Freud's influence on Surrealism  

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"Freud's contempt both for modern art and Surrealism is well-known. But what does such resistance from Freud, a brilliant art collector, reveal? The Surrealists acknowledged their debt to Freud in the first Surrealist Manifesto and opened a gallery in Paris called Gradiva."

Freud met two major members of the movement: Andre Breton and Salvador Dalí. In 1921, Breton visited Freud at Berggasse while Dalí saw Freud in London in 1938, prior to the move to Maresfield Gardens. Both meetings were disastrous. Subsequently, Breton published an attack on Freud while Dalí was convinced Freud thought he was 'a fanatic'. Dr Burke explores why Surrealism's appropriation of Freud's theories rankled him and offers an analysis of the issues, both personal and aesthetic, that bedevilled Freud's encounters with Surrealism's key players.[1]

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Freud's work with free association, dream analysis, and the unconscious was of utmost importance to the Surrealists in developing methods to liberate imagination. They embraced idiosyncrasy, while rejecting the idea of an underlying madness.



In 1921, André Breton visits Freud in Vienna.

And during the war, André Breton, who had trained in medicine and psychiatry, served in a neurological hospital where he used Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic methods with soldiers suffering from shell-shock.

Dali visits Freud in London

Salvador Dali meets Sigmund Freud

Freud's reaction to Surrealism

Freud initiated the psychoanalytic critique of Surrealism with his remark that what interested him most about the Surrealists was not their unconscious but their conscious. His meaning was that the manifestations of and experiments with psychic automatism highlighted by Surrealists as the liberation of the unconscious were highly structured by ego activity, similar to the activities of the dream censorship in dreams, and that therefore it was in principle a mistake to regard Surrealist poems and other art works as direct manifestations of the unconscious, when they were indeed highly shaped and processed by the ego. In this view, the Surrealists may have been producing great works, but they were products of the conscious, not the unconscious mind, and they deceived themselves with regard to what they were doing with the unconscious. In psychoanalysis proper, the unconscious does not just express itself automatically but can only be uncovered through the analysis of resistance and transference in the psychoanalytic process.

See also

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