Surrealism emerged as modern art and literary movement in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century and has had a huge impact on culture ever since. The word “surrealism” was coined by Guillaume Apollinaire in 1917, but it was Breton who gave meaning to the term in his Surrealist Manifesto (1924) (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith).
This phenomenon of literary and artistic life began in an atmosphere of disillusionment which was a character feature of French society after the World War I and had a powerful influence not only on contemporary arts and literature but also on further development of all spheres that were related to art (photography, movie etc.). Surrealism appeared as an embodiment of a new spirit, the spirit of modernism, and became a logical development of ideas in the cultural life of Europe in the early twentieth of the last century. The huge influence on the movement was done by Freud’s psychoanalysis. Surrealists developed the concept of an alternative view. They believed that it is possible to see and draw the hidden reality if to give freedom to unconscious – an artist could get a genuine vision of the world not with open but with closed eyes because it gave a possibility to focus and understand the world through inner true perception and feelings (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith).
Surrealists created their works through phantasmagoric forms without paying attention to rational aesthetics. The artists worked with such themes as erotic, magic, irony, and unconsciousness. The central notion of surrealism is a mixture of reality and dreams.
Surrealists believed that only in dreams the mental barrier between conscious and unconscious is removed, and, as a result, illustration of these dreams is a reflection of the entire psyche, not just one part or the other (Turkel). To achieve this affect, the representatives of the movement suggested an absurdly discrepant combination of naturalistic images with the help of collage and so-cold “ready-made” technique. Therefore, surrealists, with their attempt to escape from reality, look beyond the visual reality and tried to understand the deepest nature of a human (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith).
One of the most famous and successful representatives of the period is a Russian artist Marc Chagall. He was born in a Lithuanian Jewish family in Liozna near Vitebsk (Belarus). His parents did not approve of his desire to become a painter, but even despite their disagreement Chagall moved to St. Petersburg with an idea of studying painting. Later he moved to France where developed his talent and before the World War II moved to the USA. Marc Chagall started as an early modernist, but his manner developed and further combined elements of expressionism, symbolism and cubism (Marc Chagall Biography).
One of the main themes in Chagall's art was the theme of true love, which invariably associated with his beloved wife and muse Bella Rosenfeld. Bella's image and features could be easily recognized in all women he depicted. She was one and only love of his life and when, after twenty seven years of marriage, she unexpectedly died, Chagall was so shocked and depressed that threw out all his pencils and could not paint about a year. After her death, the artist told that his wife was the only person in the world who understood him (Marc Chagall Biography). One of Chagall’s works made a great impression on me; it is called “The Promenade” (1917). It caught my eye because it reminded me my child dreams – light, colorful, full of life and motion. In childhood probably everybody believes that they can fly; however, it is possible only in dreams.
Many of Chagall's works depict a beloved couple flying through the air. The motive of a flight and detachment of reality is an artistic device that is characteristic of Chagall as a representative of surrealism. In "The Promenade", Chagall painted himself and Bella – he smiles and holds the hand of his beloved in one hand and a blue bird in the other. A small blue bird is a reference to the play The Blue Bird by Maurice Maeterlinck, a story in which the author depicted a hero and heroine who were searching for love and found it when they returned home (Thejewishmuseum.org). While watching the picture I had a feeling as if I were given an opportunity to look through a keyhole into a parallel reality where people can fly with happiness and love.
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