The Surrealism Website
Different forms of Surrealism by Adam McLean
Daliesque Verism

The verist style, which emerged early in the evolution of surrealism, used figurative depictions of objects and human beings, but presented in strange ways and often set in weird and enigmatic scenarios. Two main figures created this, René Magritte and Salvador Dalí.

Dalí's first surreal painting is Honey is Sweeter than Wine of 1927 followed some two years later by his well known The Great Masturbator.

Salvador Dalí Honey is Sweeter than Wine 1927

Salvador Dalí The Great Masturbator 1929

On a flat plain under a bright sky with wisps of clouds, Dalí depicts familiar objects, the decaying body of a donkey, a human corpse, a disembodied head, together with some strange geometric forms. These individual elements are painted in a realistic manner, placed within a coherent perspective, however, their significance within the composition is not immediately clear, indeed the work so challenges viewers' attempts to read it linearly, that they are left puzzling over the meaning or significance of this gathering of images. His Great Masturbator, at first glance, seems to be a merely a piling of unrelated images, one on top of another, but it has been shown that the work has a clear narrative.
Dalí's verism was immediately taken up by a number of then emerging surrealists, and this style became emblematic of surrealism itself. It relies partly on the tension between realistic depiction ('verus' being the Latin word for 'true') and enigmatic scenarios, and has been so successful that artists continue to find fresh inspiration in this approach to painting. Often the seeming paradoxical and enigmatic nature of the images used in these verist paintings, cloaks and obscures an underlying but rather simple narrative.

Victor Brauner was among the first to adopt Dalí's verism.

Victor Brauner
The poet Geo Bogza shows his head to the landscape with drills 1929

Victor Brauner Suicide at Dawn 1930

Dalí's fellow Spaniard Oscar Dominguez, followed shortly after.

Oscar Dominguez Souvenir of Paris 1932

Oscar Dominguez The Electro-sexual sewing machine 1934

Other artists quickly adopted this style, which is now so pervasive, that it is immediately familiar even through commercial advertising and children's book illustrations. Although many surrealists moved towards abstraction in the 1950s, many of the second wave of surrealist painters wholeheartedly embraced Dalíesque verism.

Jane Graverol
The Procession of Orpheus 1948

Leonora Carrington
And Then We Saw the Daughter of the Minotaur. 1953

With the rise in the last decades of the 20th century of what has been labelled 'neo-surrealism', we find a return to Daliesque verism, obvious in the work of such as José Roosevelt and Jaroslaw Jasnikowski. It is remarkable that with the fall of Soviet communism and the freeing of Eastern European countries, many of the artists emerging at that time chose to adopt the verist surrealism influenced by Dalí, extending and moving it in new directions.

José Roosevelt The Railway Station at Riaz 1988

Jaroslaw Jasnikowski Picture of a wasted unique life 2000