As Surrealism Turns 100, a Look at Its Enduring Legacy

Few movements in art history have had as lasting a legacy as Surrealism, which utterly transformed our manner of thinking and seeing. In its time, it garnered a remarkable degree of public recognition, and its influence on artists continues to be felt today.

This year marks the centennial of the birth of Surrealism with the publication of the Surrealist Manifesto in October 1924. Actually, make that manifestos, plural, as two tracts appearing within weeks of each other vied for the title. The first was written by Yvan Goll (1891–1950), a French-German poet with close ties to the German Expressionists; the other, more famous treatise was penned by André Breton (1896–1966), a French poet and critic whose talent for tireless self-promotion contributed to his ascension as Surrealism’s de facto leader and ideological enforcer.

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Neither Goll nor Breton mentioned art in their respective statements. Moreover, neither actually coined the term Surrealism. That distinction belongs to Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918), a poet and prime proponent of the Parisian avant-garde, who used it in a 1917 letter to the Belgian critic Paul Dermée to describe the experimental ballet Parade (1917).


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