Surrealism: An Art Movement

Contributor: Stefani Allegretti. Lesson ID: 13239

A huge violin? A ship in the sky? A fish out of water? All of that and more are possible in surrealist art! Learn about this fantastical art movement and some of its famous artists!


Visual Arts, World

Fine Arts
learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Throughout the history of art, there have been many art movements but none quite like the surrealist art movement!

René Magritte quote

One major focus of the surrealism movement was to depict and illustrate the world of dreams and the imagination come to life.

  • So, what is surrealism exactly?

Let's find out. Watch this video for a brief overview.

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Surrealism was a movement of art and literature that began in the 1920s. It is a style of art that focuses on things like dreams, the imagination, and the fantasy world.

The word sur-real actually means to go above or in addition to something that is real and exists in reality. So, a surrealist artist is one who practices or creates art that conveys something beyond what we experience and see in everyday life.

Take a look at this surrealist painting.

flying humpback whale and woman

  • Could this scene exist in reality?

Not likely!

  • Could we see something like this in our dreams?

Quite possibly!

That is what surrealist art is all about. It is art that focuses on things that are irrational and nonsensical, like our dreams often are.

Surrealist art also explores a part of the mind called the subconscious. We are not consciously aware of our subconscious.

Surrealist art also focuses on the illogical things that don't really make a lot of sense. Surrealist artist Salvador Dali often portrayed the illogical and nonsensical in his work.

One of his most famous paintings, called "The Persistence of Memory," is shown here.

surreal painting by Salvador Dali

Many surrealist artists also depict manipulated aspects of reality in their paintings and art works by juxtaposing the size of objects and their environments.

For example, this famous painting by surrealist artist René Magritte, titled "Personal values," depicts several items that are much larger than normal and take up the space of the entire room!

large comb, glass, make-up brush, and match in a room

  • Could that happen in reality?

Not likely.

The surrealist art movement has influenced our modern-day society in many ways. Think about the fantastic and imaginary worlds in video games, movies, and animations.

We know many of the things we see do not exist in reality and aren't possible. They are surreal, just like surrealist art is!

Great work in the Get It! section. Let's move on to the Got It? section to check your knowledge about surrealism.

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