British Surrealism: 1783-1952 The Mind Free

https://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/2020/february/british-surrealism/

BY LEO BABAUTA

Transgressive and bizarre art movement of the twentieth century, Surrealism, it broke conventions, it demolished boundaries. Categories and chronologies were abandoned, the mind was set free. The end was only the beginning. Existence was elsewhere.This point of view so groundbreaking had a huge impact on a wide range of British artist. This exhibition exposes to its roots in British culture and its significant influence. Almost 100 years since the birth of surrealism in the 1920s, It will bring together over 30 artists including Eileen Agar, John Armstrong, Francis Bacon, Edward Burra, Leonora Carrington, Henry Moore, Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland. It will include 70 eclectic works, featuring paintings, sculptures, etchings and prints from 1783 to 1952.

Marion Adnams – The Distraught Infanta, 1944
Sam Haile – Woman and Suspended Man, 1939
Eileen Agar – Guardian of Memories, 1938

In 1920, the French poet André Breton began experimenting with ‘automatic’ writing. Journeying deep into his subconscious, he wrote without pausing to think or correct. What he discoverred was a new art form. He called it surrealism. But it was about much more than just art and literature. It wanted to destroy what they called ‘worn-out customs and institutions’ Only then, they believed, could we built a better society in which everyone made full use of their imaginative faculties.In the exhibition you can see revelatory works from less familiar yet innovative figures will also feature, including Marion Adnams, John Banting, Sam Haile, Conroy Maddox, Reuben Mednikoff and Grace Pailthorpe, all united by aspirations to eradicate the contradictions between reality and unreality.
Themes of war, dreams, the unconscious, the uncanny, radical politics, violence, sex and desire will be explored throughout and highlights will include Burra’s nightmarish Dancing Skeletons (1934) and Armstrong’s Heaviness of Sleep (1938) depicting a landscape that is both arid and fertile.

Edward Burra – Dancing Skeletons, 1934
John Armstrong – Heaviness of Sleep, 1938

The exhibition will reveal the anarchic, subversive quality of surrealism, and will trace its roots in Britain with the suggestion that Henri Fuseli and William Blake deserve the title of ‘protosurrealists’.

Henry Fuseli – The Weird Sisters, Macbeth, 1783
William Blake, after Henry Fuseli Head of a Damned Soul in Dante’s Inferno, 1789

Surrealism had an enormous influence on many British artists in the 1930s and ‘40s following the nightmare of the First World War – which Nash and Moore had experienced first-hand – and the absurdity of Dada. With the rising tide of fascism dominating 1930s Europe, the surrealists challenged the prevailing world order. They lent their support to the radical left. An example was the support they gave to the Spanish Republicans who fought against every dictatorship.

Edith Rimmington – The Oneiroscopist, 1947
Sam Haile – Hitler Must be Overcome, 1939
F.E Mc William, Spanish Sculpture Head, 1938

Surrealism broke opened the door to the permissive inventive counter culture of the 1960s. It has not gone away.Do not miss one of the most striking exhibitions of the moment. It will make your imagination fly.

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