Comparative Study

| Published: September 25, 2017

Psychology in Art: The Influence of Freudian Theories on Surrealist Art

Nitansha Nema

Scholar, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow, India Google Scholar More about the auther

DIP: 18.01.119/20170404

DOI: 10.25215/0404.119


“Surrealism”, which developed out of Freudian studies of the functions of the mind, was initially conceptualised in Paris with the publication of the Manifesto of Surrealism by poet and critic André Breton. Soon enough it culminated into an international intellectual and political movement. For artists, the undulating contours of the mind and human psychology as explained by Freud were nothing less than an afflatus that could be transformed into marvelous works of art. Today, we frequently encounter numerous works of Dali, Kahlo, Miro, Magritte and Oppenheim, without appreciating the man who, other than providing inspiration to these artists, was also fundamental in identifying that ‘inspiration’, which was till then considered a gift from the Holy Spirit, could actually be found embedded deep in our own unconscious. It was this ‘inspiration’ that Surrealist Artists sought to bring out in their works by applying processes like Automatism and the use of dream diaries. It marked a whole new era where art was being influenced by psychology. This paper aims at analysing Freudian influence on Surrealist Artwork and developing a multi-dimensional and more profound understanding of Freud’s seemingly bizarre ideas. This has been done by critically evaluating a total of six paintings, two each by Dali, Kahlo and Magritte that have been chosen on the sole ground that they all demonstrate different Psychoanalytic techniques devised by Freud. Further, a cross-cultural analysis has been done to provide a more intricate understanding of the latent concepts explained in the paintings. Upon examination of these works through this paper, it becomes clear how Rene Magritte employed metaphorical symbols in exploring the issues of visual perception and optical illusions, how Salvador Dali used Freudian symbols to embark upon a spectacular picturization of the world of human dreams and how Frida Kahlo found peace at last by channeling the bubbling cauldron of her traumatizing past found in her unconscious into her vibrant paintings. Through a thorough analysis of these works, this paper enables the reader to develop a more lucid understanding of Freudian ideas that inspired the avant-garde movement that marked the paintings of the early 20th century.

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ISSN 2348-5396

ISSN 2349-3429



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Published in   Volume 04, Issue 4, July-September, 2017