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Amy Dempsey Surrealism

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A movement founded in 1924 by Andre Breton, the Surrealists strived to replace rational logic with a more visionary form of expression. Over the next two decades, they produced some of the most vital art of all time.

Originally part of the Dada group, Breton came to reject their outbursts of nihilism and disgust, seeking instead to transform Dada's rebellious howl into something "positive, life affirming and poetic". To accomplish this, the Surrealists utilised all forms of craft, from painting and writing to photography, sculpture, film and fashion.

Greater social and political freedoms during the 1920s and 1930s allowed the movement to thrive. However, it was also an era of political extremism, as evidenced by economic upheaval and the rise of Fascism. Surviving the Second World War, Surrealism gained in popularity during the 1950s, but the creative spark had begun to wane, with Jean-Paul Sartre dismissing it for its 'stupid optimism'.

Although a large portion of Amy Dempsey's book is given over to Breton, along with popular figures like Salvador Dali and Man Ray, room is also made to include a number of female artists previously consigned to the fringes. 'Vegetal Puppets' by Remedios Varo stands out as one of the most visually stunning images in the book, while the work of Marie Cerminova, who changed their name to 'Toyen' in order to shed the constraints of gender, haunts the mind long after the page is turned.

Almost a century after its inception, Surrealism has lost little of its relevance. We should celebrate its 'stupid optimism.'

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