Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English


Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


Surrealism sprang from Dada. The movement was launched by French poet André Breton (1896-1966) in 1924: “Thought expressed in the absence of any control exerted by reason, and outside all moral and aesthetic considerations” (qtd. in Dempsey 151). The surrealists intended a revolution as profound as Freud’s. The artist was a visionary in a revolt against society. The following served as a sort of motto: “As beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella.” More doctrinaire and organized than Dada, Surrealism aimed at a transformation of the way people think by breaking down the barriers between inner and outer worlds. They wanted to liberate the unconscious, reconcile it with the conscious, free mankind from the shackles of logic and reason which had led to war and domination.

Freud supplied theories for images to exploit: castration anxiety, fetishes, the uncanny.

After WWII, Breton returned to Paris and found Surrealism under attack from former members and the new leader of the avant-garde, Jean-Paul Sartre who damned it for “its pretty stupid optimism.”

See Dali.

Famous works include Dali’s The Persistence of Memory (Melting Clocks), and Magritte’s Son of Man.

Works Consulted

The Art Book. London: Phaidon Press Ltd., 1996.

Dempsey, Amy. Art in the Modern Era: A Guide to Styles, Schools & Movements. NY: Harry N. Abrams Inc., Pub., 2002.