Bélial Empereur des Mooches (1948) by Wilfredo Lam (Private collection / SDO Wifredo Lam/ DACS, 2022)
From its beginnings, Surrealism’s objective was to subvert the things most people believed to be the very foundations of modern civilization: logic, convention and reasoning. Surrealism promised intellectual liberty to its followers – initially writers, and only latterly visual artists. These artists aimed to open doorways on to worlds that political authorities can’t penetrate: the imagination, impulses and dreams.
And subsequently a history was told by scholars to define Surrealism. This involved a condensed cast of (mostly male) heroes including the movement’s father André Breton, who had written the first Surrealist manifesto in 1924. Mostly, it involved his disciples – artists like Salvador Dalí, René Magritte and Max Ernst. It also became intimately linked with Western cities: particularly Paris and New York.