“Although the dream is a very strange phenomenon and an inexplicable mystery, far more inexplicable is the mystery and aspect our minds confer on certain objects and aspects of life.” G. de Chirico
The Surrealist movement was founded in Paris by a small group of writers and artists who sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination. Disdaining rationalism and literary realism, and powerfully influenced by Sigmund Freud, the Surrealists believed the conscious mind repressed the power of the imagination, weighting it down with taboos. Influenced also by Karl Marx, they hoped that the psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spur on revolution. Their emphasis on the power of the imagination puts them in the tradition of Romanticism, but unlike their forbears, they believed that revelations could be found on the street and in everyday life. The Surrealist impulse to tap the subconscious mind, and their interests in myth and primitivism, went on to shape the Abstract Expressionists, and they remain influential today.
Though the Surrealist movement was officially founded in 1924, the term was first coined in 1917, when Guillaume Apollinaire used it in program notes for the ballet Parade, written by Pablo Picasso, Leonide Massine, Jean Cocteau, and Erik Satie. It began as a literary group strongly allied to the Dada movement, and emerged in the wake of the collapse of the group in Paris, when André Breton’s eagerness to bring purpose to the group clashed with Tristan Tzara’s anti-authoritarianism. Breton – who is occasionally described as the ‘Pope’ of Surrealism – would go on to be the most important figure in the movement, the impresario whose strong leadership gave it cohesion through its many reincarnations until his death in 1966.