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Surrealism

Surrealist Manifesto, Un Chien andalou, L'Age d'or, Nadja, Le Paysan de Paris

marvellous produced breton world

was a European movement in the arts, centred on the proclamations and activities of André Breton (18961966) in Paris. It included work in film, painting, and literature, although it was opposed to the very notion of art as irredeemably bourgeois. The Surrealists sought immediate, uncensored contact with the unconscious and the unintelligible, and the principle of automatic writing was at the heart of their enterprise. They were interested in dreams, Freud, political revolution, whatever seemed to them to deny or overturn conventional rationality. ‘The marvellous is always beautiful’, Breton said in the first Surrealist Manifesto (1924); ‘anything marvellous is beautiful; indeed, only the marvellous is beautiful.’ In spite of the anarchy of their ambitions, the Surrealists produced some notable art in several areas: what remains is not the gesture of rebellion but an eerie sense of the revelation of repressed or neglected material, the continuing threat which apparent nonsense poses to apparent order. In painting René Magritte produced haunting work, and there are still surprises in the over-produced dreamscapes of Dali. Buñuel and Dali's films Un Chien andalou (1929) and L'Age d'or (1930) remain powerful and disturbing. In prose, Breton's Nadja (1928) and Aragon's Le Paysan de Paris (1926) eloquently evoke the mood of the movement; its most gifted and memorable poets were Paul Éluard and Robert Desnos. Surrealism was very much an expression of the period between the wars, a French cousin of Anglo-American Modernism, although its politics were very different. It was a response to the sense of betrayal widely felt in Europe after the First World War, and it faded as the approach of the Second World War brought to the fore a new order of anxieties and needs.

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