Surrealism and Beyond in the Israel Museum

Illusion and Dreamscape

Illusion and Dreamscape

The belief in the intoxicating and liberating value of the imagination and the dream was central to Surrealism. Surrealist dreamscapes evoke mystery and challenge our perception of reality. They juxtapose disconnected objects, often within landscapes in which time and space are distorted. As in dreams, memory and place are disconnected and reality becomes fantastic. In the 1924 Manifesto of Surrealism, André Breton described a “resolution of these two states, dream and reality…into a kind of absolute reality, surreality.”

Dream imagery created by Surrealist artists reflects the influence of Sigmund Freud's groundbreaking Interpretation of Dreams (1900), where Freud described dreams as portals to the unconscious. The dream offered artists a territory in which judgment and reason are suspended.

Particularly influential in this context was Giorgio de Chirico, founder of the Italian movement of Metaphysical Painting. Captivated by the dark, elusive, and melancholic, de Chirico created timeless cityscapes that manipulate perspective and emanate an unsettling quality. René Magritte’s poetic inventions are seemingly simple images replete with complex associations. His visual metaphors reflect a mastery of the dramatic and the shocking. Both Magritte and Salvador Dalí exhibited unusual technical virtuosity; this allowed them to create tangible illusions that blur the border between reality and fantasy.

The fusion of images in an illusory space became popular in Surrealist photography as well. Photomontage combines multiple images in a single photograph. Using a medium usually perceived as most “real," Herbert Bayer challenged viewers by defying gravity and space. Bayer and others used eyes as recurring symbols of voyeurism and the power of inner vision. Dreams are perhaps best captured in cinema. Using montage, double exposure, and dissolve, Surrealist films evoke a hallucinatory state and equate the process of filmmaking with dreaming.

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To The Israel Museum Exhibition Online | The Israel Museum, Jerusalem | Copyright © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 1995-