Dali and the Veristic Surrealists

The second tendency of Surrealist painting, sometimes called Veristic Surrealism, was to depict with meticulous clarity and often in great detail a world analogous to the dream world. Before responding to the Metaphysical painting of de Chirico and being brought into the Surrealist Movement in 1929, Salvador Dali had admired the command of detail in artists such as Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) and the Pre-Raphaelites; his physical technique continued to reflect this admiration. Dali's importance for Surrealism was that he invented his own 'psycho technique', a method he called 'critical paranoia'. He deliberately cultivated delusions similar to those of paranoiacs in the cause of wresting hallucinatory images from his conscious mind. Dali's images - his bent watches, his figures, halfhuman, half chest of drawers - have made him the most famous of all Surrealist painters. But when he changed to a more academic style in 1937 Breton expelled him from the Movement.
The Surrealist paintings of Rene Magritte (1898-1967) combine convincing descriptions of people and objects in bizarre juxtapositions with a competent but pedestrian physical painting technique. The results question everyday reality, stand it on its head and present a new surreality. These odd juxtapositions were explored by the English painter Edward Wadsworth, who used tempera to achieve a dreamlike clarity in his work. Surrealists approved of desire in its attack on reason and the Veristic Surrealism of Paul Delvaux (b 1897), in which women appear in the cool surroundings of noble architecture and exude an hallucinatory eroticism.

Veristic Surrealism subdivides into a second main type in the work of Yves Tanguy. The dreamlike visions that Tanguy produced from the unconscious layers of the mind contain meticulously described yet imaginary objects. There are no bizarre juxtapositions. His is a self consistent world that convinces on its own terms as in a dream. In the work of the Veristic Surrealists, the surface of the painting tends to be flat and glossy: the viewer is reminded as little as possible that the illusion is composed of paint and the hallucinatory effect is thereby enhanced.

The Clash of Surrealism

For the automatists the approach to the mystery of Nature is to never become conscious of the mystery, for the surrealists it is to learn from it. The Picasso camp, won the "faith" of society. The Dali camp would have to secure a dialog with the public to be able to show the individual the "surrealist way of life" or the "path of individuation" as Jung called it.

The Veristic Surrealist quest is none other than the one described by Breton as, "The cause of freedom and the transformation of man's consciousness." In the works of surrealists we find the legacy of Bosch, Brueguel, William Blake, the Symbolic painters of the Nineteenth Century, the perennial questioning of philosophy, the search of psychology, and the spirit of mysticism. It is work based on the desire to permit the forces that created the world to illuminate our vision, allowing us to consciously develop our human potential.

The Veristic surrealists of today recognize the difficulties that their movement has faced during the second half of the Twentieth Century as it attempted to become a major cultural force, like modernism had. The United States, a country in which the business community never had to share its power with the aristocracy, wholeheartedly embraced abstraction and modernism. They shared the belief of abstract artists that the chaos of action painting and automatism were expressions of freedom, and that form, subjugation and inhibition walked hand in hand.

Contemporary Veristic Surrealists have worked for the past fifty years in silent seclusion. A renaissance of this art form will provide the world with new eternal aesthetic pleasures and reawaken the use of meaningful expression in art, so that it can once again have a dialogue with the public.