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What if you could turn your dreams into reality?
Born in the early 1900s and inspired by Sigmund Freud’s psychological inquiries, surrealism is an art form that explores the imagination and subconscious. Surrealism focuses on free association to connect a pen or paintbrush to the unexplored depths of the mind to produce trancelike imagery.
Although surrealism’s complexity extends to poetry, protests and politics, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) gives us a glimpse into a collection of dreamlike paintings born in the era of allusion imagery. These unreal landscapes reflect the drastic changes that blossomed in the artistic landscape.
Here are four pieces of surrealist art inspired by dreams.
Friend of legends Pablo Picasso and André Breton (father of surrealism), Cuban artist Wifredo Lam soaked up the influence of his peers to create astonishing surrealist paintings. “I knew I was running the risk of not being understood,” Lam said (via MOMA). “But a true picture has the power to set the imagination to work even if it takes time.”
With animal parts, fragmented bodies and exaggerated features, “The Jungle” serves as the best depiction of Lam’s vision. His optimism for the future of his oppressed homeland coupled with a surrealist mindset led to Lam’s creation of this dreamlike landscape of Cuban struggle.
Spanish artist Joan Miró’s mix of abstraction and iconography mirror the symbolism of the subconscious. “I have managed to escape into the absolute nature, and my landscapes have nothing in common anymore with outside reality,” Miró said.
Dispersed symbols and fragmented doodles create a unique landscape of Catalonia in “The Hunter (Catalan Landscape).” A stick figure of a hunter also serves as a portrait of the Spanish painter, possibly depicting his dreamlike self-awareness.
READ MORE: The Art of Visual Poetry: Dadaism
Arguably one of the best-known surrealist paintings, “The Persistence of Memory” features morphed clocks and watches to portray the bending of time so prevalent in our unconscious states.
Salvador Dalí’s self-proclaimed “hand painted dream photographs” were painted meticulously to “systematize confusion and thus to help discredit completely the world of reality.” In this painting, the Spanish painter inserted the geographic reality of the rocky coast with absurd images to toy with the viewer’s perception of time, space and self.
A measles-induced nightmare greatly contributed to Max Ernst’s masterpiece “Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale,” which depicts figures running from an ambiguous threat. This dream rooted itself in Ernst’s conscious surroundings while he lay sick in bed.
According to Ernst, the piece of art was “provoked by an imitation-mahogany panel opposite his bed, the grooves of the wood taking successively the aspect of an eye, a nose, a bird’s head, a menacing nightingale, a spinning top, and so on.” With a physical wooden gate, house and doorknob secured to the oil painting’s frame, the piece tests the boundaries of reality and imagination.