Surrealist paintings shed light upon the innermost workings of the mind, making them not only striking works of visual beauty, but fascinating psychological studies of the subconscious. If you’re a fan of Surrealist painters including Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Frida Kahlo, and contemporary artist Vladimir Kush; the films of Luis Bunuel; or the writings of Andre Breton, we invite you to explore the vast selection of original surrealist paintings for sale on Saatchi Art.
Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” (1931) is perhaps one of the most famous surrealist paintings and one of the most popular surrealist prints ever produced. Dali is known for his hallucinatory imagery and skewed proportions rendered in a truly realist style. Rene Magritte, artist of “The Treachery of Images” (1928-1929) and “The Son of Man” (1964), also worked in this style to depict dreamlike scenes of floating objects and faceless men. Max Ernst, known for works like “The Barbarians” (1937) practiced the grattage technique and often alluded to Freudian theories in his works. Joan Miro’s colorful biomorphic scenes, on the other hand, are often associated with the freedom of the child’s imagination. Contemporary surrealist Vladimir Kush’s paintings show the style lives on today. Kush’s paintings like “Departure of the Winged Ship” and “African Sonata” follow the tradition of rendering illogical scenes with realistic detail. Other famous Surrealists include Paul Klee, Paul Delvaux, Frida Kahlo, and Yves Tanguy.
Though Surrealism originally arose as a literary movement, surrealist paintings were eventually accepted into its repertoire. In 1924, Andre Breton founded Surrealism with fellow writers and poets Louis Aragon, Paul Éluard,and Philippe Soupault, who looked to the irrational to diminish the chaos of war. These men were enamored by Freudian theories of the subconscious and sought to tap into unpremeditated forms of expression through writing, drawing, and eventually other art forms including painting, sculpture, and film. Early Surrealist painters created metaphorical compositions that alluded to aspects of childhood, dreams, sex, and the mind. “La Peintiure Surrealiste,” the first Surrealist exhibition, was held in Paris in 1925, and by 1928, Andre Breton expressed his acceptance of visual forms of the movement in his text “Surrealism and Painting.” The movement is still popular today, as many contemporary artists seek to combine different worlds in their works of art.
Surrealist paintings and surrealist drawings often depict fantastical imagery, juxtaposing elements of everyday life with fragments of the imaginary. Artists like Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte, for example, painted illogical scenes (melting clocks, floating apples, etc.) in precise detail. These paintings can also be characterized by their symbolic subjects, which often allude to Freudian theories of the subsconscious, erotic desire, and childhood imagination. On a technical level, artists also experimented with new methods of application, such as decalomania and grattage, to achieve otherworldly results. In decalomania, the artist presses and peels a sheet of paper on the painted surface, while in grattage, the painter scrapes objects across wet paint. This technique produced textured deformities, allowing artists to further create imaginative worlds.