted buildings you will notice that lighting is not their only distinction. De Chirico intentionally used two contradictory vanishing points.
[Source: galleryintell.com]
Mystery and Melancholy of a Street1914Oil/CanvasAbstract
de Chirico, Giorgio1888 – 1978, aged 90Italian painterSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-15]

Private Collection85 x 69  
Like many of Ernst’s paintings during his Paris period (1922-1941), Ubu Imperator resembles a collage in painted form. The artist’s knowledge of theories by renowned psychologist Freud, familiarity with myth and extreme wit are reflected in this early painting, which is now considered proto-Surrealist due to its strange juxtapositions.

In Ubu Imperator, an anthropomorphic top dances in a vast, empty landscape. Such works captured early on the surrealist notion of estrangement and commitment to the subconscious, but also they seem surprisingly contemporary.

The red Ubu Imperator marked the entry of Ernst into the articulated stage of surrealism by his use of a literary narrative that was sometimes personal, sometimes political. In this seminal work a spinning top, a red carcass with iron reinforcement, and human hands express an astonishing image of the Ubu Father, a grotesque symbol of authority invented by the French symbolist writer, Alfred Jarry.
[Source: max-ernst.com]

Image source: max-ernst.com
Ubu Imperator19230Abstract
Ernst, Max1891 – 1976, aged 85German painter/sculptorSurrealism/
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-16]

Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris, France100 x 81  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Carnival of Harlequin is a climactic work from a series of paintings Joan Miró infused with the colour scheme and landscape of his native Catalonia, Spain.

The curious figure depicted in the central-left portion of the canvas with a half-red, half-blue mask and diamond pattern on his tunic references Italy’s commedia dell’arte. In this popular form of theatre, the Harlequin is a foolish stock character who is perpetually unsuccessful in love. Artists often used the Harlequin as a stand-in for themselves. Miró came to know of this tradition through the work of Pablo Picasso.

At the time Miró created this painting he had so little money that all he could afford to serve a friend for dinner were radishes. He described coming home at the end of a day without food and, in a kind of trance, drawing the forms that were the genesis of this painting. Hence, the hole in Harlequin’s stomach may allude to Miró’s own poverty and hunger.

The other characters throughout the composition, however, seem to be having a wonderful time. It is believed that the title of the painting refers to Mardi Gras, the celebration that precedes fasting during the season of Lent in the Catholic liturgical calendar. Many revelers have characteristics of both humans and animals, and some are anthropomorphized objects, such as the ladder with an eye and ear. The hybrid creatures are playing, singing, dancing, and celebrating, with music literally in the air.
[Source: albrightknox.org]
Harlequin’s carnival 1924Oil/CanvasAbstract
Miró, Joan1893 – 1983, aged 90Spanish painter/sculptorSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-17]

Albright–Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo NY 1422366 x 93  
Painting is a large canvas in landscape format dominated by a highly saturated cerulean blue ground painted in tempera. Over this luminous monochrome surface are arranged several delicately irregular forms. The most prominent of these is an amorphous white shape floating on the left, painted in patchy brushstrokes that allow glimpses of the blue beneath. Sinuous black lines and smaller organic shapes in touches of black, red, green, yellow and brown hover between abstraction and poetic suggestions of sexual organs: breast-like forms appear in the upper centre and lower right, and the nipple of the latter is almost enclosed by a dark brown patch. On the right, small circles with lines dangling from them may suggest airborne balloons.

Painting is one of a large series of works made by Miró between 1924 and 1927 which are often referred to as ‘automatic paintings’, ‘dream paintings’ or ‘peinture-poesie’ (poetry-painting).
[Source: tate.org.uk]

Image source: tate.org.uk
Miró, Joan1893 – 1983, aged 90Spanish painter/sculptorSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-18]

Tate Galleries, Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG UK97 x 130  

Inage source: renemagritte.org
A huge, isolated eye stares out at the viewer. Its left, inner corner has a vivid, viscous quality. The anatomical detailing of this area and its surface sheen contrast with the matte, dead-black of the eye’s pupil, which floats, unmoored, against a limpid, cloud-filled sky of cerulean blue.

Although the areas surrounding the eye’s iris are carefully shaded and modeled, giving the illusion of a play of light on three-dimensional form, the sky displays no trace of convexity; its puffy clouds are beautifully rendered, but not its blue expanse. As a result, the sky appears as though seen through a circular window rather than mirrored in the spherical, liquid surface of an eye.

The eye was a subject that fascinated many Surrealist poets and visual artists, given its threshold position between inner, subjective self and the external world.
[Source: moma.org]
False Mirror, The Specchio Falso1928Oil/CanvasAbstract
Magritte, René François Ghislain 1898-1967, aged 68BelgianSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-19]

MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA54 x 81  
The Treachery of Images was painted when Magritte was 30 years old. The picture shows a pipe. Below it, Magritte painted, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ French for ‘This is not a pipe’. The painting is not a pipe, but rather an image of a pipe.

This masterpiece of Surrealism creates a three-way paradox out of the conventional notion that objects correspond to words and images.

The Treachery of Images belongs to a series of word-image paintings by Magritte from the late 1920s. He combined images and text in a style suggested both by children’’s books, and by Magritte’’s early career in advertising. The artist laid out his rationale for word-image paintings in an illustrated text called Words and Images.
[Source: renemagritte.org]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Treachery of Images, The1928-9OilAbstract
Magritte, René François Ghislain1898-1967, aged 68BelgianSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-20]

Private collection/ Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA60 x 81  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Àngeles Santos Torroella was a Catalan Spanish surrealist painter. Born in Portbou, Catalonia, she was the sister of the poet and art critic Rafael Santos Torroella. She married the painter Emilio Grau Sala. Her son is the painter ca:Julià Grau i Santos.

Her most important painting is A world, a large format oil represents a strange surreal world.

In 1936, at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Santos Torroella and her husband fled Spain for France. She returned to Spain by herself in 1937. The couple reunited in 1962.

In 2003 she received the Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts, awarded by the Ministry of Culture of Spain and in 2005 she received the Creu de Sant Jordi.
[Source: Wikimedia commons]
A world1929Oil/CanvasAbstract
Santos Torroella, Ángeles1911-2013, aged 102Spanish painter (Catalan)Surrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-21]

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid, Spain290 x 310  
Visage du Grand Masturbateur – This painting, the quintessential symbol par excellence of his sexual obsessions. Dalí painted the picture in late summer 1929, after spending a few days with Gala, who had decided to stay with him in Cadaqués, despite the fact that her husband at that time, the poet Paul Éluard, had returned to Paris alone.

The work is an autobiographical painting: the large head of the masturbator is one of various personifications of the artist, who appears in several simultaneous scenes in the painting, reflecting the spiritual and erotic transformation that Dalí had just gone through as a result of Gala’s appearance in his life.

This disturbing composition also shows Dalí’s fantasies reaching a zenith, especially with regard to the motif of the grasshopper suckling the principal metamorphosed figure.
[Source: museoreinasofia.es]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Great Masturbator, The1929Oil/CanvasAbstract
Dalí, Salvador1904-1989, aged 84Spanish painterSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-22]

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid, Spain110 x 150  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Hard objects become inexplicably limp in this bleak and infinite dreamscape, while metal attracts ants like rotting flesh. Mastering what he called the usual paralyzing tricks of eye-fooling, Dalí painted with the most imperialist fury of precision, he said, but only to systematize confusion and thus to help discredit completely the world of reality.

It is the classic Surrealist ambition, yet some literal reality is included, too: the distant golden cliffs are the coast of Catalonia, Dalí’s home.

Those limp watches are as soft as overripe cheese—indeed, they picture the camembert of time, in Dalí’s phrase. Here time must lose all meaning.

Permanence goes with it: ants, a common theme in Dalí’s work, represent decay, particularly when they attack a gold watch, and they seem grotesquely organic. The monstrous fleshy creature draped across the painting’s center is at once alien and familiar: an approximation of Dalí’s own face in profile, its long eyelashes seem disturbingly insect-like or even sexual, as does what may or may not be a tongue oozing from its nose like a fat snail.

The year before this picture was painted, Dalí formulated his paranoiac-critical method, cultivating self-induced psychotic hallucinations in order to create art. The difference between a madman and me, he said, is that I am not mad.
[Source: .moma.org]
Persistence of Memory, The1931Oil/CanvasAbstract
Dalí, Salvador 1904-1989, aged 84Spanish painterSurrealism/
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-23]

MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA24 x 33  
 Two of Magritte’s favoured themes were the ‘window painting’ and the ‘painting within a painting’. The Human Condition is one of Magritte’s earliest treatments of either subject, and in it he combines the two, making what may be his most subtle and profound statement of their shared meaning.

The Human Condition displays an easel placed inside a room and in front of a window. The easel holds an unframed painting of a landscape that seems in every detail contiguous with the landscape seen outside the window.

At first, one automatically assumes that the painting on the easel depicts the portion of the landscape outside the window that it hides from view. After a moment’s consideration, however, one realizes that this assumption is based upon a false premise: that is, that the imagery of Magritte’s painting is real, while the painting on the easel is a representation of that reality.

In fact, there is no difference between them. Both are part of the same painting, the same artistic fabrication. It is perhaps to this repeating cycle, in which the viewer, even against his will, sees the one as real and the other as representation, that Magritte’s title makes reference.
[Source: nga.gov]

Image source: af.bibliotherapie.free.fr
Condition Humain, La (The Human Condition)1933Oil/CanvasLandscape
Magritte, René François Ghislain1898-1967, aged 68BelgianSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-24]

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC USA100 x 81  

Image source: moma.org
Miró assigned this pastel the title Woman, aiming for something unpretentious and very ordinary, he said, but the work has come to be known as Opera Singer because of the figure’s open mouth and what is often identified as sheet music in her right hand.

She is rendered in acidic, highly saturated, and dissonant colors, with flagrantly displayed genitalia.
[Source: moma.org]
Woman (Opera Singer)1934Pstl/PprAbstract
Miró, Joan1893 – 1983, aged 90Spanish painter/sculptorSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-25]

MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, 1 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA107 x 71  


The Entire City 1934 is an oil painting on paper mounted on canvas by the German surrealist artist Max Ernst.

The painting depicts a cityscape comprised of a mass of geometric forms set against a deep blue sky. The dark shapes that comprise the buildings of the city are marked by striations and floral patterns highlighted in orange and pink tones. A small white ring in the upper left hand corner of the composition seems to represent the moon. The lack of detail or definition, along with the layered, textured structures, suggest that this might be a city in ruins.

The Entire City is part of a series of around twelve paintings on the same theme that Ernst made between 1933 and 1937. Later versions have a larger expanse of sky that covers roughly half of the canvas, in contrast to the earlier paintings where the sky forms around one quarter of the overall composition.

Ernst recollected in 1953 that he painted the 1934 version of The Entire City, owned by the Tate, in the studio of the British surrealist painter Roland Penrose at the Chateau de Pouys in the south of France, where he was being hosted at that time as an exile from his native Germany.
[Source: tate.org.uk]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Ville Entière, La1934Oil/Ppr/CnvAbstract
Ernst, Max1891 – 1976, aged 85German painter/sculptorSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-26]

Tate Galleries, Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG UK502 x 631  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
When Dalí painted his Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Pre-monition of Civil War), the Spanish Civil War had not yet begun. In fact, he completed the painting nearly six months before General Franco’s fascist army unseated the democratically elected socialist government of the Second Spanish Republic.

Though it is likely that Dalí changed the title after the military coup to add to the seemingly prophetic power of his unconscious mind, a volatile climate of social and political struggle had existed in the country for years.

Dalí began his studies for Soft Construction with Boiled Beans in 1935, sketching the hideously deformed anatomy of the colossal creature. The aggressive monster destroys itself, tearing violently at its own limbs, its face twisted in a grimace of both triumph and torture.

Dalí employs his ‘paranoic-critical method’ in the painting by contorting the massive limbs into an outline of a map of Spain.

Though Dalí intended this painting as a comment on the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, he did not openly side with the Republic or with the fascist regime. In fact, the painting is one of only a few works by Dalí to deal with contemporary social or political issues.
[Source: philamuseum.org]
Soft Construction with Baked Beans1936Oil/CanvasAbstract
Dalí, Salvador 1904-1989, aged 84Spanish painterSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-27]

Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130, USA100 x 99  
Sporting white jodhpurs and a wild mane of hair, Carrington is perched on the edge of a chair in this curious, dreamlike scene, with her hand outstretched toward the prancing hyena and her back to the tailless rocking horse flying behind her.

The daughter of an English industrialist, Carrington spent her childhood on a country estate surrounded by animals and reading fairy tales and legends.

She revisited these memories in her adulthood, creating paintings populated with real and imagined creatures. Here, the white horse, which Carrington used as her symbolic surrogate, gallops freely into the verdant landscape beyond the curtained window.
[Source: metmusuem.org]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Self Portrait (Inn of the Dawn Horse)1937-8Oil/CanvasPortrait
Carrington, Leonora 1917 – 2011, 94British Mexican painterSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-28]

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA0  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
This painting is Dalí’s interpretation of the Greek myth of Narcissus. Narcissus was a youth of great beauty who loved only himself and broke the hearts of many lovers. The gods punished him by letting him see his own reflection in a pool. He fell in love with it, but discovered he could not embrace it and died of frustration. Relenting, the gods immortalised him as the narcissus (daffodil) flower.

For this picture Dalí used a meticulous technique which he described as hand-painted colour photography to depict with hallucinatory effect the transformation of Narcissus, kneeling in the pool, into the hand holding the egg and flower. Narcissus as he was before his transformation is seen posing in the background. The play with ‘double images’ sprang from Dalí’s fascination with hallucination and delusion.

This was Dalí’s first painting to be made entirely in accordance with the paranoiac critical method, which the artist described as a Spontaneous method of irrational knowledge, based on the critical-interpretative association of the phenomena of delirium.
[Source: tate.org.uk]
Metamorphose de Narcisse1937Oil/CanvasHistory Painting
Dalí, Salvador1904-1989, aged 84Spanish painterSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-29]

Tate Galleries, Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG UK51 x 78  
Mountain Lake demonstrates Dalí’s use of the multiple image: the lake can simultaneously be seen as a fish. By such doubling he sought to challenge rationality.

The painting combines personal and public references. His parents visited this lake after the death of their first child, also called Salvador. Dalí seems to have been haunted by the death of his namesake brother whom he never knew.

The disconnected telephone brings the image into the present by alluding to negotiations between Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, and Hitler over the German annexation of the Sudetenland in September 1938.
[Source: tate.org.uk]

Image source: tate.org.uk

Mountain Lake1938Oil/CanvasLandscape
Dalí, Salvador1904-1989, aged 84Spanish painterSurrealist
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-30]

Tate Galleries, Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG UK73 x 92  

Image source: artsandculture.google.com
This painting was completed shortly after her divorce with Diego Rivera. This portrait shows Frida’s two different personalities.

One is the traditional Frida in Tehuana costume, with a broken heart, sitting next to an independent, modern dressed Frida.

In Frida’s diary, she wrote about this painting and said it is originated from her memory of an imaginary childhood friend.

Later she admitted it expressed her desperation and loneliness with the separation from Diego.

In this painting, the two Fridas are holding hands. They both have visible hearts and the heart of the traditional Frida is cut and torn open. The main artery, which comes from the torn heart down to the right hand of the traditional Frida, is cut off by the surgical pincers held in the lap of the traditional Frida. The blood keeps dripping on her white dress and she is in danger of bleeding to death. The stormy sky filled with agitated clouds may reflect Frida’s inner turmoil.
[Source: fridakahlo.org]
Two Fridas, The1939Oil/CanvasPortrait
Kahlo, Frida 1907 – 1954, aged 47Mexican painterSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-39]

Museo de Arte Moderno, Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico173 x 173  

Image source: wikiart.org
A spectre full of irony, where an amorphous, soft face appears, supported by crutches, which Dalí considered his self-portrait, with a pedestal that bears the inscription of the title of the work and, above, a slice of fried bacon, a symbol of organic matter and of the everyday nature of his breakfasts in New York’s Saint Regis Hotel.

Dalí always remembered the piece of flayed skin with which Michelangelo represented himself in the Sistine chapel in the Vatican and argued the most consistent thing of our representation is not the spirit or the vitality, but the skin.
(Source: salvador-dali.org)
Soft Self Portrait with Fried Bacon1941Oil/CanvasPortrait
Dalí, Salvador1904-1989, aged 84Spanish painterSurrealist
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-31]

Dalí Theatre and Museum, Figueres, Spain61 x 51  
In 1941, as the Nazis became a greater threat, Chagall moved to New York City with his family, driving him further away from the village existence he knew and loved.

Religious imagery, mainly Jesus’ crucifixion, reappeared constantly throughout Chagall’s paintings, perhaps communicating his suffering.

Bridging the space between poetry, politics and spirituality, Chagall creates rich visual tapestries, alive with tales of love, loss, faith and war.

Thoughts of flight and exile re-appear in the painting War. A wretched and drastically overloaded cart is slowly putting the burning city behind it. A man is plodding along behind the cart, a sack over his shoulder, saving his worldly goods from the flames. Most of the people here can only just save their lives, though, and cling to each other in confused despair. The people and animals that have remained in the city are helplessly at the mercy of the all-consuming inferno.
[Source: marcchagall.net]

Image source: marcchagall.net
War, The1943Oil/CanvasAbstract
Chagall, Marc1887 – 1985, aged 97Russian-French artist Surrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-32]

Centre Georges Pompidou,  Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France163 x 231  

Image source: museothyssen.org
The sleeping figure of Gala, Dalí’s wife and muse, floats above a rock in a tranquil marine landscape. Beside her naked body, two drops of water, a pomegranate and a bee are also airborne.

Gala’s dream, prompted by the buzzing of the bee, appears in the upper part of the canvas; there, from an exploding pomegranate shoots out a fish, from whose mouth two ferocious tigers emerge together with a bayonet which, one second later, will wake Gala from her restful sleep.

Although by 1944 Dalí was already living in America and devoting little time to painting, this canvas marks a return to his ‘paranoiac-critical method.’ His view—based on Freudian theories—that images were open to multiple interpretations made him one of the leading members of the Surrealist group.
[Source: museothyssen.org]
Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening1944Oill/CnvAbstract
Dalí, Salvador1904-1989, aged 84Spanish painterSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-33]

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Paseo del Prado, 8, 28014 Madrid, Spain51 x 41  
For the The Empire of Lights II, Magritte used a title that was not his own. The intriguing oil painting displays a beautiful house lit up by its interior lights, and surrounded by the darkness of the night. Especially surreal is that the sky above the house and treeline is a daytime sky full of brightness and plump white clouds. It is a serene, mysterious scene.

Numerous versions of this work exist, a dark, nocturnal street scene is set against a pastel-blue, light-drenched sky spotted with fluffy cumulus clouds. With no fantastic element other than the single paradoxical combination of day and night, René Magritte upsets a fundamental organizing premise of life.

Sunlight, ordinarily the source of clarity, here causes the confusion and unease traditionally associated with darkness.
[Source: renemagritte.org]

Image source: moma.org
Empire of Lights II1950Oil/CanvasLandscape
Magritte, René François Ghislain1898-1967, aged 68BelgianSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-34]

MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA79 x 99  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Golconda depicts a scene of nearly identical men dressed in dark overcoats and bowler hats, who seem to be drops of heavy rain, against a backdrop of buildings and blue sky. The men are spaced in hexagonal grids facing the viewpoint and receding back in grid layers.

Magritte himself lived in a similar suburban environment, and dressed in a similar fashion. The bowler hat was a common feature of much of his work, and appears in paintings like The Son of Man.

As was often the case with Magritte’s works, the title Golconda was found by his poet friend Louis Scutenaire. Golconda is a ruined city in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, near Hyderabad, which from the mid-14th century until the end of the 17th was the capital of two successive kingdoms; the fame it acquired through being the centre of the region’s legendary diamond industry was such that its name remains, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a synonym for ‘mine of wealth’.

Magritte included a likeness of Scutenaire in the painting, his face is used for the large man by the chimney of the house on the right of the picture.
[Source: renemagritte.org]
Magritte, René François Ghislain1898-1967, aged 68BelgianSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-35]

Menil Collection, 1533 Sul Ross St, Houston, TX 77006,1533 Sul Ross St, Houston, TX 77006,81 x 100  
Bacon worked on his pope paintings, variations on Velázquez’s magnificent portrait of Pope Innocent X, for over twenty years. He was already exploring the idea while in the South of France in late 1946.

The first surviving version (Head VI) dates from late 1949, and he finally stopped in the mid-1960s. Subsequently, Bacon announced that he thought the works ‘silly’ and wished he had never done them.

He acquired endless reproductions of the Velázquez painting from books, but famously did not see the original when he visited Rome in late 1954.
[Source: phaidon.com]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Screaming Pope, The1953Oil/CanvasPortrait
Bacon, Francis 1909-1992, aged 82Irish-English painterSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-36]

Des Moines Art Center, 4700 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50312, USA153 x 118  

Image source: pinterest.com
The Melting Watch is often referred to as Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion, or simply, Soft Watch.

The dreamy world found in Dali’s subconscious mind was the inspiration for this and many other Surrealist works in his career.

The melting watch faces are repeated in several of his paintings, as is the elongated elephant.

Dali would enter a meditative state in order to access this part of his mind, then quickly sketching down the creativity that flowed from it.
[Source: salvadordaliprints.org]

Soft Watch at the Moment of Explosion1954Ink/PaperAbstract
Dalí, Salvador1904-1989, aged 84Spanish painterSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-37]

Salvador Dali Museum, 1 Dalí  Blvd, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, USA19 x 14  
Rose Meditative is something of an enigma coming from a painter whose works are primarily the stuff of dream and nightmare. Absent are the stretched forms and crutches signifying the paranoiac method. Instead we have a pretty picture.

Here Dali seems to be showing off his painting skills at a time when many famous artists (including Dali himself) were painting in a much more abstract manner.

The painting itself is reminiscent of a natural Om symbol hanging against the sky above a desolate landscape.

This work was completed the same year that Dali published his ‘Nuclear Mysticism’ manifesto titled ‘Anti-Matter’. Commenting on this newfound belief in science, DNA, and nuclear physics the artist had this to say, In the Surrealist period I wanted to create the iconography of the interior world and the world of the marvelous, of my father Freud. Today the exterior world and that of physics, has transcended the one of psychology. My father today is Dr. Heisenberg.

It is uncertain how this piece fits into either the paranoiac method or the nuclear mysticism practices.
[Source: dalipaintings.com]

Image source: dali.com
Meditative Rose1958Oil/CanvasStill Life
Dalí , Salvador 1904-1989, aged 84Spanish painterSurrealism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1660-38]

unknown64 x 52  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Magritte painted The Son of Man as a self-portrait. The painting consists of a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat standing in front of a short wall, beyond which is the sea and a cloudy sky.

The man’s face is largely obscured by a hovering green apple. However, the man’s eyes can be seen peeking over the edge of the apple. Another subtle feature is that the man’s left arm appears to bend backward at the elbow.
[Source: renemagritte.org]
Son of Man, The (Le fils de l’homme)1964Oil/CanvasPortrait
Magritte, René François Ghislain1898-1967, aged 68BelgianSurrealism
Private collection116 x 89  

Forward to 1.6.7 Socialist Realism (c1920 – 1960)
Back to Art Brut (1923 onwards) – Back to 1.6.5 Bauhaus Index (1919 – 1933)

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