The movement that flourished across Europe in the aftermath of World War I was Surrealism.
Which inspired a myriad of 20th-century painters, who produced art, illustrating imaginary elements and figures.
Several artists, like Salvador Dali, Pablo Piccaso, Andre Breton, and others, sought to explore this uncanny concept, which later became the most famous movement of the 20th century.
The art movement followed the path of automatism, a bizarre thought process in which artists focus on the mind’s deepest thoughts to illustrate imagery.
The Surrealism movement resulted in the creation of several fine artworks, influencing the famous Renaissance artists of the 16th century as well as modern-day painters.
Today, we’ll learn more about those surrealist artists who emphasized vibrant colors and obscure shapes to capture the thoughts of unconscious minds.
Table of contents
1. Salvador Dali
When we say surrealism, the first surrealist artist that comes to our mind is Salvador Dali.
He was a renowned French Surrealist painter and printmaker; who was popularly known for his influential depiction of dreamlike and hallucinatory visuals.
Not only was he recognized for his Surrealist work but also regarded as a famous Cubism artist because of his remarkable contributions.
As a painter, he explored several art styles and produced peculiar works throughout his journey.
However, until the late 1920s, he developed a mature artistic style after discovering Sigmund Freud’s writings, which emphasized the subconscious mind.
Highly inspired by Freud’s work, Dali would produce paintings based on visions in his subconscious mind.
The technique called “Paranoiac Critical” was coined by him to perform this activity.
From 1929 to 1937, he produced countless pieces of Surrealist art, depicting a dream world in which regular objects are juxtaposed and deformed in the most irrational fashion.
You can spot the Surrealism principles in his artwork—The Persistence of Memory, which demonstrates a melting clock that apparently is visual from his dreams.
He created a number of renowned artworks that portray various facets of Dali’s experience.
Salvador Dali was popular for his weird and wild art, which helped him remain above the other surreal painters.
Suggested read: Dali’s melting clock painting, The Persistence of Memory
2. Rene Magritte
Despite having a fondness for impressionism, he still succeeded in becoming a key figure in the Surrealism movement.
Impressionist styles and principles helped him to have an understanding of several aspects of Surrealism.
Throughout his career, Rene worked in various art movements—Futurism, Cubism, and Dadaism, but his biggest contribution was to Surrealism.
Rene’s initial styles and techniques would showcase the style of another famous Surrealist artist—Chirico.
However, a meet-up with the well-known Pablo Picasso brought a massive change in Rene’s professional life; the era where he was first influenced by Surrealism.
In 1931, he joined the Surrealist group of Brussels, which helped him grab various advertising assignments for Belgian brands.
Interestingly, he would use clouds, pipes, hats, and green apples as his most frequent subjects, which he would draw meticulously yet effortlessly.
And that is also how he created one of his most famous painting called, ‘The Son of Man‘.
As time passed, Rene’s style observed a dramatic change, which was the result of his circumstances.
Later, he began using an array of colors in his Surrealist artworks; which made him famous for producing duplicates of famous painters’ work—Pablo Picasso, Braque, and others.
(Also Read: 12 Paintings by René Magritte)
3. Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso was one of the most influential and famous artists of all time.
From Classicism to Cubism, he contributed to different art movements and categories.
That’s the reason he wasn’t ever regarded as an absolute Surrealist artist.
Since the 1920s, most of his works have reflected the tone of surrealism.
In the mid-1930s, Picasso’s relationship with Surrealist thinkers began to evolve, which resulted in his participation in Surrealist art exhibitions.
Later, he produced a series of Surrealist paintings; one of them was displayed in the series of Bathers, produced in 1927.
Admirers of Picasso were countless, including common people and masters of the French Surrealist community.
That included Andre Breton; the one who persuaded Picasso to join Surrealism to work on several Surrealist projects.
Since then, Picasso has contributed to various surrealist exhibitions and journals.
You can also read: “The Old Guitarist,” one of the famous paintings by Picasso from his Blue Period!
4. Andre Breton
Andre Breton needs no introduction since he was the founder and chief promoter of the Surrealist movement.
He discovered this uncanny concept of the unconscious when he was a medical student.
Fascinated by Sigmund Freud’s writings on subconscious work, he joined the Dadaists with two other painters.
In 1924, Breton released its manifesto, defining Surrealism as a pure psychic automatism.
He was the first to spread Surrealism as a way of art that embraces contradictory ideas; in which there isn’t a distinction between reality and dream, reason and madness, and objectivity and subjectivity.
The Dada movement in Paris was primarily influenced by Breton’s manifesto and other pieces.
Due to this, Surrealism swiftly spread and evolved in major parts of France.
Breton’s creative theories of automatism and intuitive art-making impacted majorly on the abstract expressionist painting of the New York School.
That persuaded artists of different ages and styles to join him in this revolutionary movement.
Over the years, Surrealism became a well-liked movement, with countless collections of artwork located in various renowned galleries.
5. Max Ernst
Max Ernst was a prolific painter and a primary pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism.
He had no formal education in art, but his keen interest in making paintings made him one of the most popular Surrealist artists.
His first encounter with Surrealism art was when he was looking forward to the University of Bonn in 1909.
Despite being a talented and inventive Surrealist artist, he was infamous for visiting asylums and gazing at the artworks of patients.
And he would spend hours making sketches in the garden of Bruhl Castle.
Later, after working with other talents, he discovered a technique called frottage, which became popular among Surrealist artists.
Due to this, he was praised by several Surrealist painters.
In a few years, with Surrealist artists’ support and encouragement, Ernst discovered another technique called grattage, in which you can produce patterned effects by scraping wet paint from the canvas.
Max has produced countless critically acclaimed Surrealist artworks like The Elephant Celebes, The Angel of the Home or the Triumph of Surrealism, and Forest and Dove.
6. Joan Miró
Joan Miro was a Catalan artist who combined abstract art with Surrealist fantasy.
Influenced by Catalan folk art, his work would display a vibrant, vitally expressive language.
Born into the Craftsman family in 1893, he joined the Surrealism movement when it was at its peak in 1924.
With the support of two other fellow artists, he drew several Surrealist artworks from his studio.
Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, and the producer of numerous famous landscapes, were Miro’s sole inspirations.
Unfortunately, Joan was the one whose name was omitted from the manifesto penned by Andre Breton.
Because of his keen interest in various genres, Miro was commissioned by countless artists.
Which helped him develop a distinctly symbolic language of simplified, biomorphic, or lifelike forms.
Known as a versatile Surrealist artist, he has also inspired geniuses like Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte.
Today, you’d see most of Miro’s paintings in the world’s renowned museums and galleries.
You can even explore Van Gogh’s replicas at an affordable prices that starts from $210.
7. Leonora Carrington
Leonora Carrington was one of the talented and versatile female artists who worked for Surrealism until her last breath.
Despite spending most of her time on the development of Surrealism, Leonora’s name went missing in the books of art history.
She had always been a source of inspiration because of the hurdles and hoops she faced in her career.
Disowned by her family, she still thrived at every point like a brave lady and dedicated her life to Surrealist art.
Leonora’s work was greatly influenced by Lewis Carroll’s and Beatrix Potter’s animal-related tales.
When Leonardo went to the first International Surrealist Exhibition in London, she was fascinated by Max Ernst’s 1924 painting.
Soon, she developed a romantic relationship with him, which didn’t last long.
Despite being in a relationship with another Surrealist artist, she wasn’t embraced by the movement.
Even after following the principles of the Surrealism movement, Leonora and other female Surrealist artists weren’t given the equal status as male Surrealist artists.
Unlike other Surrealist artists, she wasn’t fully driven by Freud’s writing.
But she chose to seize opportunities that are her personal interpretations of the unconscious, spirituality, and magical realism.
No matter what, a Surrealist art appreciator would remember her as a confident, versatile, and bold artist, who was the biggest female contributor to the movement.
8. Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, who contributed to Dada, Modern Art, Surrealism, Cubism, and Conceptual Art.
Marcel’s paintings and styles were always praised by the leader of the Surrealist group, André Breton.
His passion took a sudden turn when he decided to pursue Chess opportunities and leave painting.
As a result, he declined invitations to several Surrealist art exhibitions.
However, after a few years, he began visiting exhibitions; the first exhibition was of surrealist objects at Galerie Ratton in Paris.
In 1937, Duchamp designed the entrance to Breton’s gallery, Gradiva, in Paris.
In the following year, he also designed the Surrealist exhibition organized by Andre Breton and Paul Eluard.
Among thousands of art pieces, his Nude Descending A Staircase owned by Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, worth millions of dollars.
9. Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian artist who claimed to be the only artist to have comprehended the concept of Surrealism
Giorgio’s life was influenced by Italy’s classical history in a huge way.
He began painting during World War I when he was stationed in various places away from Italy.
Giorgio’s inspiration was Nietzsche.
His philosophical texts, paintings, and knowledge shaped Chirico’s ideology and perception.
Chirico’s painting, Ariadne, was the first to draw other Surrealist artists’ attention.
Although he wasn’t labeled as a Surrealist painter, Chirico’s work inspired a myriad of Surrealist art appreciators.
Andre Breton picked his work The Dream of Tobias to serve as Surrealism’s emblem; which appeared in the background of a Surrealist portrait.
Despite influencing the Surrealism movement, his relationship with the Surrealists wasn’t everlasting.
Giorgio produced several outstanding Surrealist artworks; the one that was famous among surrealists was sold at a price of $9.2 million to Sotheby’s New York in 2017.
10. Remedios Varo
Remedios Varo was a Spanish-born Surrealist artist who worked in several countries in Europe.
Her first contact with the Surrealist circle was through Peret; there she met Leonora Carrington, Dora Maar, Roberto Matta, Wolfgang Paalen, and Max Ernst.
But her active participation happened when she arrived in France to attend international Surrealist exhibitions in Paris and in Amsterdam in 1938.
Through her collaboration with aspiring Surrealist artists, she was associated with numerous small assignments.
But, like other female Surrealist artists, she, too, faced immense criticism, which was common at the time.
Although her diligence and virtue made her contribute to Surrealism, she chose to deny affiliation with the Surrealism movement.
Despite wearing several hats, she was proficient at making dreamscape paintings.
As an industrious, honest, and timeless Surrealist painter, she produced phenomenal works like Harmony, Eyes on the Table, and Embroidering the Earth’s mantle.
11. Zdzisław Beksiński
Zdzislaw Beksinski, a World War II survivor, and southern-Poland-born artist were known for drawing provocative pieces during Poland’s communist era.
He began his career as a photographer, which he ended in a short time, and pursued painting.
As a painter, one would explore the galleries of museums, study the work of artists, or read philosophical texts.
However, in Beksinki’s case, he would focus on drawing; mainly preferring mediums like acrylic and oil to hone his skills.
Throughout his career, he produced several pieces of art that remain untitled, illustrating the features of dystopia.
Zdzislaw was one of the few Surrealist artists who went beyond his limits to produce meticulously detailed work.
However, his last days were full of shocks and trauma as he lost his wife in 1998.
Since then, he has lived an antisocial life. But he finished working on a piece on the day he was stabbed by the son of his caretaker, on February 21, 2005.
12. Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo, one of the most iconic female artists to date, was popularly known for her incredibly unusual and mesmerizing artworks.
Most of them would force art appreciators to recognize her physical and emotional pain.
In 1939, when she moved to Paris to exhibit her paintings, she developed a friendship with the famous Surrealist artist Pablo Picasso, who was also an admirer of hers.
Kahlo’s paintings were conversation starters since they meticulously displayed her life events.
However, she denied affiliation with the Surrealist style since she believed that her work never showcased imagery.
Renowned Surrealist artist, who was also an admirer of Frida’s work, tried to convince her she was a Surrealist.
Not only did she deny that, but also her husband, Rivera, believed that she was a realist painter.
13. Paul Klee
Paul Klee, an art historian, the father of abstract art, and a Bauhaus master was a source of inspiration to Surrealist painters.
His work never belonged to a single category; they were always tied to dozens of 20th-century movements, from Dada to German Expressionism.
You would clearly experience his composition, which covers throbbing elements, mystical hieroglyphs, and otherworldly creatures, displaying the tone of Abstract art.
Never officially regarded as a Surrealist artist, but his influence was massive on Surrealism practitioners—Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Mark Rothko, and others.
Klee’s enigmatic but influential work is celebrated at Paris’s Center Pompidou.
Paul’s Rose Garden, Dance of Math, Still Life in Brown, and some other pieces of Surrealist art fascinated Surrealist artists.
Suggested Read: Paintings by Mark Rothko
14. Jean Arp
Jean Arp was born to a family of a French-speaking Alsatian mother and a German father.
He played a significant role in another avant-Garde movement, Surrealism, and also attended the first Surrealism exhibition in Paris.
Contributing to Surrealist, Dada, and other 20th-century movements, he was well known for sculptures, paintings, drawings, collages, and poems.
His artistic process was different from other Surrealist artists. He would shift styles and composition frequently in an attempt to minimize the intervention of the conscious mind.
As a co-founder of Dada, he was remembered for merging it with Surrealism for shaping the future of the movement.
Also Read: Iconic Artists of Dadaism
15. Yves Tanguy
Yves was a member of the core team of Surrealism, who was also known for understanding Surrealist aesthetics.
Although he was a quintessential Surrealist painter, his compositions, contributions to manifestos, and fondness for art were overlooked by today’s generation.
Yves has also produced countless pieces of abstract landscapes populated by biomorphic shapes and painted in somber hues.
Tanguy’s non-representational surrealist paintings have a distinctive, instantly recognizable aesthetic.
They primarily feature huge, abstract landscapes in an extremely constrained color scheme, with only sporadic flashes of accent colors in contrast.
The look of Tanguy’s nonrepresentational surrealism paintings is distinctive and easily recognizable.
They mostly consist of enormous, abstract landscapes with a very limited color palette and just periodic flashes of accent colors for contrast.
These are the 15 talented and popular Surrealist artists whose works have inspired millions of people.
In the initial days, two separate Surrealist groups were formed.
However, Andre’s community, backed by Dali, Pablo, and others, won the competition. They began to shape Surrealism throughout the 20th century.
Other prolific painters and female artists, like Frida and Leonora, also took Surrealism seriously and adapted various Surrealist techniques.
Surrealism, which was highly influenced by 20th-century, Cubism, kept inspiring 21st-century artists as well.
Thank you for your consideration.
I hope you found this information useful.
I’ve listed 15 famous Surrealist artists whose works have inspired millions of people.
However, if you believe I missed something or that I should have included more pertinent information, please let me know in the comments area.
Also, check out our YouTube channel—we share interesting content about handmade paintings every week.
Talking about handmade paintings, we also produce replicas of renowned paintings to give an artistic look to our art lovers’ abodes.
Do you want a replica of your favorite artwork?
Frequently Asked Questions
The movement that flourished across Europe in the aftermath of World War I was Surrealism.
Salvador Dali and Pablo Piccaso were the most influential Surrealist painters and also the biggest contributors to the Cubist Movement.
Andre Breton was the founder and chief promoter of the Surrealist movement.
Joan Miro, a Catalan artist who would combine abstract art with Surrealist fantasy.
Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo, and Leonora Carrington were the talented and prolific female Surrealist artists.