The Surrealism Website
From Dada to Surrealism by Adam McLean
Surrealism did not arise out of nothing. It developed as a response to other art of the time.
The initial group of surrealists drew on Dadaism which irreverently satirised and poked fun at established art forms. Andre Breton saw surrealism as a revolutionary movement superceding Dada, that would transform outer society.
Dada was primarily a literary movement, often using the forum of a poetry reading to stage an event which challenged the audience's preconceptions. Marcel Duchamp attempted to disrupt and undermine the usual conception of an art object through his found-objects or ready-made 'sculptures'. Man Ray opted to use photography to subvert the established way of depicting ordinary objects.
The German artist Hannah Höch devised a new form of collage, cutting up images from newspapers and magazines, and recontextualising them within a critical political and anti-establishment stance.
Her collages came to greatly influence Max Ernst, who in the early 1920s, before the formulation of surrealism, created a number of key paintings in which he collaged imagery by painting rather than cutting up existing printed images. These paintings are usually seen as being surrealist, even though they predated the appearance of the manifesto by some years.