The impact of Surrealism in contemorary culture, art, cinema and fashion


OK. I know you might not have noticed this ever, or yet.  But the elements of Surrealism are still used up until this day, and is all around us.  We will see how it actually influenced contemporary culture, art, cinema and fashion.  You guys, i’m starting to love this* it is absolutely awesome!!!! (Don’t mind me getting excited), but seriously, check this out!!!!!!!! no jokes…it is great!!! whooooppppyyyyyy….

Contemporary Culture;

Surrealism was possibly the defining art movement between the two world wars. It was started by Andre Breton in c1920 and was borne out of Dadaism. Dada was a form of anti-art that deliberately defied reason. Dadaism was also aimed at negation, whereas the surrealist movement aimed to be a more positive expressive art form. Initially it consisted of a series of journals and poetry.

It went on to include may different art forms including poetry and literature. In this site I will concentrate upon the artwork of the surrealist movement. The main themes underlying much of the work included eroticism, socialism, dreams and the subconscious, atheism and symbolism.

Like its predecessor, Dadaism, Surrealism threw off the shackles of contemporary culture and sought to shock and rebuke the conventional notions of reality. The unconscious played a large role in surrealist works and one of the underlying themes was to try to create images of such unconscious worlds and fuel them with the animal desire that lay in each of us. Such latent sexuality was achieved through the use of symbolism and the placing of objects where they wouldnt normally be.

This would also give the objects a new life outside of the one in conventional reality. Such techniques are widely and successfully used in advertising today in order to manipulate the common perception of the product on sale. In this sense Surrealism was one of the leading influences, certainly in painting and sculpture and also perhaps culturally, in the 20th century.

Early influences

Some early influences include Italian Paolo Uccello, the British poet and artist William Blake, and the Frenchman Odilon Redon. The duality of the real and the surreal can also be found in the double images of Arcimboldo as early as the 1500s. The Austrian Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, a friend particularly to Salvador Dali, can also be credited as having much influence on the works. His work as the “father of psychodynamics” was popular at the time and showed itself in much of the work. However Freud apparently believed the surrealists to be “quite mad” and was only really socially closely related to Dali, who visited him.Magritte,Duchamp,Ernst and Ray 1960Surrealist exhibitions often included the works of several artists that were not part of the surrealist movement. These included the work of Italian Giorgio de Chirico, the Russian Marc Chagall, the Swiss Paul Klee, the French artists Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia, and the Spaniard Pablo Picasso. Actual members of the movement included German Max Ernst, the Frenchman Jean Arp, and the American painter and photographer Man Ray from 1924 onwards. Frenchman Andr� Masson and the Spaniard Joan Miro joined after 1925 and they were joined later on by French-American Yves Tanguy, the Belgian Rene Magritte, and the Swiss Alberto Giacometti. Catalan Salvador Dali joined in 1930 and , despite being the most famous member of the movement, was only part of it for two years. A difference of opinion between Dali and other surrealists about Dali’s motivation meant he had to leave. It was thought his ideas were in sharp contrast to the surrealist ethic in that his ends were commercial.


adjective dreamlike: suggesting or having qualities associated with surrealism, for example bizarre landscapes and distorted objects noundreamlike qualities or character: the bizarre or unreal qualities associated with surrealism


noun 1. art movement: an early 20th-century movement in art and literature that tried to represent the subconscious mind by creating fantastic imagery and juxtaposing elements that seem to contradict each other 2. type of art: surreal art or literature (


Heinrich surrealist steel sculptureChervin etching Surrealism continues to influence contemporary artists. Elements of organic Surrealism are evident in the work of sculptor Richard Heinrich while Argentine artist Catalina Chervinmakes drawings influenced by the ideas of psychological portraiture and of automatism.

Richard Heinrich steel sculpture Double (left) Catalina Chervin Retrato (Portrait) B (right)


Surrealism has come to be seen as the most influential movement in twentieth century art. Figures like Salvador Dalí and Man Ray not only had an important influence on avant-garde art, but through their commercial work – in fashion photography, advertising and film – they brought the style to a huge popular audience. Following the demise of Minimalism in the 1960s, the movement’s influence also returned to art, and since the 1970s it has attracted considerable attention from art historians (


In the course of this book we have sought to trace the extent to which surrealismretains a living core in its relation with cinema. The influence exerted by surrealism on film has been immense but elusive, and as time goes by it becomesever more diffuse and nebulous, to the extent that one might wonder whether itretains sufficient specificity to make it possible to discuss it in a critically precise way. Having gained currency as an idea in the public domain frequently used todescribe things that are non-surrealist or even distinctly anti-surrealist, surrealismmight be considered to have become so diffuse that almost anything can be saidabout it.In this book, by focusing on those film makers who have maintained a closelink with surrealism, we have sought to instil some precision about the nature of surrealism and to show that it retains significance in relation to current debatesin film. As noted in the Introduction above, in his book

Le Surréalisme au cinéma
,first published in 1953, Ado Kyrou sought to show how the experience of cinema was ‘essentially surrealist’, and he demonstrated this by looking at the work of a vast number of films which, whether the film makers were conscious of it or not (most often they were not), could be said to have affinities with surrealismin one way or another. It would be difficult to write a comparable book today even were it desirable to do so, given the confusion that reigns over what mightor might not be the influence of surrealism. To conclude, nevertheless, we willbriefly look at some of those directors in whom the influence of surrealism seemsclearly to coincide with an affinity with its ideas, as well as with those in whomsuch an affinity is apparent even if they may not appear to have been especially influenced by it.The impact of surrealism on the generation of French directors who came tothe cinema immediately after the Second World War, for instance, was immense,as we have seen in the chapter on documentary. It might in fact be argued that achapter of the book should have been devoted to the work of Alain Resnais andChris Marker, since their sensibilities are so close to surrealism that they mightbe as much ‘surrealists’ as Kaplan, Jodorowsky, Arrabal or Ruiz. According to AdoKyrou, Resnais ‘never makes anything without asking himself if it would please André Breton’ (1985: 206), while Robert Benayoun suggests that the only reason
166 Surrealism and Cinema
Resnais did not join the Surrealist Group was due to his own timidity, recountingthat on the only occasion he ever saw Breton, Resnais was too shy to speak to him.Benayoun quotes Resnais in 1968 saying, ‘I always hope to remain true to AndréBreton, who refused to consider imaginary life apart from reality’ (Benayoun,1980: 36). As close as he is to surrealism, however, it has always seemed to methat he runs along a slightly different path, albeit one that runs parallel to the one which the surrealists chart (

Surrealism is a movement in art and literature that flourished in the early 20 century. The attempt was to change perceptions of the world by expressing imaginative dreams and visions free from conscious rational control. Salvadore Dali was one of the most influential surrealist artist.

I am a huge fan of him and I absolutely adore his art; no matter in which format –his painting, his sculptures, his interior design, his fashion, his performance… To me, he is the Godfather of Surrealism. I also truly believe that a true artist has a playful spirit inside, that makes them so full of imagination. Dali has made him such a popular art icon by his eccentric way of expressing himself. It showed through his work of art. I also love his “logo”  – the mustache!

lg3560portrait-of-the-artist-salvad.jpg Salvador Dali Portrait. image by rachelIRL

This hilarious clip from Dali on a 1950s game show really sums up the childlike witty side of his character.

His work are so unusual, the way of thought are out of the ordinary mind.

SalvadorDali-TheCityoftheDrawers.jpg Salvador Dali image by jessiegold

The_Persistence_of_Memory Dali

Dali the Surrealist also has some very interesting connections with fashion. Although some of his costume design might not be wearable. But it had always been treated as a fashionable art piece.

Dali costume

But when he collaborated with the great Surrealist of Fashion, Elsa Schiparelli, one of the most original fashion designers of the 20 century, they created the Lobster Dress in 1937, based around the lobster motif which was inspired by the Dali’s Lobster Telephone.

The Lobster telephone a painted plaster sculpture from 1936 is seen ahead of Saturday's public opening of the 'Liquid Desire' Salvador Dali exhibition at NGV International on June 11, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia. The exhibition will bring together over 200 works by the Spanish artist, drawn from the permanent exhibitions from Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali in Spain and the Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida.

Nowadays, there are many different versions of the lobsters on fashion or on accessories.

Isabella Blow was the fashion icon and former magazine editor. She was also famous for having the eccentric spirit.

Schiaparelli and Dali are both bold and provoking. “Shoe Hat” was another one from Schiaparelli’s collaborations with the Surrealists in 1937-38, aimed to encourage new interpretations for familiar objects and clothing. It featured a hat shaped like a woman’s high heeled shoe, with the heel standing straight up and the toe tilted over the wearer’s forehead. This was worn by Gala Dali, Schiaparelli herself.

Schiaparelli shoe hat

See the example of how Schiaparelli’s “Shoe Hat” has influenced today fashion.

One of the Surrealist philosophy of art was to have no boundary of logical conception, it thus give the pathway for some very original and fun fashion pieces. One very famous Schiaparelli’s work was created in 1938 —- the “Skeleton dress”. This evening dress was full of intrigued details which was inspired by human spiral bones and ribs. She demonstrated that fashion need not adhere to convention.

What do you think about the similarity of Elsa Schiaparelli’s dress and the luggage of Alexander McQueen’s?

May Ray was the pioneer in surrealist avant-garde photographer who was a significant contributor to both the Dali and the Surrealist movements. He turned models into Surrealist masterpieces by adding a little fun and cleverness into his work.

self portrait

The Surrealist emphasis on distortion and masquerade can be seen in Man Ray’s work.

“Mujer sardina 2” is the opposite thinking of a “mermaid”.

Modern Day Surrealism

From the 20 century art movement to today’s perception of reality. What began as a fashion experiment with a contemporary-art movement has become a source of inspiration for ready-to-wear and fast-fashion labels worldwide.

The black patent leather high heeled purse

Carol Malony lingerie

Jezebel fall 2010 “Zip it up”collection

The runway show is the perfect place for today’s fashion designer to express their inner passion and feeling to their clients.

Leather and suede gloves from Sportmax has a contemporary, playful approach to today’s fashion industry.

Handbag hat from Isaac Mizrahi Fall 2009

slideshow image

This is a lampshade skirt! Surreal / Real?

Express your thought from Viktor and Rolf Fall 2008

Does this make your eyes blink twice? Thumbs up of the optical illusion! By Marc Jacobs Spring 2008

slideshow image

Moschino was one of the influential fashion surrealist in the 80′s.

His hotel in Milan “Maison Moschino” are decorated as a fantasy wonderland.

Moschino’s and Dali share the same quality of fun and witty spirit —  playful, surrealist aesthetic

Some others very interesting surreal fashions…


I hope you realize now, how awesome this is!!! I mean helo, it is everywhere…. In cinemas, art, fashion, architecture and interior design… The fashion part really reminds me of Lady Gaga and her quirky style, now you know where she gets her inspiration from!! (She dreams about it at night, and wakes up and say, hey guys: my next outfit is going to be made out of meat) = true surrealist!! O!! now you guys can give her go with her style since you know her sources (just kidding)…If you are struggling for some inspiration, just visit your imagination, it might get you somewhere:)….

About marlizeprinsloo

helo, my fellow design lovers. I am a graphic design student, so I am new to the design world. Try to bear with me as I collect revelant information and make my own opinions. The initial purpose of my blog is to explore the information and ideas that connect and show the influence of western culture and design with contemporary culture and design. With the first part this wide field of information, I will be investigating the utopian zeitgeist and also the influence of science and technology on our lives. Lets learn about design together, and help each other out. I would love to extend my knowledge in this field of history and design and I would love to know what you have to say, so just leave a comment when you feel like it, and let the debating begin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s