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The Art of Surrealism
The Art of Surrealism

Surrealism is an avant-garde cultural movement that explores the irrational and unconscious mind. In the aftermath of World War 1, this movement emerged in Europe in both literature and visual arts. Bizarre, jarring paintings emerged depicting logic-defying scenes, sometimes done very precisely, almost photo-realistic. 


“Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.” 

– René Magritte


Notable Artists

In the 1920’s, surrealist artists such as Salvador Dali, René Magritte and André Breton, came together to create artworks that delved into one’s unconscious creativity and imagination. Other notable surrealist artists include Max Ernst, Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró, to name a few.

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” 

– Salvador Dali


Influences and Origins

Surrealist art is known for its juxtapositions, absurdities and beautifully odd imagery. This movement has influences in Dada art, building on the tradition of creating non-rational works.

The movement was also strongly influenced by psychoanalysis. Breton, an important figure in the surrealist art world, had studied psychiatry and the psychoanalytical works of Sigmund Freud. Freud’s theories explored the unconscious mind and dreams – a theme very present in surrealist art.


No rules exist, and examples are simply life-savers answering the appeals of rules making vain attempts to exist.

– André Breton


He was also a Marxist, and hoped for Surrealism to be a movement capable of freeing the minds of the masses. To André Breton, Surrealism wasn’t just an art movement – it was a revolution.



Automatism, in the field of psychology, refers to unconscious, involuntary behaviours or processes. These behaviours last anywhere from several seconds to minutes. During these behaviours, the subject is not aware of his or her actions. A good example of this would be in the dreaming state. Freud used different techniques to understand his patient’s subconscious thoughts. Similarly, Surrealist artists explored their own subconscious patterns through their art with automatic drawing. 

Automatic drawing is a technique used in Surrealism – rather than being planned, the drawings were provoked by dreams or subconscious associations. Artists used automatic drawing and writing to depict dream imagery and unconventional thoughts in their artworks. 

These artworks were first criticized for their jarring and uncanny quality as they often presented the viewer with images that caused discomfort and confusion. However, many appreciate the meaningful symbolism and refined painting techniques seen in surrealist artworks. 

Adding a surrealist artwork to your space can be the perfect conversation starter. With Zatista, you can choose from hundreds of original Surrealist paintings. We’ve gathered our top picks!


Castle by Marlene Llanes

Painting, Oil on Canvas

“It almost feels as if I had not created it. It just popped in my head during my sleep. My brain spit it out for me. So there is no story to it.”

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surrealist painting blue and yellow

winter landscape with figure by Arianna Piazza

Painting, Oil on Canvas

“I made this painting some years ago, it is a surreal landscape with an anatomy study of a body.”

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surrealist painting of woman half face

Alpas by Sandra Boskamp

Painting, Pastels on Canvas

“Sandra Boskamp is an Austin based artist interested in the complexity, depth, and relations of humans and their surroundings. She takes characters in her life and accentuates their qualities to create layered, puzzle-like portraits.”


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DAY DREAMING by Tom Miller

Painting, Acrylic on Canvas

“Day Dreaming was inspired by the enjoyment I get looking at clouds. Often I sit by my studio window and watch the clouds, which relaxes me and stimulates my imagination. Magritte also must have been inspired by clouds because he used them so often in his paintings, which I greatly admire.”

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Romantic Energy by Amelia Galli

Painting, Oil on Canvas

“In the platforms of the future, poetry takes over. Light, energy, warmth but with romance. So that these metal monsters in the middle of the sea, become a destination for poets and “faithful”. Because everything can be achieved but with respect; because beauty can really save the world.”

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I Want To Live With You, Even When We’re Ghosts by Hilary Tait Norod

Painting, Oil on Canvas

“This abstract painting of two figures joined at the spine comments on a combined lifestyle of domestic partnership. The commitment in love despite the perpetual chance of loss is exquisite.”

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Ready to embrace the weird and hang some strange, beautiful art on those walls? Browse our curated collection of original art to find a painting, photograph, or print you love.


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