Monday, September 20, 2010


A necessary disclaimer:
Lorca did not identify himself as a Surealist poet. In fact, when talking about a series of his poems influenced by Salvador Dalí’s paintings made in 1927 and 1928, Lorca insisted that his work represented his “new spiritualist manner, pure, raw emotion, unleashed from the control of logic, but—careful! careful!—with a tremendous poetic logic. They are not surrealism, careful! The clearest consciousness illuminates them” (Maurer 14). Even so, it is undeniable that Lorca was thinking about surrealism and was very much a part of the context from which Spanish Surrealism emerged, especially as he began to diverge even further from the aesthetic of artists like Dalí and Luis Buñuel and define his own “hecho poético” beyond traditional metaphor (Maurer 14). It is perhaps for each of us to judge for ourselves whether or not Lorca’s work is “hopelessly traditional” and a form of “false” Surrealism as Buñuel firmly believed (Maurer 15).

Lorca, Bosque Sexual, 1933.

From “Towards a History of Surrealism” by Scott M. Silsbe, Nidus, Summer 2005:

In his essay, Silsbe offers a brief history of Surrealism, beginning with Andre Breton’s Manifesto of Surrealism (1924) with its origins in the Dada movement. At the heart of Surrealism are the Freudian unconscious and the dream state. Surrealism abandons ordinary logic, challenging the limits of the real and the imagined, the conscious and the unconscious.
While Silsbe does not directly address Lorca’s contribution to the Surrealist movement, many aspects of his description of Surrealism can be seen throughout Lorca’s poetry and plays. This essay helps to place Lorca’s work within the context of his contemporaries and their approach to art and poetry, particularly in light of his relationship with Salvador Dalí, who became a prominent Surrealist painter after traveling to France, while also offering insight into the world of our play.

Man Ray, A l'heure de l'observation.

‘Breton defined Surrealism as "pure psychic automatism whose intention is to express verbally, in writing, or by other means, the real process of thought and thought’s diction, in the absence of all control exercised by reason and outside all aesthetic and moral preoccupations" (Breton 26). Surrealism, then, in its original manifestation, attempted to come as close to a documentation of the unconscious mind through works of art.’

Salvador Dalí, Autumn Canabalism, 1936-7.

‘Surrealism can be seen as a reactionary movement to both Romanticism and French Symbolism… [T]he Surrealists advocated for a great liberation in poetry. Surrealist poetry relished spontaneity, the unpredictable, the startling, the never-seen-before.”

‘In Surrealism, it is believed true poetry is that which comes from the unconscious mind.’

Andre Kertesz, Distortion, 1933.

‘Literary scholar Anna Balakian clearly articulates Breton's end aim of Surrealism: "He foresaw as the ultimate achievement . . . the marriage of the two states, in appearance so contradictory, of dream and reality, into one sort of absolute reality which he called surreality" (Balakian126).’

Dalí, Little Ashes, 1927-8.

‘Breton and his fellow Surrealists developed several ways at getting at this surreality to create poetry. The most frequent way was what they called automatic writing, which basically meant writing in a near-trance state, or as close as one could get to writing while dreaming. It was through this kind of method that the Surrealists developed a poetry based almost entirely on intuition and association.’

‘The early Surrealists, then, relied heavily on the image in their poems, and the more startling -- the unpredictable the image -- the better.’

Jose Caballero, Yerma, 1939.

‘Probably the most striking difference between the French and Spanish Surrealists is the manner in which each group carried out Surrealist activity. In his book The Surrealist Mode in Spanish Literature, Paul Ilie notes that "there were no self-proclaimed exponents of Surrealism [for the Spanish Surrealists]…no manifestoes or statements of purpose" (Ilie 1). Also unlike the French, the Spanish Surrealists were not inclined to collective efforts.’

Joan Miro, Femme en Revolte, 1938. Both Dalí and Lorca greatly admired Miro.

From Andre Breton’s 1934 Lecture “What is Surrealism?” and it’s political implications:

‘Surrealism rests in the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of association neglected heretofore; in the omnipotence of the dream and in the disinterested play of thought. It tends definitely to do away with all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in the solution of the principal problems of life.’

‘Surrealism, starting fifteen years ago with a discovery that seemed only to involve poetic language, has spread like wildfire, on pursuing its course, not only in art but in life. It has provoked new states of consciousness and overthrown the walls beyond which it was immemorially supposed to be impossible to see; it has—as is being more and more generally recognized—modified the sensibility, and taken a decisive step towards the unification of the personality, which it found threatened by an ever more profound dissociation.’

Jose Caballero, Sweet Pleasures of Sadism, 1934.

In response to rising fascism:
‘Let it be clearly understood that for us, surrealists, the interests of thought can not cease to go hand in hand with the interests of the working class, and that all attacks on liberty, all fetters on the emancipation of the working class and all armed attacks on it cannot fail to be considered by us as attacks on thought likewise.’

Lorca, Sueno del marino, 1927.

Online Surrealism Resources:

Breton, Andre. Manifesto of Surrealism. <>.

Breton, Andre. “What is Surrealism?” <>.

Espace Dalí Monmartre. <>.

Silsbe, Scott M. “Towards a History of Surrealism.” Nidus No. 9. Summer 2005. <>.

“Surrealist Art.” Centre Pompidou. <>.

*Best Surrealist resource on the web!

Works Cited:

Breton, Andre. Manifesto of Surrealism. <>.

Breton, Andre. “What is Surrealism?” <>.

Maurer, Christopher. Sebastian’s Arrows: Letters and Mementos of Salvador Dalì and Federico Garcìa Lorca. Swan Isle Press. 2005. Print.

Silsbe, Scott M. “Towards a History of Surrealism.” Nidus No. 9. Summer 2005. <>.

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