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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UWindsor chapter.

Out of all the art movements I’ve written about, Surrealism is the most  bizarre, which is also why it’s one of my favourite art movements of all time. 

Before I get into why I love it, here is a little background information on the Surrealism movement. Surrealism began at the end of WW1 and lasted until the mid 1960s. Surrealism grew from the anti-rationalism of the Dada movement, in which artists revolted against the bourgeoisie and middle classes materialist views. The goal of the Surrealist movement was to bypass conscious thought and create works from the imagination. Andre Breton, credited with beginning the Surrealism movement, even wrote a manifesto where he states he “ …believe[s] in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak.” Surrealism fights against the concrete nature of ‘reality’ and the idea that things “are” or “are not”. While specific characteristics of Surrealism are hard to nail down (how exactly can you create rules that apply to each individual artist’s subconscious mind?), Surrealist artists often focused on automatism and non-rationality— sometimes creating things that seem like nonsense on the surface and sometimes creating works that showcase the unconscious mind. Unsurprisingly, Surrealism was highly influenced by Freudian psychology, especially by his work on dreams. Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and René Magritte, are the most well known artists of this movement. Of course, I am not an art historian and not an expert on this topic, so check out some of the references I’ve linked at the end for more information.  

My favourite work to come out of this period is René Magritte’s The Treachery of Images AKA This Is Not a Pipe. I won’t get into Magritte’s history or the in-depth meaning behind this painting – only that in looking at this painting, titled This Is Not a Pipe, your first thought would be “that is clearly a pipe”. But it’s not a pipe. It’s a painting of a pipe. So if it’s not a pipe, then what is it? What does it mean to be a drawing of a pipe? What is a drawing of a pipe? It is amazing to me that such a simple painting can evoke such a strong sense of existentialism. 

Surrealism is a look into the artist’s inner thoughts and subconscious mind. If you’ve ever done that activity in grade school where the teacher makes you paint by following different styles of music, this is similar to the idea of surrealism. Letting your mind wander and listening to the influences around you; except instead of child-drawn lines and swirls, you get a masterpiece. 

As I am an avid artist, painting and drawing are the ways I calm myself down when I’m stressed out. Often, I like to throw in a little surrealist moment, something that you can’t see when looking at the whole image which requires studying the drawing in detail until you see it. I haven’t yet perfected, or even come close to replicating, the dream-like painting style Surrealists often adopt, but I like that my drawings sometimes feel unsettling, especially during moments in my life where I feel unsettled. Surrealism often relies on imagery to get the point across, and imagery is often the most effective way to communicate the inner consciousness. However, colour is also a way to induce the dream-like, odd state of Surrealism paintings. Using muted colours in a happy scene or using bright, happy colours to portray graphic or odd scenes is also a way to create the surreal effects of these paintings. An example of this is Girl with Death Mask (She Plays Alone) painted by Frida Kahlo in 1938. This painting uses both bright colours and off-putting imagery to display the feelings of Kahlo at that time in her life.  

Surrealist paintings seem simple on the surface, but they allow you to delve into the depths of human consciousness. As an art movement, it is one of the freest from rules and most unique to the individual artist. It is also a super fun style to paint in, especially if you love hidden meanings and unsettling scenes. 



Tate Modern


Giulia Vilardi is Co-Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at UWindsor. She oversees all HC UWindsor teams and content. She is also responsible for writing and editing articles, as well as posting to HC UWindsor Instagram and TikTok. Giulia primarily writes lifestyle articles relating to campus life, being a woman and STEM, and cool local spots. Beyond Her Campus, Giulia is a Senior in the Behaviour, Cognition, and Neuroscience program at UWindsor. She spends most of her time working as Assistant Director of Communications for a research lab on campus. She is Co-President of SMArt (a UWindsor club for scientists who love art) where she helps provide artistic services to the science community at UWindsor. Giulia is an avid reader and enjoys creating art of all kinds in her free time. She can't get through the day without AT LEAST 3 cups of coffee. She loves listening to music and is always looking for new music recs!