20th Century Art and the Realm of Surrealism

20th Century Art and the Realm of Surrealism

  • identify the contributions that women artists made toward Surrealism
  • explore Surrealism’s vision of the woman
  • explore several artists and their artwork
  • identify the definition of Surrealism as well as its common characteristics

     By the first decade of the twentieth century, dandyism and Modernism had intersected in those men and women whose sexual lives also had a life in their art, and the cross-dressed figure of the woman artist had gained particular currency. At an historical moment when radical feminists were advocating androgyny,” and designers like Coco Chanel were emasculating women'’s fashions, the “new look” also began to make its presence felt in the visual arts.

    However, there was also an entirely different movement occurring in the art world, which we have come to know as Surrealism. No artistic movement since the nineteenth century has celebrated the idea of woman and her creativity as passionately as did Surrealism during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Furthermore, none has had as many female practitioners, and none has evolved a more complex role for the woman artist in a modern movement. Female artists made significant contributions to the language of Surrealism.


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Female Contributions to Surrealism

Female contributions to Surrealism


  • replaced the male Surrealists’ love of hallucination and erotic violence with an art of magical fantasy and narrative flow


  • moved toward laying claim to female subject positions within male-dominated movements


  • their images of the female body, conceived not as Other but as Self, anticipated a feminine poetics of the body


  • represented and celebrated the female body’'s organic, erotic, and maternal reality (that would fully emerge only with the Feminist movement of the 1970’s)


Example Artist

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In the Third Sleep by Kay Sage