Surrealism and Beyond in the Israel Museum

Biomorphism and Metamorphosis


Biomorphism reflects the tendency to favor ambiguous and organic shapes. Anatomy, plants, bodies of water, and astronomy inspire paintings, reliefs, and sculptures. Jean (Hans) Arp, Henry Moore, Yves Tanguy, and Raoul Ubac – each working in a distinctive style in the realm between figuration and abstraction – developed a language of “biomorphs.”

Arp simplified nature’s forms and reduced them to their abstract essence. His biomorphic works capture and express the vital energy of being, and liberate art from the constrictions imposed by civilization. Yves Tanguy’s paintings fuse animal, vegetable, and human figures with rock formations that hover in vaporous landscapes. During and after World War II, Tanguy’s landscapes became more deserted and war beaten, a convincing psychological portrait of wartime Europe.

Surrealism elevated magic and the transformational process of metamorphosis and hybridization. Picasso’s use of metamorphosis influenced Surrealism in the 1920s, and it appeared both as subject matter and as procedure in the figurative paintings of Leonora Carrington and in the more abstract, automatic works of André Masson.

Metamorphosis attested to the power of the individual imagination to transcend reality and reason in favor of the marvelous. American Indian and Oceanic cultures and their myths provided models of uncensored expression and images of human-plant metamorphosis. Drawing on non-Western cultures, alchemy, and other occult phenomena, Max Ernst felt that the artist must regain a mythic, spiritual harmony with nature lost in Christianity, Western rationalism, and technology.

Victor Brauner and Wilfredo Lam thrived on the occult and the mystical. Brauner’s art reflects a fusion of wide-ranging world cultures, mythologies, and religious beliefs. While focusing primarily on figuration – whether human, animal, or mythological – the works create an intricate lexicon of symbolic forms.

למאגר התערוכות , מוזיאון ישראל | מוזיאון ישראל, ירושלים | כל הזכויות שמורות © מוזיאון ישראל, ירושלים 1995-
To The Israel Museum Exhibition Online | The Israel Museum, Jerusalem | Copyright © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 1995-