What is Surrealism?

The word “surrealist” was coined by poet Guillaume Apollinaire, in the preface to his play Les Mamelles de Tirésias, first performed in 1917. However, surrealism was officially founded in 1924, when André Breton, the undisputed “pope” of surrealism, wrote the First Manifesto:

Under the pretense of civilization and progress, we have managed to banish from the mind everything that might rightly or wrongly be termed superstition or fancy, forbidding any kind of research into the truth which doesn’t conform to accepted practices. We must give thanks to Freud for his discoveries: on the basis of his research, the explorers of humanity will be able to push their investigations much further... I believe in the future resolution of dream and reality, in a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, so to speak.

This introductory gallery emphasizes the collective nature of surrealism, with genealogies, manifestoes, group portraits, and lists of members, as well as documents pertaining to the international spread of the movement in the 1930s. By the 1960s, surrealism had become a part of both pop culture and high culture.

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