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Fantastic and strange, the work of the Surrealists continues to haunt and fascinate viewers with its enticing yet irrational depictions of the unconscious human mind. As an art movement, Surrealism emerged in the late 1910s and early 1920s, partially forming out of the Dada group. Following the senseless destruction that had occurred during period of the first world war, Surrealism rejected the logical and the assumed, the mechanic and the modern, preferring instead to delve into the world of dreams and desires.

Surrealism was an avant-garde movement founded primarily by a group of writers, including Guillaume Apollinaire and André Breton, who experimented with practices like automatic writing and drafted manifestos that would go on to inspire artists working in theatre, photography, cinema, and the visual arts. The Surrealists were enamored with the psychoanalytical practice of Sigmund Freud and his techniques designed to manifest the unconscious. Unornamented and illustrative forms, stark color contrasts, and the juxtaposition of seemingly contradictory objects or ideas became key characteristics of Surrealist art. Paintings, drawings, texts, and films drew on metaphysical philosophy, sexual fantasies, and primal fears to produce works that were loaded with symbolism while eluding any simple interpretation of meaning.

The movement was broad and diverse, engaging with other groups like Cubism and drawing on the theories of Marx, Benjamin, and Marcuse. Surrealism counted many artists within its fold, including Hans Arp, André Breton, Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Paul Klee, René Magritte, André Masson, Matta, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Meret Oppenheim, and Yves Tanguy.

TASCHEN titles on Surrealism include books focusing on maverick Salvador Dalí, an art historical introduction to the movement, and Basic Art Series publications on individual artists. TASCHEN Books also hold monographs on contemporary artists working within the surrealist tradition like Mark Ryden and popular renditions of the movement’s activities like the Surrealist dinner party. Get lost in the dreamscapes and hell worlds that defined the imagination of 20th century art and culture.