Surrealism emerged in Europe in the early 1900s. André Breton produced the first Surrealist Manifesto in 1924. Breton wanted Surrealism to become a cultural revolution as well as an artistic one. Stemming from his background in psychoanalysis, Breton wanted to explore the unconscious and the realm of dreams. Rather than using conscious reason to interpret dreams (as Freud did), Breton wanted to use dreams to reinterpret reality. This focus on dreams necessitated an effort to be more passive: to let go of the limits of reason and logic. He and others worked with "automatic writing," which was a spontaneous way of writing similar to word association games in psychoanalysis. The goal was to get the conscious ego out of the way and let the unconscious (or subconscious) be freely expressed.
Similar notions were used in drawing and, of course, painting. Dali's "The Persistence of Memory" is a famous example of surrealism. The soft, melting clocks are dreamlike, and their malleability suggests the relativity of time and space as well as the blending between dreams and conscious life. Surrealism was/is all about expanding the power of the imagination.
Magical realism emerged later, in the middle 1900s. It was certainly influenced by surrealism and shares some characteristics. This movement emerged in Latin America. Whereas surrealism was a psychological and artistic experiment blending conscious life and the unconscious, magical realism had its roots in blending cultural myth and modern reality. Clearly, the results end up seeming similar to surrealism. You have realistic, logical elements mixed with fantastic notions of dreams and fables.
Magical realism is known more for its literature, whereas surrealism is known more for its visual art. But both movements span many genres. One way to think of how they differ is this: surrealism is an exercise exploring the unconscious, and magical realism is an exercise blending folklore, the supernatural, and mythology with realism. Breton's surrealism was an attempt to change culture (make it new), and some of the magical realism of Latin America was the attempt at blending old and modern culture.
"A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" by Gabriel García Márquez is an excellent example of magical realism. In the story, a villager finds an angel on the shore, and his community treats the angel like a circus animal. Angels are supernatural, deriving from Judeo-Christian beliefs: thus, a link to folklore and mythology. The appearances of the angel (and later, a spider woman) are extraordinary but occur in an ordinary setting.
Surrealism is 20th century style of art. The artist tries to express his/her subconscious mind. It is characterized by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of subject matter.
Magic realism is a form of art. The artist tries to depict dreams in a realistic way.
As you can see they are very similar, however magic realism characteristically contains more realistic content.
If you want to compare two artists use Gabriel Garcia Marquez (magic realism) andSalvador Dali (surrealism).
Hope that helps!!!