Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
My approach to this task will be to talk to you about what surrealism is and two very important and pioneering artists within the genre. The two artists I have chosen are the amazing Salvador Dali and Hans Bellmer. I have chosen these two because of the impact they have both had on the world of surrealism and how still today their work is still looked at and researched. Dali and Bellmer’s work have many differences and similarities which I will talk about in the coming paragraphs. Through reading this one should be able to understand the ins and outs of both artists and why they are so well known for the work. Although both Salvador Dali and Hans Bellmer may be both be dead, there work and their names are very much still alive today.
I would first like to talk about the topic I have chosen which is surrealism and to answer the simple question ‘what is surrealism?’ I would say “Surrealism is and artistic movement which sprung to life in the early 1920’s which set out to open up the unconscious part of the mind to make you see the unreal”. The surrealist formed as early as 1917, inspired by the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, who captured street locations with a hallucinatory quality.
Firstly, surrealism did not start out as an artistic movement, it was created as a literary movement by a man named Andre Brenton in the year 1924 after the publication of the surrealism manifesto. André Robert Breton was a French writer and poet known best as the co-founder, leader and principal theorist of Surrealism. His writings include the first Surrealist Manifesto which I have already mentioned. In the manifesto he defines surrealism as a ‘pure psychic automatism”. Many of the surrealist artworks of that time were painted in a very similar style. By this I mean the paintings had a very similar colour variety and texture to them. A tremendous example of this would be Brenton’s painting called ‘Tortured’ which is an optical illusion. Many of Dali’s paintings would be considered illusions too and at a first glance you would say these images were created by the same artist.
Following on from this, although surrealism had a rich history and fabulous artist’s, as times moved forward there was controversy with the movement. It has been said that surrealism was driven by strong sexual imagery and explicit content of all kinds and for this reason people were bound to not agree with it. I personally believe that the movement had positive impacts on the way art was progressing and it helped it to move forward in a different and more creative manor. I feel that the people who did not agree with the movement were the people who did not fully understand it. I believe that they were failing to see that the whole purpose of surrealist art was to depict the unconscious mind and to almost block out the reality and forget about it.
I would now like to talk about the two artists I have chosen to compare and contrast. The two I have chosen are Salvador Dali and Hans Bellmer. Starting with Dali, Dali was born on May 11th in the year 1904 not far from Barcelona Spain. His parents were Salvador and Felipa Dome Dali. From a young boy Dali was filled with anger towards his parents and class mates from school and because of his anger he would receive punishments in response. I believe that a lot of his work was created as a way of showing his anger and his fears. Dali had many fears, some of which include the fear of insects and the female body. This is very clearly seen within his art. Many artist’s use art as a way of expressing themselves and use it as a way of showing people what they are going through. This can be said about Hans Bellmer also. He too used his art to show people his fears and his emotions.
From a young age Dali was able to produce advanced drawings. Dali attended the Colegio de los Hermanos Maristas and the Instituto in Figueras, Spain. By 1921 he convinced his father that he could make a living as an artist and was allowed to go to Madrid, to study painting. His work was strongly influenced by the dreamlike works of the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico. He also experimented with cubism which is a type of art in which objects are viewed in terms of geometry. He was briefly imprisoned for political activities against the government and was finally thrown out of art school in 1925.
Dali was somewhat of a rebel from an early age and this was not the only time he was expelled. He was expelled from art school twice. In his autobiography, that artist wrote that he was expelled because he wouldn’t sit for his oral exams. “I am infinitely more intelligent than these three professors, and I therefore refuse to be examined by them. I know this subject much too well.” Through his career he produced numerous paintings and illustrations that changed the way people looked at surrealism. His last painting was The Swallow’s Tail. It was completed in May 1983, as the final part of a series based on the mathematical catastrophe theory of René Thom. He then died in the year 1989.
Here we have one of Dali’s paintings where he shows his fears and fixations, one being the female body. At the bottom of the image you can see what appears to be a woman drawn in a very disturbing and inhumane way. Now this may be the way he sees woman and that may be why he fears them. Many of his other paintings have similar themes surrounding his fears and fantasies.
Hans Bellmer born in Katowice Poland in the year 1902 was a photographer, sculpture, writer and printer associated with the surrealist movement. You will be surprised to hear that Bellmer studied engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin in 1923 and the year after he learned to draw from his friend George Grosz and the year after that in 1925 Began artistic career designing advertisements as a commercial artist and illustrating various Dada novels (such as Das Eisenbahnglück oder der Antifreud by Mynona).
Many of Bellmer’s work was produced in the form of dolls that he called language images. These dolls served as a sort of personal therapy in which he would explore his darkest fantasies and fetishes that he desired. All his dolls appeared to look like mutilated women. A reason as to why he would look at women this way would be because of one of the people he fell in love with when he was young, and that person was his cousin. Both Dali and Bellmer’s work have a dark side to them and both include women. For Bellmer it was his sexual fantasies towards women and his cousin and for Dali it was his fear of the female body. Bellmer believed art could stimulate desire in the viewer, and he played with his objects to explore how an artificial figure of a girl could create authentic passion, desire, or fantasy.
I would now like to talk about the similarities and differences between these two images. Firstly, the two art pieces main theme is the female form. In Bellmer’s piece it has more of a dark and twisted view of women. I believe it is showing Bellmer’s thoughts a preconception about women. All of Bellmer’s doll artworks are about his darkest secrets and fetishes, and this would be because of his childhood. However, Dali’s paintings have a much brighter and almost joyful look to them although the meaning and story behind them is anything but. Dali’s painting ‘the great masturbator’.