By combining elements from Cubism and the Dada Movement, Surrealists created artwork that was uncanny to the world. The Dada Movement created art that ignored traditional aesthetics, because Dadaists preferred to showcase the opposite of what art stood for during the time. Like the Dadaists, Surrealists took bold new ideas, in order to create groundbreaking art, but in a less violent way. Surrealists rebelled against the constraints of the rational mind, and the oppressive rules of society. Psychologist Sigmund Freud is responsible for influencing the Surrealists with these ideas.
His writings played a significant role in the Surrealist’s desire to expose the unconscious mind, through the means of art. Freud and other psychoanalysts used a variety of techniques to bring forward their patient’s thoughts. In the Surrealist movement, artists took hold of many of these techniques to create their art, and emphasize their belief that there is creativity trapped in a person’s self conscious, that is more authentic than art that is the product of conscious decision making and thought. Sigmund Freud was a key figure in the development of psychoanalysis.
Freudian psychoanalysis has three components: the unconscious, free association, and das unhiemlich (also known as “the uncanny”). Freud believed that our unconscious was a cradle for our repressed desires. Additionally, he believed in free association. This was a technique that Freud employed to allow his patients to discover unconscious thoughts and feelings, that had been repressed or ignored. Consequently, when his patients became aware of these unconscious thoughts and feelings, they could effectively manage or change the problematic behaviors that weren’t already self-evident to them.
Last but not least, Freud zeroed in on the concept of the uncanny. He studied the complex relationship of the unfamiliar, within the familiar. All 3 of these elements of Freudian psychoanalysis were directly reflected in Surrealist art. Surrealists were influenced by Freud’s writings on automatism. This is in part due to the key player and founder of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Andre Breton. Breton wrote the, “Surrealist Manifesto,” in which he explained Surrealism as,“pure psychic automatism. ” Automatism addresses the unconscious facet of Freudian psychoanalysis.
Further, it is the unconscious or involuntary actions and processes we experience, such as breathing or dreaming. One technique Surrealist artists developed to try to reveal their subconscious creativity was automatic drawing. Automatic drawing is a process that allows the painter or drawer’s hand to move randomly across the page. In this process, there is a lack of rational control that is thought, by the Automatists, to reveal the parts of the psyche that would have otherwise been repressed. For example, one Automatist of the Surrealist movement was Andre Masson.
Masson’s “Automatic Drawing” of 1924, is a classic example of the spontaneity found in this type of Surrealism. The marks on the paper resemble scribbles and even look automatic by the rapidness of the lines. One can clearly see the lack of conscious thought that went into it. Another aspect Surrealists delved into was the nature of dreams, which deals with the free association component of Freudian analysis. Surrealist artists used a free association of words and images. For example, “Cadavre Exquis (Exquisite Corpse)” by Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, Max Morise, and Man Ray is a collaborative piece of art.
Each artist added a part of the drawing on top of the last. The nude figure that resulted has clear elements of chance and unpredictability, that interferes with the conscious mind’s need for order, that usually occurs when artists draw or paint. This was truly a free associative Surrealist drawing, that unlocked the unconscious thoughts of artists. Furthermore, Surrealists were interested in the realm of dreams. Surrealists thought of dreams as channels for unexpressed feelings. They were provoked by dreams, and their artwork showed subconscious associations between images, text, and their meanings.
This idea is based off of Freud’s theory of subconscious, where he describes that dreams are coded with messages from our subconscious mind. For example, Salvador Dali’s, “The Persistence of Memory,” was a Surrealist landscape dream work including ants and melting clocks. Dali’s painting also taps into Freud’s concept of the uncanny, as he places the familiar images of clocks and ants into the unfamiliar context of a landscape, and he also renders the objects in a way that is unfamiliar to viewers. Overall, it is prominent how much of an influence Freud had on Dali’s, “The Persistence of Memory.
The Surrealists accomplished their desire to unleash art that was surprising and unfamiliar to the world. Sigmund Freud’s Theory of Psychoanalysis played a major role in the Surrealist’s goal to unleash their repressed thoughts, which created dreamlike and uncanny masterpieces. Additionally, Andre Breton was a major figure in the emergence of the Surrealist movement, who encouraged artists to look at the psyche’s influence and nature. In conclusion, the Surrealist movement made a great impact on the art history world, and even influenced future movements such as Abstract Expressionism.