A Surrealist Art History

Fall 2019–Spring 2021


Henri Rousseau. The Dream. 1910. Oil on canvas, 6' 8 1/2" × 9' 9 1/2" (204.5 × 298.5 cm). Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller
  • MoMA, Floor 5, 518 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

At first glance, Paul Cézanne’s apples, Henri Rousseau’s junglescapes, and Giorgio de Chirico’s eerie arcades may appear to have little in common. All, however, were celebrated by French poet André Breton as key precursors in an art historical lineage leading up to Surrealism’s arrival, which he announced by manifesto in 1924. For Breton, progress in art was marked by a return to what he described as “the wild eye,” untainted by convention and reason.

What unites the disparate works in this gallery is a turn away from external sources of inspiration toward an internal model based on direct, unmediated experience. These artists—who range from the 19th century’s Georges Seurat to Breton’s contemporaries Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso—rejected the idea of painting as a copy of the visible world in favor of that which is hidden, and perceptible only to the artist.

Organized by Anne Umland, The Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Senior Curator, with Jennifer Harris, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture.

9 works online


Installation images

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