Surrealism grew principally out of the earlier Dada movement, which before World War I produced works of anti-art that deliberately defied reason; but Surrealism's emphasis is not on negation but on positive expression. The movement represents a reaction against what its members see as the destruction wrought by the "rationalism" that had guided European culture and politics in the past and that had culminated in the horrors of War. According to the major spokesman of the movement, the poet and critic Andre' Breton, who published "The Surrealist Manifesto" in 1924, Surrealism is a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely that the world of dream and fantasy will be joined to the everyday rational world in "an absolute reality, a surreality." Drawing heavily on theories adapted from Sigmund Freud, Breton saw the unconscious as the wellspring of the imagination. He defined genius in terms of accessibility to this normally untapped realm, which, he believed, could be attained by poets and painters alike.


The Surrealist Movement in the United States includes the Chicago Surrealist Group and its many participants scattered from coast to coast. Formed in the summer of 1966 with the encouragement of André Breton and the Surrealist Group in Paris, as well as the surrealists of many other countries, the Chicago Surrealist Group has carried on its wide-ranging research and agitation uninterruptedly ever since; the group has long been recognized as one of the most active, innovative and prolific in the international surrealist movement.