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Different forms of Surrealism by Adam McLean
Magrittean 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.

René Magritte began creating paintings in his now familiar style in 1925.

1925 Oasis

1927 Magritte Midnight Marriage

1927 Discovery

Within a few years he had developed a number of pictorial devices which he continued to explore for the rest of his life. In a sense he drew on the Dadaist collage ideas of such as Max Ernst. Thus he placed trees growing out of a table, that is he displaced familiar images into an unfamiliar context. He re-textured a female nude with wood grain, thus transferring the qualities of one object onto another. His work became a series of often humorous visual puns, that in creating strange juxtapositions of imagery, challenged the viewer's perception of reality.

1931 La Bell Captive II

1933-4 Black Magic

Later, he delighted in creating ambiguous images where an object is depicted simultaneously within two contexts, and thus the viewer is left puzzling over which is real. We see this in his device of the picture within a picture, which he revisited many times, creating new variations. Another image which delighted him was to depict a human body with the lower part naturalistic but with the upper torso as part of the sky.

1934 The Rape

1951 Song of the violet

1928 The Lovers II

Many of his images were amusing, teasing and clever, but occasionally he created rather disturbing paintings. Here he depersonalises a woman's face by transposing her naked torso, and creating an image that amounts to the sort of sexual objectification through which some men see women. In Song of the Violet he depicts men turned into stone, though the painting's title suggest something rather more pleasant. The two lovers clearly are finding it difficult to relate, even in a kiss, because of the gulf between them, suggested by the fabric over their heads.

1964 The Land of Miracles

Magritte 1966 Decalcomania

1951 The Kiss

He also delighted in the idea of negative space, where figure and ground are transposed.

1952 Personal Values

1965 The Blank Signature

Other devices he used were rescaling, and transposing foreground and background, as we note in two of his best known paintings.

Magritte's style of verist surrealism was rooted in commonplace images, which he transformed through his various pictorial devices into pictures which challenged our conventional way of viewing the world. This contrasts somewhat with the verism of Dalí which metamorphosed objects more through imaginative reconstruction.

Magritte's surrealism influenced many later artists and is still used today, even in advertising, films, comic books and other media. It is one of the great foundations of surrealist art.