Reading on Surrealism in Context  by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed gave me great insights on how the mission of Surrealism was to heal the torn fabric of society through private introspection.

It also helped me understand how Surrealism and Dadaism were completely contrast in nature as one was a political and social art of anger and social protest while the other was a cerebral retreat of survivors and emerged in a time of peace and prosperity.

The Song of Love – Giorgio de Chirico – Paris, June-July 1914

The artist’s motivation or intention

The work that I decided to research is on the Surrealist artist de Chirico’s objects in Song of Love, 1914. I read a bit about Giorgio de Chirico who was an Italian artist. In the years before World War I, he founded the scuola metafisica art movement, which profoundly influenced the surrealists.  His paintings reflect the metaphysical themes.

Most of his paintings have sharp contrasts of light and shadow often had a vaguely threatening, mysterious quality, ‘painting that which cannot be seen and were considered dream- like.

Dreams are ephemeral. Memory for dreams is very limited and largely restricted to the period before awakening. Dreams form a part of long term memory, only if recorded immediately after waking up,.

The composition is obscure and reminds me of dream- like experiences where my I try to recall on a particular dream and I feel my thoughts are broken into fragments. It also reminds me of a concept that is used to justify similar occurrences at a later time.

.This painting brings together incongruous and unrelated objects: the head of a Classical Greek statue, an oversized rubber glove, a green ball, and a train shrouded in darkness, silhouetted against a bright blue sky. It looks mysterious and various interpretations can be drawn from these compositions.

As said by Freud, human mind is a site to be excavated. I have always been fascinated with Freud’s model of psyche and the implications that can be drawn from it. I feel that this painting is a combination of all the three traits of personality – the id, ego and superego. The structural aspect of the painting reflects the ego – realistic part of one’s personality , The portrait looking out of the frame signifies the instinctual part of the brain that has hidden aggressions and is looking out of the frame into the world for solutions. The pinned glove and the sphere depict the moral conscience which is guiding the vision of the Greek Statue.

The Greek statue seems to be seeking answers for these questions in metaphysics that are

  1. Ultimately, what is there?
  2. What is it like?

Did other artists employ similar strategies? What did they hope to effect?

I believe that all other artists tried to employ similar strategies. The painting resonates with these lines from the poem Correspondances by Charles Baudelaire


Nature is a temple where living pillars
Let sometimes emerge confused words;
Man crosses it through forests of symbols
Which watch him with intimate eyes.

Like those deep echoes that meet from afar
In a dark and profound harmony,
As vast as night and clarity,
So perfumes, colors, tones answer each other.

The painting persistence of memory refers to a dream that Dalí himself had experienced, and the clocks symbolize the passing of time as one experiences it in sleep or the persistence of time in the eyes of the dreamer. The soft watches are an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time.

I could recall the concept of Persistence of Vision used in cinema and animated films could also be used as a tool to depict the illusion of dreams.

What the the context for the work – what was happening, historically?

Surrealism emerged in a decade of peace and prosperity.  The wounds left behind by the War were either ignored—as in the neglect of the surviving veterans—or celebrated—as in the erections of many memorials.  Surrealism is essentially a cerebral retreat of survivors who do not want to look back. This painting symbolizes the world that turned apart by World War I.

Surrealism art reminds me of the half filled or half empty glass metaphor.  Pessimists look at it as half empty while optimists find it half full. But I think both these people miss the point – the glass is refillable.