Manifesto of Surrealism

by André Breton

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 354

A manifesto is a public document that declares the principles and goals of a group of people or a revolutionary movement, be it political, social, or cultural. Andre Breton’s Manifesto in Surrealism is his declaration of purpose for the surrealist art and literary movement. As such, it has no characters, per se. Therefore, the best way I know to answer your question is to discuss the major people who influenced Breton and explain how their work and ideas contributed to the surrealist philosophy.

Andre Breton was a French poet who aligned with the Dadaists before he spearheaded surrealism. Dadaism arose as a protest against the war and against conservative thought, and thus Dadaist art rejected traditional form and structure. Surrealist painters embraced Dadaist ideals and believed that art should be spontaneous rather than planned. Marcel Duchamp is arguably the best-known of the Dada artists. His readymades or found art were everyday objects, such as a bicycle wheel or a urinal, which he simply took out of context and labeled art. Thus, the Dadaists rebelled against the idea of an artwork as an individual creation that had aesthetic appeal.

Andre Breton took many of his ideas from Sigmund Freud, whose work and theories revolved around the idea of subconscious thought as innocent and untainted by society, and thus representative of true reality. The surrealists used their art to create a dreamlike state, and they often used techniques children use in their artwork to create a place of innocence. Max Ernst used a technique called collage. He placed paper over surfaces such as wood, leaves, and fibers, and he rubbed chalk over them to create textured images. Then he merged and rearranged the images on canvas. Joan Miro used sponges and burlap to create images. Rene Magritte used optical illusions that made his audience think they were seeing something they were not. Salvador Dali became famous for his fantastic landscapes and melting watches. Dali’s paintings look like something out of a nightmare. He used objects from real life, but he distorted them. His works defied form and logic, and as such they characterized surrealism.

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