'Sexual instinct, feeling of death, physical notion of the enigma of space ...' - these, according to Salvador Dali, are the 'great vital constants' that make up the vocabulary of the language of the unconscious - the language of the Surrealist painters. Dealing with the fundamentals of human existence, the Surrealists tried to create an art that is universal in its significance, speaking directly to the spectator's deepest instincts.
The painting developed in two directions: Ernst, Magritte and Dali reintroduced the powerful figurative imagery which had been largely missing since the revolutions of Fauvism and Cubism; their art was also a revolt against the rationalism of abstract art. Miro, Masson and Matta, on the other hand, pursued the idea of automatism, painting out their inner impulses in spontaneous improvisation.
In this survey of the Surrealist movement, the author presents a wide cross-section of its finest works, with an extended introduction and detailed commentaries on each of the 48 full-colour plates. Simon Wilson is Curator of Interpretation at the Tate Gallery, London.