In Amy Dempsey’s book Surrealism, part of the Art Essentials series, readers are invited to take a fresh look at the ubiquitous movement. Surrealism has become a synonym for ‘bizarre’, and we each may have some specific, immediate ideas of the movement as a result of the most familiar, popular works it produced, but it is made clear right from the beginning that Dempsey is going to take us beyond the headliners. “Writing this book allowed me to present a much broader range of images and artists – to show that there is much more to Surrealism than melted clocks and bowler hats!” She guides us through the essential elements of the Surrealist movement covering what it is, who the Surrealists were, and exploring the broad range of methods and forms that artists employed in creating some of the most recognisable art of the twentieth century.
As a movement it was grounded in, and indeed a reaction to, the specific and tumultuous events of the early twentieth century and we get plenty of insight into how this informed the Surrealist ideology. “Surrealism was definitely a reaction to the horrors of the First World War. It was a continuation of Dada, whose artists expressed in no uncertain terms their disgust and anger with the status quo and believed that society had completely discredited itself. It was also a move away from Dada, as the Surrealists sought to find a more positive, active role for art that would aid in the renewal or transformation of society.”