Surrealism in Art and Photography

A fundamental problem for fine art photographers is to distinguish themselves from this morras of photographic folklore, somehow to separate themselves from all these common men who know how to make pictures with cameras, and to convince us all that what they do is “special.” (Christopherson, 1974) The aim of this rationale is to situate my professional practice within the historical and theoretical contexts explored during my university studies. This essay will deal with establishing the fact that fashion photography does not have to be just about fashion by emphasizing the art in my pieces and consequently creating fine art photography. The first part of this analysis will examine the nature of photography which has become the medium of my practice. Second part consists of consequent research on fashion photography and sequent analysis and discussion. In order to link it with art, the background of Surrealism will be briefly outlined. The final analysis will consider key features of my practice. Can be a fashion photography considered as a true art form? What theories, quotations or articles are in agreement with this subject matter? What are characteristics of art photography?

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Research has shown that photography was born in eighteen thirty nine and is regarded as everyday medium that communicates concept visually. Roland Barthes (1980) defined photograph as aid which help us to be informed about the world. Furthermore, one should not forget the Susan Sontag’s theory – take pictures as you travel – what suggests that collecting the photographs means collecting the world. (Susan Sonntag, 1977) Charles Baudelaire (1859) suggests that photography depict the stupidity of masses, whereas P.H. Emerson claimed that “photography was an independent and potentially great art from capable of expressing thoughts and emotions beyond the scope of the other and older art forms.” (P.H. Emerson, 1975) In agreement with Emerson, this contemporary medium embodies the way of expressing ideas, expressing myself within my practice.” Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art “. (Ansell Adams, 1952) The question whether photography can be considered as an art has been discussed especially in sixties and seventies. It has been found out that in nineteen sixty eight was born the relationship between photography and art. In a Grunderg’s opinion, it has all started when photographers regarded photography as an art form and simultaneously artists have accepted camera in their practice. (Grundberg, 1987) On the one hand, there were artists who thought that camera is repressing imagination. On the other hand, some of them believe photograph is purely metaphoric. In agreement with the second statement, it has been found out that photographs symbolize the metaphor for artist’s experience. In other words, it serves the purpose of visualizing artist’s ideas. In a view of these facts, it is quite likely that if the art is about self-expression than the photograph which is used for expressing emotions, ideas or attitudes, must be regarded as an art form. The first person in history who wrote about photography as art was P.H. Emerson, British photographer and writer. He preferred aesthetic and emotional side of the image rather than the subject. Perhaps we should point out the fact that between nineteen seventy and nineteen ninety photographs has been equipollent with other contemporary arts. Which art movement has affected the development of a photograph and is also significant within my practice? It has been Surrealism, art movement that came into being in nineteen twenty four in Paris with leader Andre Breton. It may be true that surrealist group was the most controversial but on the other hand their expressions were positive and optimistic.
To explore the voice of their inner selves, they focus on imagination, mysticism, dreams and mediation. This “unreal” art movement and photograph as a medium of realism seem to be totally different. Man Ray, American artist who has been considered as representative surrealist photographer had been interested in photography because of personal development. His theory which suggests that photography emphasizes visual sphere between forms is could be in agreement with considering photography as art form. He has also contributed by invention of photographic technique of solarisation. Although it may be true that Surrealism has had impact on a photograph, the most crucial point made so far is that it has significantly inspirited the development and nature of fashion photography. It would be unfair not to mention the fact that Man Ray’s surreal photographs breathed new life into fashion photography. What is the nature of fashion photography and what is its connection with art? History of fashion is connected with photos by Baron Adolph de Meyer who published them in nineteen nine for magazine Vogue; however the relationship between art and fashion is recognized from renaissance. Anne Hollander (1994) claimed that fashion is art because it is capable of creating complete figural images psychologically real and modern. She also states that as artists turn to fashion, cloth designer turn to the fine art in order to explore the connection between fine and applied art, a sense of pure form and a sense of design to use. In a book entitled ´Fashion Theory´, Rosetta Brookes makes the point that “You could say a painting is designed to go on the wall, but if it was made as fresco, where it was part of the wall, would you say it was not art because it was practical?” (Rosetta Brookes, 1992) The question whether fashion can be consider as art is questionable and criticised, however these arguments seem to confirm that idea. “Fashion does not have to be something people wear, fashion is also an image.” (Viktor and Rolf, 1999)
Some critics suggest that fashion photography is just about depicting garments or models without any context behind it. It is questionable whether all kinds of fashion photographs are the same, or if there are artists whose images are portraying art with strong artistic context behind it. In this case it is important to highlight and analyse work of surrealist fashion photographers and related theories of critics. Rosetta Brookes (1992) has stated that fashion photographers have to capture the moment where the real world reproduced itself. She wrote on fashion photographer Helmut Newton that his fashion images are embodied in the dualism o the world itself. Judith Clarke (1998) discussed work of surrealist fashion photographer Erwin Blumenfeld who obviously removed fashion photograph from commercial form to its origins art. To support mentioned arguments it is worth stating that “Metaphor and meaning of fashion were at the heart of surrealist visual language.” (Richard Martin, 1987) It has also been found out that fashion represents for surrealist escape from ordinary to extraordinary. The radical change within fashion photography happened when Adolf de Meyer add shimmer into his images which embodied artistic photographs. This approach has removed the presentation of garment. Consequently it has evoked expressing of emotions. Martin Mukacsi (1933), Hungarian photographer who has transformed the course of fashion photograph when he blurred his photograph. The aim of photograph was to influence woman and let her apply it on her life. According to Roland Barthes (1983), three fashion styles exist. While the first one is objective, second one is more romantic with dream-like elements. The last one is represented as caricature. In agreement with Barthes, all of these specific fashion styles signified unreal. On reflection, it seems more accurate to say that there are lots of facts and theories underpinning the subject matter. The fact, that photograph is medium appropriate for expressing ideas and that for artists influenced by surrealism it embodies the escape from reality, is important statement not only for the subject matter but also for my professional practice.
What are the features of Surrealism and other key aspects which are essential within the context of my work? The first thing that needs to be said is work of surrealists consist of dream-like elements. Additionally, the lecture on psychoanalysis let me to research Sigmund Freud and subsequently his book Interpretation of Dreams. In this book he suggests that all dreams derive from our experience and that is the reason why they are reproduced in our dreams. He is also describing the connection between content of dreams and waking life where he suggests that waking thoughts appear in dreams only when they are pushed to one side by thinking activity of the day. (Sigmund Freud, 1913) It is important to add that elements of dream-like representations are abounding in paintings of David Schell. Within my practice, there has been noticeable interest in interpretation of dreams in general. To illustrate this point, here are some examples of dream quotations that have inspirited my creating. “There is nothing like a dream to create the future.” (Victor Hugo, 1802-1885) “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream: not only plan, but also believe.” (Anatole France, 1884-1924) “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live as one.” (John Lennon, 1940-1980) Another characteristic feature of surrealistic movement is unreal fantasy world. At this point is necessary to emphasize the influence of theorist Jean Baudrillard and his book called Simulacra and Simulations. Basically, he negates the reality as we usually understand it and suggest that world we live in have been replaced by simulations of the real-a copy world. According to Baudrillard, the false reality of Disneyland is presented as imaginary to make people believe all surroundings are real.
The best example to understand the theory is watching the news on television of two people having an accident. He states that experience of the man and woman who were directly involved with the affair are the only ones to experience the reality and to anyone else it is just simulation. (Jean Baudrillard, 1981) Inspirited by his theory, the subject of my work is to create the hyper real world for viewers while acting in my photograph – experiencing the real world. In other words, the subject of my work which may not be noticeable is to take the viewer beyond reality. The argument being put forward here is similar to quote of Bert P. Krages (2005) “Knowing abut your subject is useful even if that knowledge does not seem to relate directly to the visual aspects of what you are trying to photograph.” It worth stating at this point that there is another aspect of my work emerging. It is a well-known fact that the woman as an object has been representing by many artists, especially surrealists and fashion photographers. Women embodied muse for artists as Man Ray or Edgar Degas. Research has shown that Edgar Degas was French impressionist who is celebrated as the master of drawing the human figure in motion. His favourite theme was women who were captured in their activities. Man Ray also found his motivation in women and is best-known for his avant-garde photography. His images provide the viewer far more differences than similarities of original model. Besides these artists it is essential to mention the influence of lecture called Human Body in Painting and Photograph where this subject has been discussed and analysed. After two years of creating, this subject matter within my practice has been transformed into performance.
Performance art came into being in nineteen sixty in United States and has been representing visual artists. By nineteen seventy it was already acknowledged as global term and regarded as art. There is plenty of performance artists therefore it is compulsory to focus on artist with the greatest impact. It has been Marina Abramovic who is regarded as grandmother of performance and also Jemima Stehli who creates self-portraits by using a mirror. However, the most influential artist in addition to this topic is Cindy Sherman. Her personality has had important impact on photography as well as on my own self-directed practice. Her personality is celebrated as one of the most influential and respected American photographers in the twentieth century. Using designer cloths she was trying to point out contemporary problems of modern age and investigate ideas and images of female in media, society and nature of the conception of art. Andrew Sargus Klein (2006) claimed that Sherman endeavour to erase the notion of the voyeuristic photographer- instead, the observer is the viewer. Although some critics believe that her images are just self-portraits, however her quotation is in disagreement with this statement “I am trying to make other people recognize something of themselves rather than me.” (Cindy Sherman, 1982) Patty Chang (2000) states that performance art and photography are opposites, but both define a non-ordinary space by establishing parameters on it- a space that depends on the observer to make it come alive. To conclude this part, it is myself performing in my photographs. The aim is not to present myself, but to present my ideas through photographic medium. The performance feature provides me the sense of freedom in what I do and what I want to depict. It symbolizes the pure pleasure of playing, acting by using my body as non-commercial silhouette. The purpose of the performance element is to express myself, my ideas and be the one who is manipulating the viewer and who is trying to communicate with audience. However, influenced by Cindy Sherman’s thinking, the endeavour of my work is not to recognize something about myself, but to let people discover something about them. Not only has performance art originated in nineteen sixty, but also Psychedelic art. It is undeniable that hallucinations, illusions and imagination illustrate key features of surrealists. Edmund Critchley (1987) suggests that hallucinations are obvious in psychical illnesses but can also be experienced by normal people and became source of inspiration for art.
It is generally known that Salvador Dali, the most surrealist from other surrealists, has applied in his art making hallucinatory features what caused the fact that his art was difficult to understand. Not only hallucinatory features are important for my practice, but also illusions and imagination. According to Edmund Critchely (1987) illusions, the conscious and unconscious of the form of stimuli provide much of unexpected in art. An alternative approach might be quotation of Sigmund Freud (1927) “Illusions commented themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces.” Apart from hallucinations and illusions, imagination is also important within the subject matter and my practice. It is a well-known fact that surrealist’s style uses visual imagery from subconscious mind to create art without the intention of logical comprehensibility. An alternative explanation might be that they have rather used their imagination. We would even go so far as to say that Albert Einstein’s (1879-1955) quotation “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”- in other words, imagination is more important than knowledge- is in agreement with this argument. To sum up information stated above, the purpose of using hallucinatory feature and illusions is simple- the aim is to offer a pleasure to viewer and experience something scrupulously honest. As mentioned above, psychedelic art came into being in nineteen sixty and represents attitudes of underground sub-culture. Steven Heller (2010) claimed that psychedelic art “€¦was language used as a code for a revolutionary generation.” The features of this art are mainly bright vivid colours and surreal sense which have been manifested within art, fashion and music. The most essential fact contextualizing my practice is using contrasting beautiful colours for purpose of transporting the viewer into fantasy world. In addition to colours, colour theory and specific psychological meaning of single colour. It has been found out that colour is sensed by eye, however the perception of it takes place in mind and it serves sense of illusion and distance. By using different shades and tones at different images, the purpose of the colour is to evoke emotion while looking at piece of work. Therefore I agree with quotation of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) “Colours, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.” Which other features are significant for surrealistic creating? In addition to illusion, it has been found out that many surrealist but also fashion photographers have used mirrors or mirror effects in order to mystify the viewer. My early influence originated from pieces of Gilbert and George, contemporary controversial artists. The effect of mirroring is result of digital manipulation of the image. Works of the most contemporary fashion photographer, David LaChapelle has astonished me because of undetectable manipulation. He is also applying surreal feature and narrative within his creating. However, the digital manipulation is not the only aspect within existing process of my works. Firstly, there is a need of finding a place which seems appropriate and first of all, interesting. Most of the time, damaged and messy localities are investigating in order to use their complex composition when creating unreal world and transforming them into fantasy landscape. Important fact to highlight is that the place is never staged; however it is always in its natural-found condition. Secondly, the appropriate dress, accessories, entire appearance, pose and mood have to be chosen. Finally, there is another aspect of composing the eventual shoot and also managing the right angels and camera settings. With the help of tripod or an assistant is the picture taken and consequently edited. Although the picture is taken, it is not the end of a process at all. Certainly, it can be said that my work is process based. The other side of the coin is, however, that it can also be argued that it is based on digital manipulation of an image. Nevertheless, the manipulation consists of changing colours slightly and sometimes it consists of the use of mirror effect. These arguments suggest that the work is processed based where the digital manipulation of image is becoming a part of the process.

Impact of Spanish Civil War on Surrealism Art

 This investigation assesses the significance of surrealist artists’ responses to the Spanish Civil War and how the experiences of the horrific event were documented visually. In order to evaluate such significance, this investigation examines the impact the events the war had on surrealist art in Spain, through the use of primary recounts of the war’s impact on art and visual art history, mostly focusing on works by Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso who became world renowned for their contribution.

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The Spanish Civil War broke out in the summer of 1936, as did the revolution within surrealist art. It was an event that did not just affect people locally, but on an international scale. Although, European art in general was impacted by the war, this investigation will not examine the effect the war had on continental surrealism, thus will only focus on Spanish artists and their work. As the leading artists in this movement were the Spanish born artists Picasso and Dali, they will be the central focus.
Two of the sources used in this essay will assess are Surrealism and the Spanish Civil War by Robin Adèle Greenley and The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí by Salvador Dalí will be evaluated for their origins, purposes, values and limitations.
This investigation does not assess the difference in ideologies (Republicanism versus Nationalism) tearing apart Spain, nor does it assess other surrealist art movements in literature, philosophy, film, architecture or music.
Background on the Spanish Civil War
The summer of 1936 marked the beginning of a landmark event within modern European history: the Spanish Civil War, inviting with it a three-year tumultuous period of terror, destruction and persecution, shattering the nation. Its deep rooting ideological confrontations resulted in the intense commitment of all its participants and the loss of over half a million Spanish lives acted as a stimulus to the various international surrealist movements of the time, inspiring artists of all cultures. The creative energy focused on portraying political ideologies and illusions, the social idealisms and the military take on modern warfare, documenting the hopes and despair of the participants in this Kafkaesque war.
The fall of the crumbling Spanish Monarchy and the dissatisfying Second Republic, and the electoral success of the leftist Popular Front, a rebellion against the newly elected government erupted. The Falange or the Nationalists, lead by General Franco, conducted a nationwide revolt, alongside General Mola. They managed to seize the key cities in Northern Spain, including Madrid. The Catalan and Basque country, both known for their persistent separatist movement, anarchism and socialism, unsurprisingly sided and remained loyal to the Republic. This politically polarized Spain, dividing the country into the Nationalist and Republicans.
Mostly socialists, separatists, artists and intellectuals sided with Republicans. Franco wanted to follow Mussolini’s example and establish a secular conservative regime and was supported mostly by the conservatives, the military, the royalists and the Clergy. Even though the Church and the Falange experienced some friction, they continued to remain in their ‘marriage of convince’ because the Republic was seen as antidisestablishmentarian and lethally temporal. The Nationalists rose against the electoral Popular Front government and finally over threw it.
The interferences from external powers such as Germany and the Soviet Union dragged out the war and worsened the conflict. Horrific events which paralyzed the country, such as the annihilation of the Basque country by the German Luftwaffe’s Blitzkrieg, served as inspiration which sparked the notion of a world exhibition in France, in 1937. The section dedicated to Spain was known was the Pavilion. Many artists, such as Dali, Picasso and Renau were asked to participate; each created a response to the many atrocities which occurred in the past year of the war. It was the first exhibition of its kind, prompting propaganda from countries such as Spain.
Surrealism and the Spanish Civil War
Surrealism, with no exact definition due to its ambiguous nature, is known for ‘imaginative eccentricity’ and became a major movement in the late 1920s and throughout 1930s Europe; mostly in places like Germany and Spain. The twisted yet fantastic reality which surrealism creates is seen as an escape from the actual reality. Surrealist artist art is considered to be closely connected with Freudian psychological analysis, claiming that such warped art is an insight into a deeper psyche.
The surrealist works of the Andalusian painters Dalí and Picasso (amongst others) became signatures of the satirical content of the war, acting as world informants of the paralyzing happenings within the country. Although both artists had very different notions of surrealism, both artists depict the war in a grotesque, incomprehensible, violent and audacious manner which reflected the Civil War in all its accuracy. It can be concluded that the war distorted many perspectives of reality. Traditional elements of surrealism stemmed from the Dadaism movement and were subjected to metamorphosis by many artists who incorporated components from cubism, impressionism, ‘Enlightenment’ and post impressionism as well as various other movements. In its ‘purest form’, surrealism had little or no affect on the civil war, in fact, prior to the war, it was much more submissive and discerning. However, the introduction of war perverted the movement in Spain most notably by Dalí’s Autumn Cannibalism (1936) (fig. 2) and Soft Construction with Boiled Beans: Premonition of Civil War (July, 1936) (fig. 1) and Picasso’s Guernika (1937) (fig. 3). Such works were considered a mutation and mockery of works of artists from previous movements like El Greco whose work was considered contemporary for his time.
The Spanish surrealist art culture became a symbol of the Spanish Civil War as well as its leftist orientation and the Republic. This demonstrated the highly interlinked nature of political and cultural developments in 1930s Spain. Architects, like Alphonse Laurencic, drew inspiration from the twisted works of Dali, Kandinsky and Klee among others to invent a form of ‘psychotechnic’ torture found in the mind-bending prison-cells and torture chambers of Barcelona and elsewhere, built in 1938. Jose Millicua suggested that through the use of the psychological properties of colors and geometric abstraction found in these works, Laurencic created a hell that would physically distort and mentally disturb the victim connecting the growing art culture with the growing militaristic government.
Section C
Evaluation of Sources
Surrealism and the Spanish Civil War was written by Robin Adèle Greenley, a respected art historian, currently Latin American Studies professor at the Connecticut University. The book, published in 2006 by Yale University Press, New Haven, is a critical interpretation of Surrealist art works by five artists, including, Dali and Picasso. The purpose of Greenley’s work is an ‘attempt to unravel the correspondence between aesthetics and politics during the Spanish Civil War’ and focuses on surrealist aspects of the war, how they differed and were affected by the intense struggle plaguing the country. The value of the book is that there is a clear study of the correlation between the art and the events which took place. It is a secondary source, designed mainly for the purpose of educating. Greenley intimately analyzes how ‘artistic practice offers unique insight into the cataclysmic debacle of war.’ The limitation of the book from a historical perspective are the existence of some ‘peculiarities in relation to its subject’ because she examines the surrealist artists and their work immaculately, but fails to draw strong parallels between the political situation of the time and the drastic change of the movement. Her work, although useful, is mostly suited for contemporary aesthetics and critical theory.
The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí was written by Salvador Dali (published in 1942 in its original French, then in 2000, translated into English by Haakon M. Chevalier). The purpose of this source is a memoire, allowing an inside scope to Dali’s life. The source’s value is that it is a direct account from the leading artist of the Surrealist movement, providing the historian with a unique and personal insight as how the war impacted him and his work. Dali is considered one of the few misunderstood artists of his time and here the idea that ‘his genius saves him from chaos’ allows us to understand him more. The book allows a deeper understanding of the awesome painter. It is a primary source and therefore is subjected to personal prejudice. Taking into account that the source is a personal memoire, Dali has grandiose his life and placed a very positive theme to everything he did with is ingenious use of words. This highlights the limitations of the source. However, he acknowledges some of this over-the-top heroism on his part in the central chapters of his prose as ‘false memories’. The memoir written only three years after the war, and passions were still running high in Spain while many people were trying to exonerate themselves from the general violence and anarchy.
Section D
Both the civil war and the surrealist art movement are closely connected and referred to by Greenley, as the public’s awakening of politics and pictures in the politically polarized Spain. It is an accurate description of the relationship between the cultural and political aspects of the war, pointing out how closely connected the two were, although they are often treated as two separate issues within the 1930s.
Common Themes in Surrealist Art
Spain’s political polarization was that of artistic polarization too. The Spanish artistic culture were more than just a visual voice of the war’s terrors; they took a more proactive role within the war, thus recording and commenting on the accounts of the petrifying events from a firsthand perspective. The perversion of the surrealist art movement was done in a manner that possibly was perfectly collaborated between all artists. There is no evidence that suggests this, however. The idea of the body as a political metaphor for the country, the people, the artist, for the audience to relate to was simply a trend that caught on. The lewd art united the people, it was not only those who were suffering on Spanish soils, but those who had suffered from the previous war and the various other struggles that were happening concurrently or had passed recently. The surrealistic art ‘evolved and functioned’ in ways that ‘one can relate his stylistic consistencies to his wild political swings’ Both Greenley and Dalí agree that that surrealism is the portrayal ‘horrific metaphor for the physical annihilation of life.’
Prevalent abstract portrayal in surrealist works
Fundamental components which make up work such as that of Dalí and Picasso were considered contemporary, even for surrealism and, to some extent, were frowned upon and considered the ‘assassination of painting’. These innovative elements found in surrealism seemed to pervert the movement making reality more abhorrent and unnatural, but at the same time it acted as an escape from the living nightmares of their reality allowing life to have a more satirical texture to it. Things such as disembodied humans, genitals, death, destruction, furniture and foods even references to religion and Catholicism became the norm in surrealist works represented the supple irony of the artists’ lives as well as that of the people; they were painting from their perspective of a war that created a reality for the world that was so obscene, it could not be captured any other way
Spain’s political polarization was that of artistic polarization too. The Spanish artistic culture were more than just a visual voice of the war’s terrors; they took a more proactive role within the war, thus recording and commenting on the accounts of the petrifying events from a firsthand perspective. The perversion of the surrealist art movement was done in a manner that possibly was perfectly collaborated between all artists. There is no evidence that suggests this, however. The idea of the body as a political metaphor for the country, the people, the artist, for the audience to relate to was simply a trend that caught on. The lewd art united the people, it was not only those who were suffering on Spanish soils, but those who had suffered from the previous war and the various other struggles that were happening concurrently or had passed recently. The surrealistic art ‘evolved and functioned’ in ways that ‘one can relate his stylistic consistencies to his wild political swings’ Both Greenley and Dalí agree that that surrealism is the portrayal ‘horrific metaphor for the physical annihilation of life.’
Use of media
Elements of Spanish Surrealism became mostly to do with fascism in a farcical, perverse form of display, causing a ‘ruin of surrealism’. This was mostly Dali’s movement, joined with other surrealists like Rene Magritte and Max Ernst. Dali, in particular, served as the main revolutionary artist to this complex way of painting. The constant elements of his works were things he found some sort of fascination in as a child such as food, death, the idea of sexuality, the human anatomy, insects, a crutch, and various other strange items which he later turned into a satirical, metaphorical component for his work.
The idea of the body as a political metaphor became a fast trend throughout Surrealists work. The body came to represent many concepts of the happenings within their lives. It was a metaphor for the artist’s body, a body wounded by war and its ritualized combat, personal strife of civilians and artists, of politicized or sexualized body, an indicator of unconscious desires as well as body mechanisms acting as a transgression of avant-garde within the social context. It was created in a fashion as a universal component; anyone and everyone could relate to the art effortlessly.
Picasso’s Guernika (1937) utilized these aspects to create an unconscious conception of war, where the strong prey on the weak as a response to the Pavilion,capturing the violence and the disruptive nature of the confusion of private sexuality. It was a symbol of Guernica’s struggle and suffering after its violation by the German Blitzkrieg attack.
Dali’s Autumn Cannibalism (1936) also took into consideration these components, as well as his signature elements to represent the Kafkaesque idea of the war with a more ironic twist than Picasso’s art. Dali’s work making mockery of bourgeoisie and the subtle grotesque manner in which this war is carried out, an element of sadomasochistic aggression between the two faceless, closely entwined figures that have an almost parasitic feel to them, turning a seemingly amorous kiss into a fatal, inescapable trap; underlining the murderous violence depicted.
Artists’ social and political issues in their work
A majority of the art responses to the war were surrealist, proving an obvious correlation between the two events. The war had an overwhelming impact of the surrealist art movement inspiring artists such as Dalí and Picasso throughout Spain.
Section E
It is evident the Spanish Civil War had an impact on the surrealist visual art movement and altered, significantly, the ways in which the movement was captured. The fundamental elements and secondary components that such works were composed of obtained many satirical and metaphorical characteristics which were impacted very much by the war.
Previously, the image of the body as a perverse form of political metaphor was not thought of and therefore rarely appeared in surrealist paintings for the mutation of the body was seen as sacrilegious, and in doing so, the already worrying contemporary art became aesthetically tormenting The perverse maturity of the images from artists such as Dalí and Picasso have been used as ideal examples of this epic movement which altered not only the way people saw their reality but the global ideal of art and art history.
The Spanish Civil War did impact surrealist visual art in Spain by forcing the elements of the work not only more uniform among the artists but changed them to represent something more than the war in their minds.

Salvador Dali, Dadaism and Surrealism

“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings” The human mind is a very controlling device and organ. However it is not perfect in the way it processes things. Illusions for instance are visual stimuli that swindle the brain because the brain cannot process all visual imagery accurately. Why do we see puddles form up on the road whilst driving on a hot day? Why do certain parts of a drawing look bigger while in actually fact they are smaller? There have been numerous artists that have used illusions in their works, Scott Kim, M.C Escher, but what really brought fame to the surrealists in the 1990s? The Spanish painter Salvador Dali.

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A small amount has had such an impact on society as the eccentric painter whose paintings obsessed audiences for many years. Dali was immensely popular in the art community for his originality in work, and several of his paintings now stand as icons for his era. Dali was admired by the public because he embraced innovative ideas of the time, many of which were integrated into his works as well as his life. He continued to implement new ideas as times changed, which allowed him to keep his popularity within the public and art enthusiasts, possibly making him one of the most distinguished artists of the 1990s.
Salvador Dali (Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domenech) born in May 1904, in a minute town of figueres, in a region known as Catalonia. His parents gave him a lot of support as a young child, his first studio built for him at a very young age. Dali knowing that his parents recognised his potential from very early on gave him full support, until he reached the San Fernando Academy of fine arts in Madrid. All of Dali’s life he was distressed by many issues and complications, such as the death of his wife gala and the war, resulting in him being put in a state of paranoia. Nevertheless, he related to these problems, and his paintings gave him an opening in such ways that allowed him to express his feelings to a great extent, this also gave the public a viewing insight into his work, by examining his paintings we could also relate to them and see for ourselves how his paranoia overwhelmed him.
In relation to this Dali’s paranoia, a psychological method known as “paranoiac-critical” was created. The Paranoiac-Critical Method was developed by Dali as a way for him to dig out his internal emotions. It was an approach for artists to work throughout their obsessions by ultimately selecting and organizing meticulous objects on the canvas. Dali explained his paranoiac critical as a “Spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on critical and systematic objectivities of delirious associations and interpretations”.
When combining a method into a piece of work, usually a functional process of the brain is used to visualise imagery in the work, to combine these into the finished creation. Dali often used double imagery and multiple imagery, which then resulted into unclear images allowing them to be interpreted in different ways. Two good examples of Dali’s paranoiac- critical method and double imagery is the “The invisible Man” and “Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire”, for both of these paintings he has cleary used double imagery to trick the eye into thinking there is only one solid image but infact multiple images are present.
Disappearing Bust of Voltaire the Invisible Man
I see the paranoiac- critical method as being effortless, in my opinion Dali is fooling himself into going insane, while remembering the cause for madness is actually to create a work of art. Dali chose the difficult way by truly going crazy, rather than motivating madness through chemical means. As one of his quotes say, “I don’t take drugs. I am drugs,”
Andre’ Breton poems of Andre’
Surrealism was an artistic and literary faction that began in 1922 led by the French poet/ critic Andre Breton. Breton was the originator and primary theoretician of Surrealism, and artist association Committed to examining the unfounded, paranormal and intuitive aspects of the human mind. Surrealism sought to reinstate conventional moral and ethical concepts with beliefs of anger, hatred, etc, expressing emotions exaggeratedly that Breton described as “exalting the values of poetry, love, and liberty.” The surrealists attempted to bypass conscious determination and allow their unconscious take over their works. To explore the subconscious mind, to go beyond the typical thinking person.
Dadaism and Surrealism
Dada was a movement approximately around the same time as the first world. Dadaism was like a dispute against war, but not war but art. It was an anti- art. Dadaism felt as though the public no longer deserved the privilege of beautiful art that they had become so adapted to because of how the war came upon them, the feeling that people lost their well being and value. So Dadaism intentions were to make art unsightly, ugly. Surrealism emerged from what was still left of Dada (a European society characterized through its so called absurdity and lack of traditional standards, sometimes referred to as (nihilistic) a life without objectives or values. During the early years of the mid 1920’s and not like Dada, Surrealism alleged a capable and more positive outlook of art and from the outcome of this it went on to win several converts. Surrealism got its early era as a literary, not artistic, movement in French publications. One thing that Surrealism and Dadaism had in common was their faith in the understanding of the unconscious mind and also its manifestations, together they understood that throughout the unconscious mind an overabundance of artistic imagery would be unveiled. Together both called automatism.
A good example of Dadaism is Marcel Duchamp’s three dimensional piece ‘The Fountain’ it’s not what you would describe as a great piece of art. ‘The Fountain’ is what Duchamp would call a readymade. This piece is essentially a urinal with the word’ MUTT’ printed on it. I think this shows an ideal example of Dada for three reasons: to begin with it is in no way like art before, secondly the resources used are not what you would describe as standard art materials and thirdly this piece makes no sense what so ever. There is an obvious variation between this and Salvador Dali’s ” Persistance Of Memory”, in what i would describe as Duchamp slapping this piece together , on the other hand Dali has carefully painted in vast detail his thoughts, his mental image. This painting by Dali is what he would portray as “hand- painted dream photographs “- reuniting the unconscious mind with realism, reality.

Exploring Surrealism In Fashion Fashion Essay

You only have to take a glance at today’s catwalks and fashion magazines to see the unmistakable traits of Surrealism in fashion. How is it then that an art “initially composed of concepts and words and subsequently of images generated in the complexities of the intellect and subconscious imagination” (Martin 1987, p. 9) would forge such a harmonious relationship with fashion? In a bid to answer this question this thesis will investigate the origins of Surrealism in fashion and its enduring effects on the fashion industry to this day.

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In order to understand how an ideal founded on political reactions would find its way into the glamour and materialism of fashion, we will firstly begin with a brief analysis of Surrealism and the main ideologies of the movements. This essay will highlight the key steps in the progression of the Surrealist movement from its founding roots through to its manifestation in its most commonly recognised form, art.
Upon having completed a review on the key characteristics of Surrealist ideology we will then explore how each of these characteristics has been expressed through fashion. Though surrealism’s founding fathers would not have concerned themselves with the attire of their movement, the metaphorical and meaningful attributes of fashion created a natural avenue for the expression of surrealist ideas (Martin 1987).
No study on Surrealism in fashion would be complete without mention of its pioneering first lady, Elsa Schiaparelli. This essay will contain a case study on the life and works of Schiaparelli, focusing specifically on how she led the way in merging art with fashion by introducing Surrealist ideas in her designs. Her collaborations with artists such as Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Jean Cocteau “shocked” the fashion industry with its ingenuity and style.
A subsequent case study on Viktor & Rolf will examine the contribution of Surrealism in today’s fashion industry. Just like their predecessor Schiaparelli, Viktor & Rolf are known for their ability to “shock”, with their extravagant collections and high-concept catwalk shows (Evans & Frankel 2008). Though not explicitly billed as Surreal, the flamboyant designs of Viktor & Rolf exhibit tell tale characteristics of Surrealist ideas and serve as an ideal example of the height of Surrealism’s impact on today’s fashion.
This study aims to reveal the important role that Surrealism has played on the fashion industry. Both from a historical point of view in the way that it changed the way fashioned was viewed, as well as its continued impact on fashion as a source of inspiration for contemporary designers. The collaboration between artists and designers allowed for fashion to move forward in unprecedented ways, pioneered by the likes of Salvador Dali and Elsa Schiaparelli, and exemplified in today’s fashion by the likes of Viktor & Rolf.
Often when we hear the word “Surrealism” we automatically think of art and conjure up images from Dali and his contemporaries. However, in actual fact there is no such thing as surrealist art. At its true core surrealism is not a matter of aesthetics, but rather a way of thinking, a point of view (Waldberg 1997). It can be summed up quite well by Rimbaud’s dictum “Change life” (Levy 1995, p. 5).
Surrealism, through its roots in Dadaism, was a reaction to the philosophy of rationalism, which many felt had caused, through the Industrial Revolution, the disaster of World War I. Tristan Tzara, leader of the Dada movement, believed that a society that creates the monstrosity of war does not deserve art, so he developed anti-art in a bit to shock society through scandal (Sanchez 2000).
Lead by Andre Breton, the participants of the movement were influenced by the works of Sigmund Freund and Carl Jung. The differing interpretations “automatism”, a term used to describe one of Jung’s theories on personal analysis, split the movement into two distinct groups of thought (Sanchez M, 2007, P.49). Some went down the path of abstractionism, where calligraphy, animation and movement were the key attributes, regardless of the subject. Their belief was that images should not be burdened with meaning. The others however, believed that images could be a link between abstract spiritual realities. Through faithful representation, objects stood as metaphors for an inner reality (Waldberg 1997, p. 9).
For the purposes of this thesis, the focus will be on the latter interpretation of automatism in the realm of surrealism as it applies to a subset of artistic expression in the form of fashion design.
Surrealism in Fashion
Though surrealism’s founding fathers would not have concerned themselves with the attire of their movement, the metaphorical and meaningful attributes of fashion created a natural avenue for expression of surrealist ideas (Martin 1987, p. 9). Its appeal to the fashion industry was instantly obvious in the use of ordinary everyday objects and weird landscapes that transferred easily to fabric printing, jewelry, hats, couture etc, allowing designers the freedom to create “art pieces”. The amalgamation of surrealism and fashion changed the view of fashion from being disposable and unsubstantial to an art form in its own right (Warburton T, 2008, P. 2).
As surrealism evolved into an artistic style through the 1930’s and beyond, fashion became one of surrealism’s most observable juxtapositions between the ordinary and extraordinary, disfigurement and embellishment, body and concept, pretence and reality. This fascination worked both ways as what covered the body had always been important to the Surrealist philosophy, in the way that it allowed the imagination to wonder what lay underneath, and this translated easily into wearable garments. The inherent characteristics of fashion offered a natural association to the physical properties of disfigurement that was central to the Surrealist style.
Symbolism and Metaphors
Fashion and its instruments were at the core of Surrealist metaphor even before Surrealism found its way into fashion. The imaginary of women and beauty has long been a favourite topic for Surrealist artists. Based on the line by French poet Isidore Ducasse, “the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table”, Man Ray’s photograph of a sewing machine and an umbrella paved the way for the Surrealist study of the sewing machine object as a symbolic metaphor for woman. The sewing machine itself is the primary tool of fashion, and as such came to symbolise women, who at the time were the primary workers in the clothing industry. Therefore since the process is deemed female, so the result – fashion – is also deemed primarily female. Future Surrealist works would take this idea further such as Joseph Cornell’s untitled collage depicting a sewing machine producing not only a garment, but the woman within it also (Image 1). The sewing machine was a central metaphor in the Surrealist’s understanding of beauty within a woman as being composed of clothing and form.
Image 1 – Joseph Cornell, 1903, Untitled
Music was another key imagery in the Surrealist’s arsenal; in particular musical instruments and their resemblance to the female form. This objectification of women included the idea of women being substitutes for musical instruments. Perhaps one of the most famous of Man Ray’s photographs Le Violon d’Ingres (Image 2) fittingly illustrates this concept. This exact imagery has been used many times in fashion from Christian Lacroix’s Violin Dress (Image 3) to more recently Viktor & Rolf’s black violin dress (Image 4). Influenced by Dali and Man Ray themselves, Elsa Schiaparelli also used musical notes and instruments in her designs (Image 5).
Image 2 – Man Ray, 1924, Le Violon d’Ingres
Image 4 – Viktor &Rolf, Spring/Summer 2008, Harlequin Collection
[Mention mirrors?]
Human Form and Parts
The mannequins and dress forms of fashion created the ideal playground for the Surrealist’s appropriation of the human body. The bottle for Elsa Schiaparelli’s fragrance Shocking adopted the shape of a human torso (Image 6) is a prime example of the Surrealist ideal of the conversion between the living and the inanimate. These surrogates for living figures allowed for greater distortion and display than real models, thus allowing the Surrealist to fully examine the relationship between clothing and the naked body.
The Surrealist fascination with parts of the body as symbolic representations is central to the understanding of Surrealist works. To the Surrealist, the eyes represent not only optical vision, but also dreaming, sight, voyeurism, and even blindness. Yves Saint Laurent’s used this convention in 1980, producing a jacket with emblazoned eyes, Les Yeux d’Elsa, paying homage to Schiaparelli as the greatest advocate of Surrealist fashion (Image 7). The French designer also used lips, a commonly used decorative device in surreal art, in his Lip Dress; the alignment of the lips with the breasts, creating a distinctive Surrealist touch along with sexual overtones (Image 8).
Image 6 – Elsa Schiaparelli, 1973, Shocking
Perhaps the most imaginative of the abstracted parts are the hands. Used widely by Surrealists in all manner of creative, sexual and functional contexts. Schiaparelli’s jacket embroidered by Jean Cocteau plays on the functional concept of hands being a natural device for belting around the waist (Image 9). This is also emulated in Francios Lesage’s Hand Belt (Image 10) and Marc Jacob’s l’Oeil Beaded Dress (Image 11). Likewise, Pierre Cardin’s leather shoes in the shape of feet draw out the functional characteristics of feet (Image12).
Displacement of Objects
One of the most common devices of Surrealism is the placement of everyday objects in unusual places. The dysfunction and dislocation of an object allows for a redefining of that object and a friction between the conventional and the subliminal.
One obvious method of displacing object is by using it backwards as is the case with the backwards jacket created by Karl Lagerfeld (Image 13), originally pencilled by Elsa Schiaparelli. Viktor & Rolf created a similar effect by presenting a whole collection of dresses worn upside down and a show itself that was run completely back to front (Image 14).
However, displacement is not confined to within the realm of fashion itself. Objects from one classification can be used within another to create an even more vivid reaction. Dali’s fusion of furniture and the human form inspired Schiaparelli’s design of a desk coat (Image 15) and later on Doline Dritsas’s Painted-Silk Drawer Dress (Image 16). The use of traditionally non-fashion related objects in fashion is common among contemporary designers. Viktor & Rolf have often used objects such as bells, pillows and even spotlights in their designs.
Hats have offered some of the most interesting examples of this Surrealist philosophy; from Schiaparelli’s Dali inspired shoe hat (Image 17), to Karl Lagerfeld’s mini sofa chair hat (Image 18). The hat is an appropriate agent not only because its function allowed for a seemingly limitless display of dissimilar objects, but it also enabled the ridicule of the hat as a symbolic accessory in culture, ceremony and rank.
Image 14 – Viktor & Rolf, Spring/Summer 2006,Upside Down Collection
Nature and Fantasy
The natural world itself offered the Surrealist with an array of symbolic objects. Some chose to contort existing symbols and metaphors, such as Rene Magritte’s unconventional mermaid (Image 19); while others chose to make up their own eccentric associations, the perfect example being Dali’s association of the lobster with female genitalia (Image 20). Dali’s obsession with the lobster influenced Schiaparelli’s legendary “lobster dress” (Image 21), the painted lobster deliberately placed at the front of the dress over the woman’s groin area
Surrealists had a particular interest in fantasy and the worlds within the imagination
They had a fondness of merging things in nature with the human body
Looking for objects within nature to symbolise certain things such as sexuality, beauty, metamorphosis
Image 19 – Rene Magritte, 1934, A Reverse Mermaid
Image 20 – Salvador Dali
Image 21 – Elsa Schiaparelli, 1937, Organza Dress with Painted Lobster
Surrealism in the Fashion Industry
Throughout the 1930s and 40s major Surrealist figures entered the realm of fashion, fashion advertising and shop front displays. Spurned by the first generation of pure Surrealists they sought a channel to continue their exploration into the reconciliation of revolutionary art and everyday realities. By enlisting the talents of notable Surrealists such as Jean-Michel Frank, Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton and May Ray, fashion magazines became the method for the propagation of Surrealist style.
The partial figure, dislocation of body parts and the placement of these parts in unnatural settings were adopted by new fashion imagery in the 1930s. The Surrealist’s ability to juxtapose the real and the imaginary made it an ideal form for advertising and media expression.
Case Study 1: Elsa Schiaparelli
For Elsa Schiaparelli, her works were more about the passion and energy than fashion and design itself. What mattered to her more was that moment of inspiration (Martin 1987, p. 197). Born to an intellectual family in Rome, the would-be French designer’s work is best known for its Surrealist period in the 1930s, yet her work can be traced back to the 1920s during the earlier Futurism movement. Her marriage to Theosophist Wilhelm Wendt de Kerlor in 1914 encouraged a bohemian existence that led to encounters with a broad circle of international avant-garde artists and thinkers including Dada artist Francis Picabia and surrealist photographer, Man Ray.
Through collaborative efforts with Surrealist artists like Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Salvador Dalí and Marcel Vertès she was able to bring enthusiasm and spontaneity to her collections. The Modernist characteristics and avant garde style of Schiaparelli’s work must have reflected their interests. Her simple and sharp design aligned well with their modern lifestyle in tailored suits and evening dresses; and her witty persona esteemed her original designs with embroidery and complementary colors fit for an active clientele (Bryan 2010).
Schiaparelli was more an artistic designer than a refined designer, always grasping at ideas but not extracting a style from her garments. In her mind, the objectives of both the designer and artist were equal, and that “a garment was a place for artistic expression rather than a medium for the couturier’s craft” (Martin, P.198). The defining characteristic of Schiaparelli was her daringness to dream, enabling her to bring creations of pure, undiluted inspiration to fashion.
A keen interest in unusual materials kept Schiaparelli at the forefront of design innovation. She was persistent in accruing new fabrics for fashion, especially manmade fabrics which were intentionally different from natural fabrics. Her use of cellophane like materials played on the illusions of transparency (The Torso, Picture Book, P.65), and hard rendered soft materials challenged the traditional notions of the properties of materials. In one instance Schiaparelli commissioned the creation of a newspaper-clipping fabric, producing a paradox between the expected ruffle and stiffness of newspaper with the softness of fabric. She also designed a number of accessories to complement her garments; costume jewelry, hand bags as bird cages and even necklaces made of insects (Picture from Elsa picture book, P.43). Most of these were created to make a statement rather than to be worn on the street.
Not only was Schiaparelli eager to use unconventional materials in her garments, she was also zealous in adopting new fashion innovations of her time. Invented in 1936, the zipper was already being used by Schiaparelli in imaginative ways. Though we may look at a wool dress with a zipper and contrasting colours and see nothing sublimely Surreal about it now, at the time it was considered novel and daringly inventive.
In the 1937-38 season, Schiaparelli “shocked” the world with her Jean Cocteau jacket (Martin, P.100). The jacket presents an illusion of hands clasping the waste complemented by the profile of a figure and a cascade of hair down the side of the arm. In typical Surrealist style it creates a friction between the figure on the jacket and the wearer, frustrating the viewer’s attempt to place parts of the body in relationship with the figure. That same year also saw the creation of the iconic, Dali inspired lobster dress (Picture book, P.46). An elegant party dress imprinted with a giant lobster. The lobster was a prime example of the Surrealist vocabulary of forms, Dali using it as a substitute for female genitalia and sexuality.
Of all of Schiaparelli’s artistic collaborations, it is the one with Salvador Dali which produced some of the most imaginative and unusual results. In 1936, Schiaparelli and Dali presented suits and jackets with bureau-drawer pockets reflecting themes prevalent in Dali’s Art. In that same year, she and Dali created the “Shoe Hat” (Martin, P.111), a black felt concoction in the shape of a high-heeled shoe with a shocking pink heel. In these designs, Schiaparelli and Dali used the idea of displacement, where an object is selected and then removed from its usual environment. In doing so, they modify the object’s original purpose. The same Surrealist idea of displacement can also be seen on another of their collaborations, the “Mutton Hat” (Example?). With the desk suit, shoe hat and mutton hat, the artist and the designer altered an object’s conventional meaning by transforming it into an item of clothing.
The beginning of the Second World War put a halt on Schiaparelli’s work, which after the war would not return to the same level of exuberance as the past. Her glory was brief, but left a lasting impact on both art and fashion. Perhaps Schiaparelli’s most important legacy was in bringing to fashion the playfulness and sense of “anything goes” of the Dada and Surrealist movements. She was an artist in the world of couture, not a designer involved in the evolution of designs. A pioneer, whose inspiration and merger of the arts altered clothing with a capacity to be art, enabling it to be more than just apparel.
Case Study 2: Viktor & Rolf
Viktor & Rolf started in 1993 with the pairing of two Dutch graduates, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren. Ever since then they have endeavoured to blur the line between art and fashion. Through their early instillations at European galleries, Viktor & Rolf quickly gained a reputation as high-end conceptual designers who created images and ideas rather than commercial fashion (Evans C. and Frankel S. 2008, P10). Though early on they were known for wowing the fashion press but not selling a stitch Viktor & Rolf made a move from haute couture to ready-to-wear in 2000.
Similar to conceptual art, conceptual fashion involves works in which concepts and ideas take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Aside from the garments themselves, conceptual fashion was marked with radically new retail spaces, experimental fashion shows and adventurous publishing ventures. All of which have been exemplified in the works and methods of Viktor & Rolf; their upside down store in Milan, performance piece catwalk shows and designs for “miro-zines” such as Visionaire.
For Viktor & Rolf, couture is an artistic medium, and a playground for the expression of ideas. They are innovative designers who make exquisite and technically amazing garments, yet at the same time they are commentators of their own industry. This is probably most evident in their early gallery installations, as many were critiques and commentaries on the difficulty of breaking into the fashion industry. The pair’s first collection of over-sized dresses expressed their feelings of minuteness in the threatening world of Paris fashion. The internal referencing of the industry itself can also be seen in Viktor & Rolf’s use of Yves Saint Laurent emblazoned fabrics and paying homage to the iconic silhouettes of Chanel, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent in their “Black Hole” collection. More recently their “The Fashion Show” collection presented their view on the importance of the fashion show itself to the industry. The garments for this collection were draped over scaffolding and spot lights worn by the model in a surreal juxtaposition of hard metallic frames and soft flowing fabric.
Having mostly displayed their work through art gallery instillations for the initial few years of their career, Viktor & Rolf had their first fashion show during the 1998 Paris Fashion Week, albeit without the endorsement of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the regulators of haute couture. However, even then, their works hardly existed outside the realm of the fashion show. As one magazine put it “their gowns tend to go straight from the catwalks into art museums rather than into wardrobes” (Tuner J. 2000).The almost virtual nature of their garments prevented them from initially being granted admittance to the Chambre Syndicale. Despite not conforming to the Chambre’s requirements, it was their success in the fashion press and magazines that eventually gained them the respect and recognition for membership.
Through their simulation of an emergence into the fashion industry via media channels, Viktor & Rolf were able to do it for real. In doing so, they had also discovered the rising importance of images in an ever more media rich society. They grappled with the philosophy that our perception of reality is shaped by images and that illusion is now a new form of reality; believing that “fashion doesn’t have to be something that people wear. Fashion is also an image” (Gan S. 2001). This ideology is personified in their Autumn/Winter 2002-03 collection labelled “Bluescreen”. Models dressed all in blue were recorded via a video camera with the image then being projected onto large screens. On the screen, urban and natural landscapes were transposed onto the blue areas utilizing a movie industry method for creating special effects, thus creating a blur between image and reality.
The innovative and often outlandish clothes produced by Viktor & Rolf where often complimented by the surreal theatrics of the fashions shows that they were displayed in. In their Autumn/Winter 1998-99 collection “Atomic Bomb”, the duo fused the silhouette of mushroom clouds with the human form by installing silk padding to inflate the clothes. The apocalypse themed show was followed by models parading the same outfits, however with the implants removed to reveal the graceful draping of the clothes. They used a similar dichotomy in their Spring/Summer 2006 “Upside Down” collection, showcasing pieces that could be worn bottom up or bottom down; presented on the catwalk one way then the other. Applying the same surreal reasoning, the show itself was presented entirely backwards, with the designers appearing first followed by a procession and then the presentation of each individual piece.
Perhaps one of Viktor & Rolf’s most memorable shows was for their Autumn/Winter 1999-2000 “Russian Doll” collection. The show was more a performance piece, involving just one model who was dressed one piece at a time in layers of couture dresses by the designers themselves. The resulting effect was that of a reverse Martryoshka doll. This fascination with dolls has been prevalent throughout their career since their “Launch” instillation of miniatures in 1996 to their latest offering at London’s Barbican Art Gallery. Proving that their move to more commercial markets has not diminished the duo’s affinity towards Surrealism, the 2008 Barbican display consists of a gigantic dollhouse inhabited by 55 dolls clothed with miniaturised Viktor & Rolf outfits showcasing their 15 year career, aptly named “The House of Viktor & Rolf”.
In 2004 the duo launched a perfume called “Flowerbomb” and in fine Surrealist fashion packaged it in a grenade shaped bottle. Complimenting that was a clothing collection featuring the excessive use of oversized bows and ribbons. Viktor & Rolf’s penchant for the Surrealist ideology of displacement of objects can be further witnessed by their “Bells” collection of garments, heavily embroidered with brass bells, and the use of pillows and quilting in their intimate “Bedtime Story” collection.
Not only do Viktor & Rolf draw on the ideologies of the Surrealism movement, but their works also show inspiration from other Surrealist artists. The ever present trait of medieval carnival was brought out explicitly in their Spring/Summer 2008 “Harlequin” collection. The garments exhibited references to commedia dell’arte, a theme that was once adopted by the queen of Surrealist fashion, Elsa Schiaparelli (Evans C. and Frankel S. 2008, P16). Motifs of violins adorning the dresses paid homage to Surrealist photographer May Ray and his famous image, Le Violon d’Ingres (Image 2).
Though not known specifically as Surrealist designers the characteristics of Surrealism are clearly evident in Viktor & Rolf’s designs. They have used Surrealist methods such as the displacement of objects, manipulation of the human form and merging of the real and imaginary as tools for their own conceptual ideas. Just like their predecessors, in the likes of Elsa Schiaparelli, they employ these methods to create innovative and “shocking” garments often more akin to art, than off-the-shelf fashion.
The Lasting Impact of Surrealism on Fashion
When Surrealism came to fashion it was with a passion, engulfing the fashion arts with an enthusiasm that has never left. Over time ideas about fashion presentation in magazines, window displays and apparel have evolved, but Surrealism remains fashion’s favourite art.
The collaboration between artists and designers allowed for fashion to move forward in unprecedented ways, pioneered by the likes of Dali and Elsa Schiaparelli, and exemplified in today’s fashion by the likes of Viktor & Rolf.

Analysis of Automatism & Veristic Surrealism

“Surrealism was a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely, that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in an absolute reality, a surreality.” Andre Breton, a major spokesman of the movement gave this proclamation as the principal founder of Surrealism. This paper will start off by explaining the main influences on Surrealism art; The cultural Movement called Dada, the principal founders of Surrealism; Andre Breton, Sigmund Freud and a psychiatrist, Carl Jung. Two separate forms of expression in Surrealism arose through different conceptual theories which derived from specific formations such as Dadaism and the theories of Breton, Freud and Jung. Through the clarification of the founding and influences on Surrealism, the research question: “Surrealism art and the comparisons of the two formations of Automatism and Veristic Surrealism” will be responded.

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The founding of the Surrealist movement has a great deal to do with the development of the two eccentric groups; Verisitic surrealism and Automatism. The beginnings of the Surrealist movement and how it derived from the Ideas of the Dada movement in World War I will be explained in the first section of this paper. The Dada movement was a cultural movement that came to believe that the true cause of the war arrived upon the ideas of excessive rational thought and bourgeois values. Surrealism flourished as a reaction to Dadaism, but rather than the negative approach Dadaism had, Surrealists developed a constructive approach in sharing their beliefs of rational thought to society.
Surrealism has been greatly influenced by Andre Breton a French writer and poet, and the discoveries of Sigmund Freud and his co-workers. During the war Andre Breton trained in medicine and psychiatry where he used psychoanalytic methods of Sigmund Freud, with the aim of trying to expand the potential of the mind by reconciling the opposing states of dream and reality.2 Freud was able to develop techniques allowing individuals to release their imagination through his exertion of work with free association, dream analysis, and the unconscious, which ultimately became of great importance to the Surrealists. Their accomplishments and investigations will be discussed further to form a basis of knowledge of the founding of Surrealism in order to be able to understand and compare Veristic Surrealism and Automatism to the fullest.
In the next section Carl Jung will be discussed in relation to the formation of Automatism and Veristic Surrealism. A Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, was the founder of analytical psychology. Carl Jung was the first modern psychologist to deeply investigate the human mind and stated that our minds are in nature religious. He profoundly explored dream analysis as did Sigmund Freud. Jung stated that the images of the subconscious should be accepted as they came into consciousness and not be judged purely so that the images could be accurately evaluated. This principle is what founded the surrealism style of Automatism and is therefore a significant element to this paper.
The automatisms came to express themselves in the abstract tradition, while the Veristic surrealists expressed themselves in the symbolic tradition. As a result of extracting the resemblance and contrasts in the judgments of the Veristic and Automatist groups, the research question will most efficiently be answered.
Two famous artists: Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí, arrived from the principal ideas of Surrealism, yet they had very different ways of approaching their art styles which were formed by two different groups; Automatism and Veristic Surrealism. The works of Dali and Picasso will be compared thoroughly in this paper to further emphasize the distinction of the two groups. Picasso used and believed in the Automatism form of surrealism while Salvador Dalí was a practitioner of the Veristic form of Surrealism. Picasso’s work developed into a more primary form of art rather than the traditional artistic practices where precision was essential. A majority of his work was based in the notion that children’s ingenuity can present us directly to the unconscious. Salvador Dalí’s work juxtaposes anachronistic images which developed more directly from Dadaism. Dalí profoundly believed that art should be studied and mastered, and that expression of the unconscious would become visible from metaphor.
An important quality to surrealist works is the element of surprise, where often images are used with apparent lack of relative meaning in comparison to its context. Surrealism art is created through the subconscious mind with its purpose to create incomprehensible visual imagery. Relying greatly on theories from Sigmund Freud, Breton viewed the unconscious as the source of our imagination. The Surrealist movement carries on thriving throughout the world with persistent thought processes and investigations into the mind which have produced some of the finest art ever seen. 1 With this thought kept at the back of ones mind while reading this paper, the exhilarating question of the importance of Surrealism and how it came to evolve to two separate forms: Automatism and Veristic Surrealism will be carefully examined.
The Dada movement was a cultural movement which flourished in the 20th century between world war I and II. They were known for questioning political culture in order to test the human mind and challenge it to view things in an entirely different manner than used to. The principal growth point of Surrealism was the founding of Dadaism during World War I, when famous artists and writers initially from Paris spread and became part of the Dada movement.2 The Dada movement created works of anti-art prior to World War I, which purposely defied reason. Surrealism emphasis was not on abolition of popular culture but on reinforcement of the power of positive expression of the mind. The Dada movement expressed a response against what they perceived as the destruction shaped by “rationalism” in the past which lead European culture and politics and began the terror of World War I.1
Due to the Dadaism attack on society at the end of the First World War, the Surrealist movement gained momentum. Tristan Tzara, the leader of the Dada movement aimed to attack society through scandal. Tzara strongly believed that art is not worthy for a society that creates war. Therefore he decided to give society anti-art; which is defined as ugliness rather than beauty. They intended to insult the new industrial commercial world, however they weren’t insulted, but instead thought that their rebellion was directed to the old art and patrons of feudalism and church domination.
The Surrealist artists were those that did not embrace anti-art which got rid of what all artists have learned and passed on about art. Surrealism split into two separate groups in the 1930’s when artists expressed themselves in the more symbolic or abstract tradition. These two groups were the Automatists and the Veristic Surrealists.2 The artists in the movement studied the works of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. To understand the Veristic and Automatist surrealists, the work of Freud and Jung will be analyzed in the next section.
Andre Breton and Sigmund Freud
Andre Breton, a French writer and a poet, was the principal founder of Surrealism. Throughout World War I, Breton skilled in medicine and psychiatry at the neurological hospital, where he employed Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic techniques with soldiers suffering from shell-shock. Using the psychoanalytic studies of Sigmund Freud, the surrealists attempted to increase the mind’s potential by integrating the separate states of dream and reality. Breton and his companions tried to place themselves in a hallucinatory state, in which they thought they were able to perfectly obtain their subconscious minds and extract pure thoughts, uncontaminated by the conscious mind and its rational restrictions.2
Freud’s work with free association, dream analysis, and the unconscious, was essential for the Surrealists so that they could discover new ways to liberate the minds thoughts. They embraced unusual behavior, while rejecting its chance of mental illness. They emphasized the reality that “one could combine inside the same frame, elements not normally found together to produce illogical and startling effects.” In 1924, Breton included the idea of the juxtapositions in his manifesto: “a juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities. The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is distant and true, the stronger the image will be — the greater its emotional power and poetic reality.”
The literary journal Littérature contained a published record of dreams and writings of their experimentation of automatic writing, written by André Breton, Louis Aragon and Philippe Soulpault. Automatic writing is where they were able to write and draw impulsively without containing their judgment.
While they developed their theories and continued publishing, they concluded that Surrealism sustained the idea that “ordinary expressions are essential, but that the logic of their understanding must be fully open to the full imagination.” In the end, the movement intended to change and modernize human understanding and experience, in all aspects; personal, cultural, social, and political. They ultimately aimed to release citizens from false wisdom, and restrictive customs.
Carl Gustave Jung
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) a psychiatrist from Switzerland was significant in the analytical movement. Freud laid the scientific foundation for Jung to investigate further how the unconscious reveals itself though symbols. To recognize and understand his dreams, Jung painted and sculpted his own visions.
Jung’s theory of the human mind consisted of three fractions: the ego (conscious mind), the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious which we yet can never be directly aware of is “the reservoir of our experiences as a species, a kind of knowledge we are all born with.” It manipulates all of our decisions indirectly, particularly the emotional ones.
Automatism was termed as Jung stated that one should not judge the vision of thoughts, but accept them purely as they are for personal and proper analysis. The suggestions of these new psychological theories captivated many artists. From the theories they were able to recognize that the unconscious has essential messages for the conscious mind, and that it is at first perceived through images while in the end communicated through language.
Surrealist artists sought after the relation between the abstract spiritual realities and the actual forms of the material world in their work. The object in actuality stands as a metaphor for an inner deeper truth. By analyzing their art work, artists could bring the inner realities of the subconscious to the conscious mind, so that their significance could be made sense of.

“Therein lies the social significance of art: It is constantly at work educating the spirit of the age, conjuring up the forms in which the age is more lacking. The unsatisfied yearning of the artist reaches back to the primordial image in the unconscious, which is best fitted to compensate the inadequacy and one-sidedness of the present. The artist seizes on this image and, in raising it from deepest unconsciousness, he brings it into relation with conscious values, thereby transforming it until it can be accepted by the minds of his contemporaries according to their powers.”

Automatism & Veristic Surrealism
Michael S. Bell, a specialist in American Art, has been a major voice in the academic art world to distinguish Visionary Art. He researched the Surrealist phenomena where he recently was the first to discover two separate forms of expression in surrealism; Automatism and Veristicism. “Automatism is a form of abstraction. It has been the only type of surrealism accepted by critical reviewers after the war.”6 While both groups point of view stayed the same, their foundation was different due to their diverse interpretations of the works and experiments of Breton, Freud and Jung.
Automatism: Automatism is mainly for the intention of self analysis where like Jung stated, one does not evaluate the image of the subconscious but accepts it as they come into consciousness so that it can be accurately analyzed. For the Automatists, Surrealism was interpreted as a control of the consciousness which supports the sub conscious. Automatists were more concerned about the true feelings rather than the analysis itself. It was their automatic way in which their subconscious reached their conscience. Rather than what was really there they focused on emotions and feelings that took place before the final image, therefore their paintings were also a lot more abstract in comparison to the Veristic Surrealists.
Although free expression of feelings had always been an important factor in the history of art, the Automatists didn’t believe in it.2 To them, abstractionism was simply the only approach that was able to carry life to the images of the subconscious. Automatists took a more Dadaist approach where they presented scandal and disrespect towards those that were privileged and thought that through lack of form in their art, they were rebelling against them.
Automatism is an abstract artistic form greatly influenced by Carl Jung & Sigmund Freud. The most significant painters of abstract Surrealism or Automatism were; Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Andre Masson.The automatic drawings of André Masson’s in 1923, are often used as an illustration of the point of recognition of Surrealism and the break from Dada, in view of the fact that they reveal the influence of the idea of the unconscious mind.2 Andre Masson was very passionate for automatic drawing. By forcing himself to work under very strict conditions, Masson would for example draw under the influence of drugs or after long periods of time without food nor sleep. By forcing himself into a reduced state of consciousness he believed it would facilitate his art to get closer to the mechanism of his subconscious mind and therefore be free from rational control.
“Bison on the brink of a chasm 1944, Andre Masson”
The Veristic Surrealists, viewed academic discipline as the assets to represent images of the subconscious with reality. This was a way for them to congeal images that normally would be forgotten if not recorded. They aimed in discovering a way to go after the images of the subconscious until the conscience could be aware of their significance. The image itself is the language of the subconscious, as the consciousness learned to interpret the images so that it could translate it into its true meaning. For the Veristic surrealists, the images represent a metaphor for the inner reality. They wanted to authentically characterize these images as a bond between the abstract spiritual realities, and the real forms of the material world. 6
The Veristic surrealists split from Automatism principally by defining the unconscious as visualized by psychiatrist Carl Jung. The universal unconscious was Jung’s theory that every individual holds an instinctive knowledge and understanding of images, as the images are universal in nature and recur constantly in literature and art. Veristic surrealists hoped to understand and gain access to unconscious thoughts by looking into the image and what it represents.
Paintings of the Veristic Surrealists usually consisted of images portraying people and objects which appeared to look realistic but were shown in an odd manner. A good way to define Veristic Surrealism is as “representational” Surrealism. Some of the most famous painters of Veristic Surrealism were Salvador Dalí, Rene Magritte and Max Ernst.
Veristic Surrealism in its progression has become a new kind of art that in the words of Donald Kuspit, “Must first show that it has democratic appeal-appeal to those generally unschooled in art or not professionally interested in it. Then it must suffer a period of aristocratic rejection by those schooled in an accepted and thereby ‘traditional’ form of art-those with a vested interest in a known art and concerned with protecting it at all costs.”6 Individuals who are able to follow the images of the subconscious, and with endurance, cannot only paint their thoughts but also analyze them carefully, have a great understanding of the spiritual interactions between the psychological, and the physical areas.
Salvador Dalí and Veristic Surrealism
Salvador Dalí is an example of a famous and successful Veristic surrealism painter. He often juxtaposes contrary or anachronistic images into his art work which follow similar ideas coming directly from Dadaism. Salvador Dalí expressed his thoughts in his paintings through symbols and imagery in a direct and vulgar way which relates more closely to the way in which the Dadaists approached their ideas. On the contrary, Dalí believed that art should be studied and mastered, and that artistic skill was of great importance, which is something the Dadaists principally did not follow. Dadaism made anti-art, unattractive art made to frown upon the bourgeois and to make a higher statement of their values against them. Salvador Dalí also believed that expression of the unconscious would be revealed through metaphor when analyzing a painting.