Surrealism Movement | Task 3


  • Having the qualities of surrealism; bizarre: “a surreal mix of fact and fantasy”.
  • phantasmagoric: characterized by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtapositions; “a great concourse of phantasmagoric shadows”–J.C.Powys; “the incongruous imagery in surreal art and literature”
  • dreamlike: resembling a dream; “night invested the lake with a dreamlike quality”; “as irrational and surreal as a dream”


  • A 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind.
  • a 20th century movement of artists and writers (developing out of dadaism) who used fantastic images and incongruous juxtapositions in order to represent unconscious thoughts and dreams
  • Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members.
  • An artistic movement and an aesthetic philosophy that aims for the liberation of the mind by emphasizing the critical and imaginative powers of the subconscious
  • A twist on Realism. It explores the subconscious mind, with subject matters concentrating on dream-images and often aims to distort the ordinary and what we call reality.

Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact. Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was above all a revolutionary movement.

Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities during World War I and the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the 1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music of many countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy, and social theory.

‘Dada’ or ‘Dadaism’ relates to an art movement of the European early twentieth century. Avant-garde is a French term used in English as a noun or adjective to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics.


any creative group active in the innovation and application of new concepts and techniques in a given field (especially in the arts).

Avant-garde means “advance guard” or “vanguard”. The adjective form is used in English, to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics.

French for ‘in advance’; term used in all the arts to describe any work, style, or school that is considered in its own time to be radical, consciously breaking from previous tradition.

In relation to art, it is used to describe a movement, artist, or group of artists which produces work which is considered to be breaking away from tradition and which steers art in a new direction.

Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The notion of the existence of the avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as distinct from post-modernism. Many artists have aligned themselves with the avant-garde movement and still continue to do so, tracing a history from Dada through the Situationists to postmodern artists such as the Language poets around 1981.


Dada began in the early 20th Century in Zurich, Switzerland 1916. Shorly after this, Dada spreaded out to Berlin.

Dada was born out of negative reaction to the horrors of World War I. This international movement was begun by a group of artists and poets associated with the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Dada rejected reason and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality and intuition. The origin of the name Dada is unclear; some believe that it is a nonsensical word. Others maintain that it originates from the Romanian artists Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco’s frequent use of the words da, da, meaning yes, yes in the Romanian language. Another theory says that the name “Dada” came during a meeting of the group when a paper knife stuck into a French-German dictionary happened to point to ‘dada’, a French word for ‘hobbyhorse’.

This art movement particularly used; visual arts, literature, poetry, art manifestos, art theory, theatre and graphic design. Dada tends to focus on the attitude of anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art culture works. Additionally to being anti-war, Dada also carried out anti-bourgeois and had political affinities with the radical left-wing parties. Dada activities included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals; passionate coverage of art, politics, and culture were topics often discussed in a variety of media.

The Dada movement influenced other, later art movements such as: avant-garde, downtown music, and groups including surrealism, nouveau realisme, pop art and Fluxus.

Dada is the groundwork to abstract art and sound poetry, a starting point for performance art, a prelude to postmodernism, an influence on pop art, a celebration of antiart to be later embraced for anarcho-political uses in the 1960s and the movement that lay the foundation for Surrealism. 

Dada was an informal international movement, with participants in Europe and North America. The beginnings of Dada correspond to the outbreak of World War I. For many participants, the movement was a protest against the bourgeois nationalist and colonial interests, which many Dadaists believed were the root cause of the war, and against the cultural and intellectual conformity—in art and more broadly in society—that corresponded to the war.

They expressed their rejection of that ideology in artistic expression that appeared to reject logic and embrace chaos and irrationality.

As Hugo Ball expressed it, “For us, art is not an end in itself … but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in.”

Image Manipulation-

  • Photo Manipulation is the application of image editing techniques to photographs in order to create an illusion or deception (in contrast to mere enhancement or correction) through analog or digital means.
  • Modification of images such as tonal adjustments, cropping, moiré reduction, etc. using image editing software.

Man Ray

Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzsky August 27, 1890 – November 18, 1976) an American Artist whom specialised in the area of modernism. Man Ray spent most of his career in Paris, France. He was seen as a significantly recognised contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movement, although his ties to each were informal. He touched upon multi-media areas to vent his work but considered himself personally a painter over all. As well as being a fashion and portrait photographer, he was most well known in the art division for his avant-garde photography. He is also noted for his photograms which he called “rayographs” in reference to himself.

During his life-time, Man Ray’s artwork was not appreciated, with the exception of his portrait and fashion photography, particularly in his native home of America. His reputation and note-ability has become broader and grown through the decades.

Man Ray Marquise Casati 1922, Centre Pompidou © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2008 Photo CNAC / MNAM, Dist.RMN / © Adam Rzepka


Quotes by Man Ray:

  • “It has never been my object to record my dreams, just the determination to realize them.” — Julien Levy exhibition catalog, April 1945.
  • “There is no progress in art, any more than there is progress in making love. There are simply different ways of doing it.” — 1948 essay, “To Be Continued, Unnoticed”.
  • “To create is divine, to reproduce is human.” — “Originals Graphic Multiples”, circa 1968; published in Objets de Mon Affection, 1983.
  • “I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence.” — Undated interview, circa 1970s; published in Man Ray: Photographer, 1981.
  • “I have been accused of being a joker. But the most successful art to me involves humor.” — Undated interview, circa 1970s; published in Man Ray: Photographer, 1981.
  • “An original is a creation motivated by desire. Any reproduction of an original is motivated by necessity. It is marvelous that we are the only species that creates gratuitous forms. To create is divine, to reproduce is human.”
  • “Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.”
  • “I do not photograph nature. I photograph my visions.”


It could be said that current image manipulation was born from movements such as Avant Garde, Surrealism and Dadaism. Within photography what we are able to do with an image is extensively growing and expanding in ways we did not even know were possible. Photo Manipulation is the application of image editing techniques to photographs in order to create an illusion or deception (in contrast to mere enhancement or correction) through analog or digital means. The evolution of photography and its practitioners has changed the way we see the world and consistently does so. Historically, only certain numbers of people owned cameras and mainly used them in a practical way depicting things such as landscapes and portraiture. Art movements within modernism have twisted and changed the way we see the world, the “norms” to the point of it being perceived to us as almost real. These people used photography in different ways, pushed it technically and visually to its limits of deceiving the viewers mind. I’m looking into the work of the avant-garde creator of ‘rayograms’ Man Ray and my perception of his work.

When analysing this image, to me, it gives off a number of meanings, metaphors and concepts. Firstly the legs up in the air in that position combined with the wrap around the thigh gives off a feminine, sexual motif. Looking further into the image the shape created by the legs draws my attention to the black space around them, within the grasp of the legs is a silhouette of a person, a head, the curvature of their shoulders as the eyes see down to their torso area. The clock within the centre of the image could act as the face and features of this silhouetted figure of a person. The clock could also represent its original form of time, that time is running out for this blackened figure, running out for us- the end of time, the world.

These metaphors differ and to me, give an overall melancholy feel to the imagery. Man Ray has managed to technically and visually create this kind of imagery using great time and effort in doing so, nowadays it just takes a few clicks of a mouse in a programme to create this similar effect. Surrealism in Photography was once a new, rare and powerful thing, with the mass production of digital photography in current times, it’s becoming an ever growing, typical modern pattern.


I began my research into Surrealism by firstly defining the words to gather further terms to generate ideas, from the words relating to Surreal and Surrealism I found the subject of Avant Garde and the Dadaism movement. Through internet based research I was able to gain information on all of the topics and have an understanding of how they all relate and flow with each other. During the process I decided to focus my research on the artist and photographer Man Ray and look into his life and work as an artist, his quotes and use of Surrealist Photography. Through my research I started to look at work of Man Ray and choose a suiting image to this topic. Most of Man Rays imagery was particularly striking to me and each held their own vast amounts of concepts for the viewer to determine. From researching into these areas I became interested in how it was technically possible to produce this kind of imagery and the effort that it must have taken to produce them. This early invention and passion for surrealism within photography interests me vastly, more so than it’s mass production these days.


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