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Unmasking Picasso: The Surprising Origins of Surrealism

The Surprising Origins of Surrealism: Picasso’s Role in Shaping a Revolutionary Art MovementIn the world of art, the word “surrealism” immediately conjures up images of dreamlike landscapes and bizarre, fantastical creatures. It is a movement that has captivated audiences for decades, challenging conventional notions of reality and pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

But did you know that it was none other than Pablo Picasso who claimed to have invented the term “surrealism”? 1) Picasso Claimed He Invented the Term ‘Surrealism’:

Picasso, the renowned Spanish artist, is often associated with the Cubist movement and his iconic works like “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” and “Guernica.” However, he also played a significant role in the birth of surrealism.

Picasso himself referred to his art as “sur-real,” meaning “beyond reality.” This term encapsulated the essence of his work, which delved into the depths of the unconscious mind and explored the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated elements. In a quote attributed to Picasso, he stated, “I invented the term ‘surrealism’ to describe the sur-real, the reality that is deeper than mere appearances.” This statement highlights Picasso’s conviction that art should go beyond mere visual representation and tap into the hidden realms of human experience.

By coining the term “sur-real,” he laid the foundation for a movement that would revolutionize the art world. However, it is important to note that the term ‘surrealism’ did not gain widespread recognition until it was published by the poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire.

In 1917, Apollinaire included the word “Sur-realism” in the program notes for the ballet “Parade.” This marked the first official usage of the term in an artistic context and brought it to the attention of the wider public. 2) Andre Breton Begged Picasso to Join the Surrealist Group:

Andre Breton, the French writer and poet, is often credited as the founder of surrealism.

It was his manifesto, “The Surrealist Manifesto,” published in 1924, that solidified the movement’s principles and objectives. However, before Breton took the reins of the movement, he sought the involvement of none other than Pablo Picasso.

Breton greatly admired Picasso and saw his participation as a crucial element in establishing surrealism as a legitimate and influential artistic movement. He recognized Picasso’s ability to push the boundaries of artistic expression and felt that his presence would lend credibility to their cause.

Picasso, though intrigued by the concepts of surrealism, initially declined Breton’s invitation. He was deeply engrossed in his own artistic pursuits and hesitant to align himself with any specific group or movement.

However, Picasso’s contributions to surrealist exhibitions and journals cannot be overlooked. Despite his formal disassociation, he participated in numerous surrealist exhibitions and contributed artwork to surrealist journals, indirectly supporting the movement and its ideals.


Picasso’s claim of inventing the term “surrealism” showcases his deep understanding of the power of art to transcend reality. Although the term became widely recognized through Guillaume Apollinaire’s publication, Picasso’s “sur-real” quote reveals his visionary perspective that paved the way for the surrealist movement.

Furthermore, Andre Breton’s fervent pursuit of Picasso’s involvement underscores the significant influence he held in the art world. While Picasso may not have officially joined the surrealist group, his contributions to their exhibitions and journals showcased his affinity for the movement.

Picasso’s impact on surrealism cannot be underestimated, as his innovative approach to art laid the groundwork for a movement that would forever challenge and redefine the boundaries of creative expression. Through the story of Picasso and surrealism, we come to appreciate the interconnectedness of art movements, the role of individuals in shaping artistic genres, and the power of art to challenge societal norms.

Picasso’s influence continues to inspire artists today, reminding us of the limitless possibilities that lie within the human imagination. So, the next time you encounter a surrealist painting or sculpture, remember the surprising origins of this revolutionary art movement and the role Picasso played in its inception.

3) Picasso Took a Different Approach:

When it comes to surrealism, Picasso’s association with the movement is often overshadowed by his groundbreaking contributions to Cubism. However, Picasso’s resistance to Surrealist artistic methods should not be overlooked.

While he did not fully embrace the principles and techniques of the Surrealist movement, Picasso’s unique perspective and inclusion of Surrealist elements in his works make him a significant figure in the history of surrealism. Unlike many Surrealist artists who practiced automatic drawing or relied on chance and the subconscious to create their art, Picasso adhered to a more calculated and deliberate approach.

He believed in the power of composition and meticulous planning, which diverged from the spontaneous nature of Surrealist techniques. Picasso’s resistance to Surrealist artistic methods can be attributed to his belief that art should be a result of a disciplined and intellectual process.

He once stated, “I don’t believe in making accidents. I have to plan my accidents.” This statement sums up Picasso’s methodical approach to creating art and his reluctance to fully embrace the Surrealist emphasis on chance and subconscious exploration.

Though Picasso resisted Surrealist artistic methods, he did incorporate Surrealist elements into his works. In some of his paintings, he explored dreamlike imagery and abstract representations that resembled the fantastical landscapes often associated with Surrealism.

For example, in his painting “The Dream,” Picasso depicts a reclining nude figure surrounded by unconventional objects that seem to defy logic and reality. This work demonstrates his ability to capture the essence of the subconscious through visual symbolism and non-linear narratives.

4) In the 1930s Picasso Contributed to the Surrealist Publication ‘Minotaure’:

While Picasso may have resisted Surrealist artistic methods, his involvement in the Surrealist publication “Minotaure” during the 1930s reveals his continued fascination with Surrealist concepts and symbolism. “Minotaure” was a unique platform that brought together artists, writers, and thinkers, allowing them to explore and expand upon Surrealist ideas.

Picasso’s contributions to “Minotaure” consisted of drawings, lithographs, and poems that showcased his exploration of Surrealist themes. One of the recurring motifs in his artwork for the publication was the Minotaur.

The Minotaur, a mythical creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man, has long been associated with Picasso’s work. In Surrealist terms, the Minotaur represented the untamed subconscious and the realm of desire and desire-driven impulses.

Picasso’s use of the Minotaur symbol in his art goes beyond its Surrealist associations. For him, the Minotaur represented a primal force that resonated with his own personal struggles and desires.

The Minotaur became a symbol of the artist himself, a representation of his creative energy, artistic drive, and passionate nature. In his artwork for “Minotaure,” Picasso delved deep into the symbolism and mythology of the Minotaur, exploring its various facets and reflecting on its significance in his own life and artistic journey.

Through his contributions to the publication, he not only reinforced his connection to Surrealist ideas but also offered a unique interpretation and personal exploration of the Minotaur symbol. Conclusion:

Picasso’s resistance to Surrealist artistic methods and his inclusion of Surrealist elements in his works highlight his complex relationship with the movement.

While he maintained his own artistic approach, grounded in calculated composition and deliberate planning, he could not deny the allure of Surrealist concepts and symbolism. His contributions to “Minotaure” and his use of the Minotaur as a symbol demonstrate his continued fascination with Surrealist ideas and his ability to infuse them with his unique perspective.

Picasso’s position as a pivotal figure in the development of surrealism is often overshadowed, but his impact on the movement cannot be ignored. Through his resistance and inclusion, he challenged the boundaries and definitions of surrealism, pushing the movement to evolve and adapt to new artistic possibilities.

Picasso’s contributions to surrealism serve as a testament to his continuous exploration of the depths of the human psyche and his relentless pursuit of artistic innovation. In conclusion, Picasso’s role in shaping surrealism was more significant than often acknowledged.

Despite his resistance to Surrealist artistic methods, his claim of inventing the term “surrealism” and his inclusion of Surrealist elements in his works showcased his profound impact on the movement. Picasso’s involvement in the Surrealist publication “Minotaure” and his use of the Minotaur symbol further exemplify his continuous fascination with Surrealist concepts.

This highlights the complex relationship between Picasso and surrealism, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression and challenging conventional norms. As we appreciate Picasso’s contributions, we are reminded of the power of art to transcend reality and the endless possibilities that lie within the artist’s imagination.

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