The Surrealism movement developed in Europe as an after-effect of World War One, with the repercussions of the brutality seen in the war beginning to manifest itself in art in unusual ways. Heavily influenced by the Dada movement, Surrealism was best known for its visual artworks and writings that placed focus on the subconscious mind, the irrational, and the power of dreamscapes. Despite Surreal art beginning to spread throughout the world, its popularity was disrupted by the start of World War Two.
Table of Contents
- 1 An Introduction to Surrealist Art
- 2 The Ten Most Famous Surreal Art Pieces
- 2.1 The Harlequin’s Carnival – Joan Miró (1925)
- 2.2 Battle of Fishes – André Masson (1926)
- 2.3 The Great Masturbator – Salvador Dalí (1929)
- 2.4 The Treachery of Images – René Magritte (1929)
- 2.5 The Persistence of Memory – Salvador Dalí (1931)
- 2.6 Egg in the Church or the Snake – André Breton (1932)
- 2.7 The Barbarians – Max Ernst (1937)
- 2.8 Indefinite Divisibility – Yves Tanguy (1942)
- 2.9 I Saw Three Cities – Kay Sage (1944)
- 2.10 The Son of Man – René Magritte (1964)
An Introduction to Surrealist Art
The Surrealist movement was founded by poet André Breton in 1924 in Paris and was said to exist as both an artistic and literary movement. Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto, written in the same year, documented the first time that the concept of Surrealism was explored in literature, which led to the movement’s subsequent development in the aftermath of the First World War.
Due to the trauma that society experienced in the wake of the war, artists wanted to create a new kind of reality within their art. They attempted to understand the type of world that allowed the horrors of war to take place through the absurd and strange depictions included in their artworks. Surrealism, therefore, encouraged the use of dreams and subconscious minds when creating art, which allowed artists to focus on their true, inner feelings that were needing to be addressed.
With its roots extending to psychoanalysis, the Surrealist movement was greatly influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud, who Breton had intensively studied. Surrealism took inspiration from the previous Dada movement, as well as the modern inclusion of avant-garde ideas into art, as it extended these notions into music, theatre, and philosophy in addition to visual art.
The Brain (Stoned) (1982) by Hanno Karlhuber, from the series Energy of Space, “The suction into the room is created by a light source. In this case the light source is covered. The hovering person can be interpreted as being at the mercy, the cosmic stones as obstacles. It is a naturalistic description of mental states”; Hanno Karlhuber, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Often seen as both a cultural and a radical art movement, Surrealism focused on the concept of disorder, the element of surprise, surprising juxtapositions, and illogical depictions of reality. Artists were concerned with a move away from reason and logic and hoped to achieve a free form of thinking in the artworks that were created. The goal of Surrealism was to free thought, language, and human experience from the oppressive limitations of rationalism.
The concept of automatism was focused on within the Surrealist movement, as it described a practice that resembled free association, which enabled artists to produce works that focused on their unconscious thoughts. Thus, the type of paintings that were created within the Surrealism movement explored the dialogue that existed between dreams and reality, as artists emphasized the importance of subconscious images.
The artworks within this movement demonstrated a substantial move away from traditional forms of art, as artists sought to reveal psychological truth. This led to abstract images being created in order to represent the isolation that society was experiencing in the aftermath of a war-stricken world.
The Ten Most Famous Surreal Art Pieces
Throughout the Surrealist movement, many artworks were made that accurately captured the ideas, aims, and characteristics that the art period emphasized. When considering these numerous pieces, some paintings stand out as defining works within Surrealism. Below is a list of the ten most recognizable and famous Surrealist art paintings that are still spoken about today.
C… come condizionamento (‘C… for Conditioning’, 1976) by Italian painter William Girometti, owned by his daughter; William Girometti, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Harlequin’s Carnival – Joan Miró (1925)
|Artist||Joan Miró (1893 – 1983)|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||66 cm x 90.5 cm (26 in x 35 5/8 in)|
|Where it is currently housed||Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo|
Existing as one of the most outstanding Surrealist paintings of Spanish artist Joan Miró, as well as his most well-known piece, is his 1925 artwork titled The Harlequin’s Carnival (Carnaval de Arlequín). The title makes reference to two significant words in society at the time. The term “harlequin” referred to the Italian comic theatre character who was always depicted wearing a checkered costume, and “carnival” was thought to refer to a celebration.
Portrait of Joan Miró in Barcelona, 1935; Carl Van Vechten, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Within The Harlequin’s Carnival, a boisterous celebration of life is depicted, as demonstrated by the shapes that are seemingly drifting and bouncing around. This celebration has also been speculated to emulate the Mardi Gras feast, whereby Christians indulged in fatty foods before abstaining from eating animal products until Easter. An overflow of information is presented by these cartoonish and biomorphic shapes that Miró scattered around, which overwhelms viewers when first confronting this Surrealism painting.
No matter what the celebration is about, a very random and chaotic scene is presented, as it seems as if Miró managed to reproduce his entire subconscious thoughts onto the canvas. However, when examining these figures closely, there appears to be some symbolism in their inclusion in the work.
The Harlequin, who is positioned to the left of the center of the painting, has an elongated white body with a blue-red ball as its head. He appears to be very sad and is depicted with a puncture in his stomach, which was thought to signify Miró’s poverty and hunger. As a struggling artist, Miró could barely afford to buy food at times and would describe coming home at the end of the day without food in a sort of trance. It was in this hallucinatory state that allowed him to begin to draw the abstract forms that made up this painting.
To the left, a long ladder is depicted leaning against a wall, which was a motif that Miró would go on to use in a number of his Surreal paintings. Symbolizing his fear of becoming trapped, the ladder was said to exist as a tool that would provide him with the freedom he craved. Additionally, the black triangle in the window in the top right of the painting supposedly resembled the Eiffel Tower, which emphasized Miró’s great dream to conquer the world with his art and escape the poverty he lived in.
What made The Harlequin’s Carnival so unique is that the forms depicted were produced from the hunger Miró felt when he went into a trance-like state, as opposed to images experienced in his dreams like other Surrealist artists. This painting exists as an account of Miró’s subconscious as a result of his economic difficulties, which enabled some emotion to be attached to the forms he depicted. This is a significant example of a Surrealism painting, as Miró pioneered the use of anthropomorphic forms in this painting.
Battle of Fishes – André Masson (1926)
|Artist||André Masson (1896 – 1987)|
|Medium||Sand, gesso, oil, pencil, and charcoal on canvas|
|Dimensions||36.2 cm x 73 cm (14 ¼ in x 28 ¾ in)|
|Where it is currently housed||The Museum of Modern Art, New York|
French artist André Masson enthusiastically practiced automatic drawing within some of his Surrealism artworks and frequently experimented with altered states of consciousness. His most well-known painting from the Surrealism movement is his 1926 artwork titled Battle of Fishes.
Within this artwork, Masson managed to create a powerful allegoric view of the human condition and the never-ending conflicts that were experienced due to the destruction left by World War One. Through the depiction of a surreal underwater landscape, Masson drew sharp-toothed fish brutally attacking each other in an attempt to demonstrate his thoughts about the current society in the wake of the war.
Whilst engaging with the entire canvas when creating Battle of Fishes, Masson managed to maintain a closed composition that closely resembled the closed-off nature of the depths of the ocean. Masson also expertly placed the energetic and fluid lines within his work, which provided some direction through the work and acted as guiding points for viewers to focus on. These strokes appear to be very solid and sure of their place, which demonstrated the confidence that Masson had in the style he was attempting to portray.
What made this Surreal artwork so fascinating was the unusual method that Masson applied, as his striking approach to artmaking enabled the element of chance to enter into his works.
Within Battle of Fishes, Masson incorporated sand into his work, freely applied gesso to the canvas in order to create a structure for the rest of the piece to stand on, and vigorously drew and painted directly from his paint tubes.
While the areas of sand became prominent focal points, the color palette that was chosen also helped to emphasize certain areas within the artwork. Masson made use of cool tones, which grabbed the viewer and dragged them into the grim scene, as well as some contrasting warm tones around the areas he wanted to highlight. These distinct colors, in addition to the organic shapes that Masson used, helped to maintain the flow and rhythm within the work and to create an interesting and captivating piece made up of unlimited interruptions.
The darker colors, like the blues and greens, helped to create a mood of depression and remorse within the composition, which mirrored the mood in reality after the war has ended. The warmer colors helped in getting attention from viewers, with the reds that were used acting as visceral reminders of the true horror that had taken place in society.
This piece is symbolic of life in European society after World War One, as the isolated and savage fish were said to represent the distraught and torn-apart communities that were left to rebuild. Some fish are also shown to be dead, which was thought to symbolize those individuals that lost their lives through fighting or the turmoil experienced after.
Thus, this piece exists as a very self-assured artwork, as the symbols that Masson placed within his composition were deliberately chosen and used to convey a message.
This artwork is seen as incredibly influential to the Surrealist movement, as Masson accessed his unconscious mind in order to create an irrational composition that accurately captured the chaos and fear that was felt in society after the First World War.
The Great Masturbator – Salvador Dalí (1929)
|Artist||Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989)|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||110 cm x 150 cm (43.3 in x 59.1 in)|
|Where it is currently housed||Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid|
One of the most well-known members of Surrealism was Spanish artist Salvador Dalí, who went on to paint some of the most iconic works that helped define the movement. One of Dalí’s earliest Surrealist paintings, painted in 1929, was The Great Masturbator.
At the time that Dalí painted The Great Masturbator, he expressed a great fascination with Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory and was very interested in examining the unconscious aspects of self, including sexually repressed mechanisms and ego structure. Therefore, this painting is viewed as a self-portrait of Dalí’s own sexual obsessions and his excessively overgrown ego, which he commented on many times throughout his career.
Portrait of Salvador Dali, taken in Hôtel Meurice, Paris, 1972; Allan warren, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Set in an incredibly surreal landscape, Dalí painted this dreamlike scene after spending a few days with his future wife, Gala. Several other objects of desire were included within this artwork, such as mentions to Gala herself and references to the desert oasis. Through including some unknown faceless figures and insects in this painting, it was thought that Dalí was symbolizing his own paranoid fears.
Seen as a kind of psychic snapshot of Dalí’s subconscious at the time, the large distorted head dominating the painting was said to be the masturbator and one of the personifications of Dalí himself, who appeared several other times in different settings within this painting.
The head, only seen in profile, reflected the spiritual and erotic change that Dalí had experienced due to Gala’s sudden presence in his life.
Seen as a very disturbing self-portrait, The Great Masturbator demonstrated an imagination that was at its peak. This was shown by the strange depiction of a grasshopper that was sucking on the rock that was in the process of transforming into the representation of Dalí.
The central image has widely been speculated to be based on the commonly known rock formation at Cullero, at Cap de Creus in Spain. Dalí compared the rock to a head with its nose pressed into the ground and he would later go on to make multiple references to this rock in his later Surrealist works. This demonstrated Dalí’s obsessive nature, as this rock became the most captivating and omnipresent object within many of his Surrealism artworks
Within this artwork, Dalí laid bare his inner fears, personal anxieties, and constant obsessions. The Great Masturbator is an influential Surrealist artwork, as it represented the escape-of-reality idea that was present in the majority of Dalí’s works. This paranoiac depiction demonstrated the central characteristics that were seen within other Surreal artworks, with Dalí existing as an important leader of the movement.
The Treachery of Images – René Magritte (1929)
|Artist||René Magritte (1898 – 1967)|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||60.3 cm x 81.1 cm (23.7 in x 31.9 in)|
|Where it is currently housed||Los Angeles County Museum of Art|
Another significant artist that helped propel the Surrealist movement along was Belgian artist René Magritte. His explorations within Surrealism were strongly influenced by the post-war atmosphere that had gripped society, structuralist language theories, and the supposed gap that existed between language and meaning. One of Magritte’s most well-known works, painted in 1929, was The Treachery of Images.
Within this painting, a simple image of a pipe is shown, along with a French statement that translates to “This is not a pipe.” The contrast that is created by Magritte demonstrated his idea of the inconsistency between language and meaning, as a difference between signifier and signified object is displayed.
Graffiti of Magritte’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe in Bucharest; bixentro, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
This humorous painting depicted the discord that was apparent amongst language and meaning in post-World War One society, as Magritte stated that words no longer represented what they truly meant. Due to the disharmony as a result of the war, Surrealists were free to explore the deconstruction of language, with Magritte’s Surrealism paintings triggering shocking thoughts in viewers.
The Treachery of Images highlighted Magritte’s belief that art was not reality, but a simple representation of it. Thus, the statement within this artwork rang true, as it was not a pipe that viewers were looking at but rather a picture of the real thing. In doing so, Magritte created a three-way paradox out of the traditional notion that objects were supposed to match with words and images.
Like other artists within the Surrealist movement, Magritte sought to overturn the presence of rationalization and logic within art, which was impressed upon artists by bourgeois society. Surrealism allowed Magritte to remove the original meaning of signs and symbols, which inspired many artists to do the same. Additionally, Magritte’s works were seen as an influential starting point within Conceptualism.
Magritte frequently made use of methods that cast doubt on the actual appearance of his artworks, as they did not seem to fit into the painting or reality itself.
The tension that Magritte created between truth and fiction, as well as reality and surrealism, was expertly displayed within his works. This allowed The Treachery of Images, along with his other Surreal paintings, to become some of the most iconic Surrealist artworks to ever exist.
The Persistence of Memory – Salvador Dalí (1931)
|Artist||Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989)|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||24 cm x 33 cm (9.5 in x 13 in)|
|Where it is currently housed||The Museum of Modern Art, New York|
Another significant artwork that was painted by Salvador Dalí during the Surrealism movement was his 1931 painting, The Persistence of Memory. Additionally, this artwork is undoubtedly one of the most famous Surrealist paintings from the movement as a whole.
Within The Persistence of Memory, Dalí paid homage to the concept of time through the melting clocks that he depicted. These clocks were said to reflect the inner workings of Dalí’s subconscious mind, in addition to conveying both the simple yet complex message that time, as society perceived, was essentially meaningless.
Within this abstract and dreamlike scene, the dripping clocks are portrayed as the central motif, which is depicted against the golden cliffs of Catalonia, where Dalí was born. The inclusion of the giant nose, upon which a clock is melting, makes reference to Dalí’s previous painting, The Great Masturbator (1929).
Through integrating this figure into both of his artworks, which was thought to be a type of self-reference, Dalí demonstrated his obsessive nature that was apparent in his Surreal paintings.
Dalí demonstrated a great interest in the idea of subconscious art and would often create a self-induced hallucinatory state when painting. This can be seen in certain objects that he included in his painting, as they seemed to come from deep within his psyche. An example of a seemingly abstract inclusion is the portrayal of ants in his work, which reoccurred often within his other Surrealism paintings. The ants were thought to represent Dalí’s fascination with the concept of decay and that nothing could be done to stop that process.
The dripping watches and the deformed face seem completely detached from reality, which demonstrates the depth that Dalí explored in his subconscious. When asked about the meaning of the clocks within the painting, Dalí frequently proclaimed that he had no idea yet refused to associate the depiction of his clocks with the concept of time. In doing so, Dalí was able to render familiar objects in unfamiliar ways, which completely stripped them of any meaning that made sense.
This artwork existed as a very important painting for Dalí, as he constantly returned to this theme through the use of different styles, media, and variations in the other works he produced.
Its influence spread throughout the Surrealist movement, as Dalí was able to easily distort familiar objects to the point where they appeared to be part of an abstract and phantasmagoric world, which effortlessly captured the irrationality that Surrealism was all about.
Egg in the Church or the Snake – André Breton (1932)
|Artist||André Breton (1896 – 1966)|
|Medium||Collage on paper|
|Where it is currently housed||Unknown|
Known as the founder of Surrealism, French writer and poet André Breton wrote the original Surrealism manifesto that went on to develop and define the movement as an art practice. While he focused his efforts on writing within the Surrealism period, Breton did create one notable artwork in 1932, titled Egg in the Church or the Snake.
Due to this being one of Breton’s only visual artworks, not much is known about the paper collage that he constructed. Although Egg in the Church or the Snake is a collage and not a painting, there is a reason that this artwork is included on the list of famous Surrealist paintings. This is because it essentially questioned the function of the author by broadening the media and pioneering the groundbreaking use of photomontage in order to make a visual experiment. Thus, the combination of these aspects created a strong cryptic and surreal dreamlike scene.
André Breton at a Dada festival in Paris, 1920, bearing a sign designed by Francis Picabia; Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The title chosen by Breton is both allegorical and enigmatic through its relation to religion, with the subject matter chosen exemplifying the Surrealist interest that was paid to the female body and Christianity’s repression of sexual desire. Breton aspired to diminish all sexual repressions to mere symbols and language that would go on to provide freedom of expression, as demonstrated within his collage and writings.
Although Breton did not paint and draw as much as other Surrealist artists, his contribution to the movement was invaluable as his writings and thoughts were said to influence the very core of the avant-garde movement.
The Barbarians – Max Ernst (1937)
|Artist||Max Ernst (1891 – 1976)|
|Medium||Oil on cardboard|
|Dimensions||24.1 cm x 33 cm (9.5 in x 13 in)|
|Where it is currently housed||Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York|
Known as both an influential Dadaist and Surrealist was German artist Max Ernst. During his career within Surrealism, Ernst developed the technique known as “frottage”, which made use of pencil rubbings of objects as a source of images. Ernst’s most well-known artwork to come out of the Surrealist movement was painted in 1937 and was titled The Barbarians.
Ernst’s painting was heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud’s theory of unconsciousness, with The Barbarians existing as an exploration of his subconscious mind, his own childhood memories, as well as pagan mythological and sexual symbols. When considering the concept of a barbarian, Ernst viewed them according to the Freudian concepts of personality like the ego, super-ego, and the id, therefore suitably placing them as creatures in a surreal landscape.
A photograph of Max Ernst in 1968; Unknown authorUnknown author, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Within The Barbarians, gigantic and malevolent-looking figures are depicted, that appear to take on the form of birds. The dark bird seems to be leading the way, while the other bird turns around to stare at a strange animal that is hanging on its arm. In the distance, a small woman is portrayed who appears to be holding onto an unidentified winged animal. Ernst often incorporated the theme of birds into his works, as he believed that they embodied some human elements.
The strange patterns drawn on the figure’s bodies were quite angular and rough, as they were said to evoke themes of rock and fossil formation. Ernst achieved this look by layering paint onto a piece of cardboard and pressing it against objects while it was wet to leave an imprint. He then touched up the figures with a brush which scraped away the additional layers of paint.
This artwork incorporated mythology through the two figures that were painted, as Ernst believed them to be barbarians. The hand of the dark bird, which was raised to the sky, represented how barbarians always believed that they were the island of Atlas keeping the heavens from falling. The other bird was said to be preparing to begin his military progression onto the land owned by humans.
Thus, this represented Ernst’s thought that democracy had the ability to transform into barbarism, as shown by the onset of war.
Indefinite Divisibility – Yves Tanguy (1942)
|Artist||Yves Tanguy (1900 – 1955)|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||101.6 cm x 89 cm (40 in x 35 in)|
|Where it is currently housed||Albert-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo|
French artist Yves Tanguy was an important influence within the Surrealism movement, as his artworks were made up of an unusual, instantly recognizable style of nonrepresentational Surrealism. Possibly his most well-known work from that period, painted in 1942, was his painting titled Indefinite Divisibility.
Within his artworks, Tanguy would make use of the concept of stream of consciousness, so that his Surreal paintings would active emotions within viewers as opposed to conveying specific explanations for the painting.
Tanguy was also influenced by the subconscious and dreams, with these elements appearing in different circumstances within the majority of his artworks.
Indefinite Divisibility depicted ordinary objects that were placed together to form the shape of a man, in addition to what appeared to be an artist’s easel. Tanguy borrowed a visual symbol from his mentor, as he created an obscure and mystifying structure that took over the indefinite space. Additionally, the form of the structure appeared to be indistinct and vague, which added to the mystery present within this painting.
Placed on what appears to be a beach or a blue-like version of purgatory, Tanguy created a juxtaposition between the forms made up of multiple objects. This was done to evoke feelings of uncertainty within the work, as viewers were unable to discern what the world he created was really comprised of. In doing so, Tanguy brought up a significant philosophical debate, as he wondered if human forms and objects created by man were simply the same, or if they were imagined instead.
In Indefinite Divisibility, dreams and realities merge through the conflicting shapes that confront the viewer and demand attention. What makes this artwork an influential Surrealist piece is that Tanguy focused on expressing and triggering sensations rather than explaining what his painting meant.
In 1950, the Psychological Institution of Vienna exhibited Tanguy’s paintings besides those made by schizophrenic patients, to see if the public could differentiate between the two. When they could not, Surrealists were ecstatic, as it meant the abstraction within their works truly held no resemblance to reality.
I Saw Three Cities – Kay Sage (1944)
|Artist||Kay Sage (1898 – 1963)|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||92 cm x 71 cm (36 ¼ in x 27 15/16 in)|
|Where it is currently housed||Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey|
American artist Kay Sage, who was the wife of fellow artist Yves Tanguy, was one of the few female artists within Surrealism, who was incredibly influential to the movement. Her most significant artwork, painted in 1944, is I Saw Three Cities.
Kay Sage’s passport photo (1922); US Government, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Sage’s work differed greatly from the other women within Surrealism, as the universes she created in her paintings were unclear, impenetrable, and nihilistic. Within I Saw Three Cities, Sage portrayed an eerie atmosphere, which gave the artwork a haunting and ghostly feel. She also contrasted the fluidness of drapery, which she incorporated in reference to Ancient Greek aesthetic, with sharp geometric shapes, which created a tension between modernity and classical art in her painting.
The desolate landscape is seemingly controlled by a tall, concealed human-looking figure that stands in the foreground of the work and remains unknown. The swirling drapery, which was incredibly well-rendered, seems out of place in this abstract and abandoned setting, with the juxtaposition developed by Sage creating a very disorienting effect on viewers.
The colors used by Sage are very muted and foreboding, as one gets the sense that something sinister might happen in this gloomy and miserable landscape. The only noticeable color that is seen is the red pole that appears to be sticking out of the material at certain points. This was said to represent Sage’s internal core and to demonstrate that despite her miserable paintings, there was still some form of life inside of her.
Painted towards the end of World War Two, one cannot help but wonder if Sage’s painting is a depiction of the misery and devastation that she saw in society. The title, which states that Sage viewed three cities, suggested that this could possibly be a painting made in mourning of the cities that were destroyed as a result of the war.
The Son of Man – René Magritte (1964)
|Artist||René Magritte (1898 – 1967)|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||116 cm x 89 cm (45.6 in x 35 in)|
|Where it is currently housed||Private collection|
Another significant painting by René Magritte towards the end of the Surrealism period was his 1964 artwork titled The Son of Man. Between this painting and his 1929 The Treachery of Images, it has been said that The Son of Man exists as the more prominent artwork, as well as one of the most iconic Surrealist paintings of all time.
Consisting of a man dressed in an overcoat and a bowler hat, The Son of Man was painted as a self-portrait of Magritte, who attempted to convey important messages about the individual. Magritte covered his face with the green apple that is floating in the air, which commented on the unpredictable relationship between the visible and the hidden, as well as the conscience and subconscious in human personality.
René Magritte photographed by Lothar Wolleh; Lothar Wolleh, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
By Magritte obscuring his face from the public, he remarked on the human desire to constantly see what is hidden behind the visible. This was demonstrated through his eyes, which can be seen peeking through the leaves of the apple. This leaves viewers both curious and annoyed as they cannot see the face, leaving them to have to imagine how Magritte depicted himself. Additionally, the bits of his eyes that can be seen above the apple created a slightly unsettling feeling of being watched.
The title of the painting was also thought to refer to Jesus, which aided in the creation of suspense and tension within the artwork. This religious implication is also seen through the inclusion of the apple, as some art critics have considered it to represent Christian beliefs about Adam’s temptation in the Garden of Eden and the destruction of mankind.
However, what makes The Son of Man so interesting is that despite the painting existing as a self-portrait of Magritte, it can essentially refer to anyone, as represented by the faceless figure depicted. Thus, The Son of Man exists as an influential artwork towards the end of Surrealism, as the bright and slightly extreme colors used by Magritte inspired the start of Abstract Expressionism and Postmodernism.
While only ten artworks have been listed above, many more famous Surreal art pieces were created during the movement that are worth exploring. You will find that many artists often completed more than one well-known work, as demonstrated by the repetition of two artists within this article. Surrealism exists as an incredibly interesting movement, as seen by the creative and daydream-like paintings that were made.
Take a look at our Surreal paintings webstory here!