A Short History of Surrealism

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A short history of surrealism

In the Beginning the Literary Revolution
Immediately after World War I (1914-18), the cultural sensibility of Europe was in a lively state. Young people who were left after the high-minded propaganda were brought to a state of heart felt protest, it was feared that the best people were killed in the war and that the discoveries and innovations before the war would be lost. Although Europe was certainly not without genius, the war had brought a rift in the European art community. Dada was making its mark, and the anti-art manifestations of Marcel Duchamp were building up until 1916, when an uproar was organized and promoted by Tristan Tzara. Ironically Dadaism was directed against art, particularly academic art, but also against the political society as a whole. The pamphlet Der Dada proclaimed the death of art and that Dada was politics. There were 20,000 copies printed of Der Ventilator, founded by Max Ernest and Hans Arp with Baargeld. They organized an exhibition of art which brought the police to the little restaurant where it was held. The means used by this agitation passed at the time for anti-art, but they very soon became - to some extent Surrealism - an integrated part of the renewal of artistic activity. A number of technical resources and creative approaches applied by Surrealists were invented by the Dada movement. Most Surrealists took part in Dada meetings and the first text published Les Champs Magnetiques was not classified as surrealist at first but much later on it was. It was written in the sprit of Dadist, but it also proves by the power of the imagination and certain experimental seriousness, that Breton in spite of all the dada fuss never lost hold of thread of his poetry and symbolism. Francis Picabia arrived in Paris at the same time as Tzara. He came from America by way of Barcelona, where the journal 291 became 391 in 1917. This review-pamphlet reached nineteen issues by 1924. on arriving in Paris he shocked Salon d' Automne of which he was a member by exhibiting the products of his mechanist period. During the same period, Marcel Duchamp was in New York working on his large paintings on glass, "The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even" Which he abandoned unfinished in 1923 in order to devote himself to chess. After his success in the Armory Show, a major exhibition of modern art in New York 1913 - among which Duchamp showed his "Nude Descending a Staircase" When Dada split into mini-groups, a single, compact Surrealist group formed. In June 1924 the last issue of "Literature" appeared. The headquarters of Surrealism, the Centrale Surrealiste, were established and from here was published on December 1, 1924 the "most shocking review in the world', La revolution Surrealiste. And Breton published the first Manifesto. Surrealism had arrived.

The Surrealist Revolution
The vagaries of history have obscured many people and events yet the lasting products of the movement are brought into sharp relief; the written painted works, the tracts, manifestos and reviews - the liveliest expressions of the group's collective life. The reviews themselves are remarkable signs of the ideological development of Surrealism. The first two used the word ‘revolution’, then the term disappeared. Directed at first by Poerre Naville and Benjamin Peret, then from issue No. 4 (1924) by Andre Breton, Twelve numbers of La Revolution Surrealiste appeared between December 1924 and December 1929, the year of Dali’s arrival, but also and most importantly the year of the Second Manifesto which Breton used for a fierce purification of his group. Aragon, Breton, Eluard, Peret, and Unik were all members of the communist party since 1926. They were expelled in 1933, the year of the last issue of La Surrealisme au service de la revolution (l.s.a.s.d.l.r.), six numbers of which were produced between July 1930 and May 1933. La Revolution...
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