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The paintings we're about to look at were selected from a special exhibition of surrealist and fantastic art collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. By. The painter Mark Chagall was born in Russia and 1889 and has spent most of his life in France. He's never conformed to the dimensions of an ism. He's not happy with being described as a painter of fantasy. All our interior world is reality said Marc Chagall. Perhaps
more so than our apparent world to call everything that appears the illogical fantasy fairytale or Humira would be practically to admit not understanding nature. Chagall deserves an important place here because he's evoked the wonder of memory in the dream so beautifully that it helps us to understand why the surrealist. Devoted their lives to their pursuit. He painted this work in 1912 in Paris when he was only 23. It's called the soldier drink. It shows his early death to cubism with its flattering emphasis on geometry but it has his own richness of color it's clear that a new exuberant spirit has arrived in Paris. He somehow got his memory through customs. This is a Russian soldier drinking tea from a samovar. Through the window. We can see some. Rural dwelling.
And. It has to do with memory. If the soldier is. Reminiscing about dancing with his girl. Why not let them. Appear here in miniature. Taking a few few turns on the bar. The next work is also dredged out of experience and memory called the burning house. Almost. Childlike in its selection of primary images put down with which primary colors. Women in distress. The man running with a bucket. This wonderful panic the horse and the driver. Silhouetted against the flames in the air all in which yellows oranges red. And drawn with. Great selection simplicity the kind of. Strength that. We know from the Lascaux cave paintings.
This next one is called the birth day. It's really about love a certain suspension of the law of gravity has been recorded by persons familiar with the. Condition. Expressions like head over heels in love. Walking on air in the clouds all of that. Marc Chagall was the first one to record it so graphically and the. Happy memento his bride to be had brought him a bouquet a couple of weeks before they're married. This painting was begun in 1915. With Cuba. You know had already been trying to reveal new dimensions of reality and had influence Chagall but his motives. Seemed not so analytical. He was more interested in things. As I remembered. Like this. Knife and plate. This table they're seen in their most characteristic primary
aspect. The way we remember things. And. This decorative treatment of the drapery over here reminds us of of my teeth somehow and. Calls to mind the fact that these were. Men working together the great figures of the early part of the century. There was this great vigorous. Exchange going on between them all the time. If we keep Shigo in mind as one of the spiritual fathers of surrealism Let's look briefly at an art movement of a very different character a movement that assiduously avoids the kind of charm and sentiment that we find in Schisgall. A movement which was also a prelude to surrealism called Ghada. Those of you who remember Dahdah know that it was in part a protest movement against all systems academies establishment. Against many of the values of
western culture. They found the name for the movement by opening a French dictionary at random and. Blindly selecting the word Dahdah which is French for a hobbyhorse. The movement was founded by the poet Tristan Sala in Zurich in 1916. By the time of the armistice they had moved to Paris and Berlin. In Paris. The American man Ray was making witty inventive collages and experimenting with film. In Berlin. George Gross was doing works like this. Called the engineer Hartfield. It's actually a portrait of a fellow that I just see how he's put a machine on his chest in place of. A heart. In Hanover. Kurt Schwitters was making collages of stamps newspapers paper wrappers announcements tickets. He titled all his works with a word which he created. And he said that it stands for freedom from all
Fetlar. Freedom. That was not a lack of restraint he said. But the product of strict artistic discipline. If daughter had been just a Neolithic moan of despair it would not now have its place in museums of art. It intended to shock shock is not a bad thing when it comes recognition of the neglect of important things. What had been neglected with few important exceptions in the long sweep of our history from Greece to Cubism in the quest for a true representation of nature. Was the fact that the mind of man. Was an important part of nature. The Dadaists were interested in the painting of a lone Italian Voyager into these less traveled areas of the mind of man Georgiou dequeue. It was a relatively short trip. Six years paths to which he never returned. But during that time in paintings.
Such as this the nostalgia of the Infinite he opened rich new territories of the human imagination for conquest. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote. In. A real dark night of the soul it's always three o'clock in the morning. And this seems to be just about that time. You. Two figures standing in front of the strange tower. We know nothing about them except that they are alone and a limitless quiet. Never had Mystery been treated with such. Clarity. Like something observed awake or in a dream which affects us only in memory when we suddenly recall how. Odd. It all was. In 1913 the character wrote. Thought must so far detach itself from everything which is called logic and sense. It must
draw so far away from human fetters is that word again. That things may appear to it under new aspects. As though illuminated by a constellation now appearing for the first time. This next work is called the anxious journey. The arches of this building. And the train. Are rendered conventional seems to be an illustration without a story. And we see here one of the fundamental truths on which many later surrealists will base their work. The commonplace objects unseen become charged with an eerie drama when juxtaposed in an unexpected contact. I don't understand the title of this. Next painting. It's called the evil genius of a king. Unless one chooses to see in this bleached skull and the bone like form
toppled pillars. The results of vain ambition. It is a challenge to reason. These objects even the spears are magically suspended instead of rolling down the slit tilted plane. And. In the shadow of a. Cone shaped is mysteriously revealed by light. Again something here which is to become. A basic element of much surrealism. The object of form which is almost recognizable but not quite like these forms here. If you've ever tried to. Describe something. Half. Remembered. It was something like a column lying on its side and there was. Some kind of writing on it. But I couldn't read it. You know exactly the state of consciousness which the surrealists wished to. Communicate.
These works by the character are powerful now. Imagine their effect on an art world frantically formulating a contemporary visual language. In 1924 a group of young poets and painters interested in this new super reality which would include man's subconscious. Formed a movement called surrealism. One man was the catalyst the driving spirit. The poet Andre baritone. He said given the need for that drastic revision of real values which as all understanding minds agreed today is indispensable. A work of art must relate to a purely interior model. Or else it will come to nothing. The definition of surrealism as given in the manifesto. Is this pure psychic automatism. By which it is intended to express verbally in writing or by other
means. The real process of thought. It is thought dictation all exercise of reason and every aesthetic or moral preoccupation. Being absent. From the free flow of subconscious came lines like these. The philosophic butterfly rests on the rose star and that makes a window of hell. The masked man is always standing in front of the nude woman. Whose hair lives as light does in the morning on a street lamp. They have forgotten to put out. The learned furniture stimulates the room which juggles with its rose windows. Its circular rays. Of some. Surrealist painters. Being highly individual men. Work in many different directions but one could almost make a division between those who illustrate their
dreams and technique more or less traditional. Going back to the Renaissance and others who express their vision in more contemporary more abstract organization like one mirro this is his famous. Person throwing a stone at a bird. But for now let's concentrate on those surrealists who seem as indifferent to the aesthetic concerns of today as they are to the subject matter of yesterday. Max Ernst has. Straddled this imaginary line. In. Painting for years. Here he uses. A. Illusionist Renaissance space. And depth. In the foreground. He staged a very different a very ghostly little drama. It might be. Seen as it's called the The old man the woman and the flower. I'm slow at interpreting these things.
It has to do with memory. Quite clearly. The old man clutching a tiny nude woman appears to be sniffing the stem of. Some great flower that's already been blocked. And the other figure is must be the flower. The fan. Headdress. Suggests that on the back of the headrest. These. Buttons and the tassels suggest an owl like face looking at us. Completing this idea of looking backward. And. It's. Wearing some kind of armor. But we can see through it to the to the opposite shore. If you don't like plums and ambiguities or if you think Freud was a fraud if you think the painting should be more important than the story then this is not for you. But it's full of the frontier courage of an artist who was trying to stretch the dimensions of his and our universe.
Here we have a painting by rename agreed. And I'm very fond of it. Perhaps because it's so simple. When you enlarge human features to an enormous size such as we see nonchalantly every day in advertisements you're already in a surrealist situation. When an artist suggested here by painting a sky in the eye. That. Inner and outer worlds can be one. He lifts us to a poetic or. Perhaps a philosophical level. Margaret said. I make a point as far as possible of painting only pictures that evoke the mystery of all existence. With the precision and charm essential to the life before. It seems clear that precise and charming invocations of that mystery are furnished best by images of everyday objects. Combined or transformed in such a way that their agreement with our preconceived ideas
simple or sophisticated. Is obliterated. Perhaps that was. A little less stuffy in the original French but I think it makes sense to all who agree that life is. Mysterious. Here is another case of the artist as. PROPHET. For satellites floating in the night sky painted by. We agreed to 19:28. Titled. Voices of the wind. It's all in gray and black. And these fears are modeled with great precision to give solidity actuality. And how ominous and sinister they seem as they float toward us. Through the night. There are other surrealists who are. Perhaps. More naive. This is a very serious exhibition called Elbot is a very serious painter but.
Because something about this painting I find very funny. I'm glad the fad of putting your own funny titles to Artworks has died down or this might spark a revival. I thought at first he was offering her his hat which seems. Somehow inadequate to the situation but he really I figured it out. Now he's just saying Bonjour and. She started to wave back and then her robe. I gave up. And those of you who watch Alfred Hitchcock movies know that a telephone is not just plastic and wire but an instrument of genuine terror and suspense. To make sure that we grasp its full significance as a symbol of modern witchcraft. Salvador Dali here removes the wire and serves the telephone up to us on a plate. Isolated on what might be a table. Until we see in the distance a tiny figure of a man and a little girl walking. Into a little house. Further
on. And then it becomes a giant telephone. On a giant plate. Next to some nicely painted. Decaying fish. In the distance. A lake a mountain. Like them agreed. This painting is almost monotone and gray and black. Salvador Dali fulfills admirably the popular conception of what a modern artist should be like. He's. A professional eccentric given to capers like falling through a display window and into Fifth Avenue appearing to lecture in London wearing a diving helmet. He has the kind of skill it's much more obvious than that of other modern painters who don't use their skills for illusion. On all levels except one I think of his painting as a giant step backward and that
is imagination. And this. I think is not a painter of his imagination perhaps belongs properly to a poet with a camera. He might have made a great film director too short surrealist films he did make with Louis Vuitton. Well I've been tremendously influential. The Golden Age. And delusion dog here is a scene in the latter. Designed for maximum shock. He's about to slice your eyeball with a razor. I'm sure it was studied well by Mr. Hitchcock who later commissioned to design a set for his film. Spellbound. Surrealism has influenced many artistic films for better or worse. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that surrealism has been absorbed by film. It's a medium really much better suited to fulfilling the goals. Of surrealism of merging dreams and reality and flowing continue.
The much acclaimed recent film by Federico Fellini called Eight and a half is clearly built on the phantom stones. Of surrealism. The dream world has also found its echoes in modern stage design as we see in this setting by Eugene Bergman for the ballet just so full of. Mystery. Knights. Obscurity. Sometimes I think television is a very surrealist medium. Those of you who have visited the television show and production know that there are some moments when it indeed seems to go beyond the real.
I. Don't know what an old surrealist pioneer like Max Ernst's would have thought of that but. This is his. Work. Called nature at daybreak. McIlrath never felt the necessity of developing a unique style with which.
Within which you make endless variations like other painters with whom each subject demanded its own language and he was one of the most technically. Most inventive technically of modern painters. In later painting he creates a world full of hidden treachery. There are hobgoblins and demons everywhere. Memories of forest near his. Home when he was a child over at the right you can see a giant rooster one discover them only gradually you see he has lots of things growing out of him and human arms and legs and it's all rather disturbing. A brilliant illustration of fear of a medieval attitude toward nature. Nature of DAYBREAK. A great argument for oversleeping. This is. A painting by another surrealist
pioneer. Tunji titled The Hunted sky. If I say I don't understand this meaning I can hear two distant voices one saying I don't either. The other saying. Never mind trying to intellectualize about it do you feel it has communicated an emotion to you. That's what counts. It has communicated an emotion to me these two piles of grey objects. Perhaps stones or bones assembled compulsively against this limitless grey sky. They do give me a sad sense of things abandoned left over. And made into these monuments to be useless. But I can't understand those literary terms. The intrusion of. This black white shape. Which seemed to contradict and deny the rest of it. Unless that's what he wanted to do. Paradoxically to show that. It's really just a painting. Don't be frightened.
We've talked about places and things half remembered. If we put that idea together with the idea of metamorphosis a perpetual changing evolving of of matter. Into something else. I think we're on the track on which we've traveled so long and conscientiously. This is merely a painting called slowly toward the north. While others surrealists use familiar objects. In unexpected relationships to jar us into seeing them with fresh understanding. Tunji invents objects as James Joyce often invented words. They seem to be almost identifiable. Almost. Functional. They remind us of all those objects we see every day and in store windows which. Are unreal to us until. As with people we learn their character.
It's like a magnificent Christmas present which came without the direction. This is a work by a lesser known surrealist the German Richard ropes. It's called expectation. In the foreground facing into a routing beautifully painted landscape a crowd is waiting for. Godot. The end of the world. Or is it only. The bus to town. The surrealist poet Paul wrote some lines which portray a way of looking at experience which is perhaps. Surrealism as true legacy to all modern artists poets film
directors. However far their work may venture away from the old dreamscapes. We live in the old Bolivian of our changes. The day is lazy but night is active. A bowl of air at noon is filtered and used by day. Night leaves no trace on us. But that echo which rolls all the day long that echo outside the time of anguish or love. That gross series of insipid worlds insensitive world sun is double. Are we far from or near to our conscience. Where are all bound our roots. Our goal. And yet the long pleasure of our changes. Skeletons coming to life and rotting will rendezvous given to mad for. To ingenius flesh to blind vision and rendezvous given by the faith to the profile by suffering to help by life
Museum Open House
Surrealism: Seekers of the Dream
Episode Number
Museum Open House: Surrealism: Seekers of the Dream
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Episode Description
Program hosted by Russell Connor of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Each half hour program was devoted to a period of artists and showed works of art with Connor giving the background on the works. In this episode Connor showcases Surrealist works by artists like Marc Chagall, Joan Mir and Max Ernst. Some audio-visual disturbances occur during closing credits.
Fine Arts
Connor, Russell; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; PAINTING; Art & Arts; Surrealism; Ernst, Max, 1891-1976; Miro?, Joan, 1893-1983; Chagall, Marc, 1887-1985
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Moving Image
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Associate Producer2: Kennedy, Thalia
Director: Collyer, Phil
Executive Producer2: Barnard, Patricia
Host2: Connor, Russell
Other (see note): Kane, Pat
Other (see note): Hepler, Linda Beth
Other (see note): Potter, Al
Publisher: Presented by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the WGBH Educational Foundation
Sound2: Morton, Will
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 0af411811ab5bcca4c099d7f5895c441b211a1d7 (ArtesiaDAM UOI_ID)
Format: video/quicktime
Color: B&W
Duration: 00:00:00
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Chicago: “Museum Open House; Surrealism: Seekers of the Dream; 4; Museum Open House: Surrealism: Seekers of the Dream,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 30, 2023,
MLA: “Museum Open House; Surrealism: Seekers of the Dream; 4; Museum Open House: Surrealism: Seekers of the Dream.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 30, 2023. <>.
APA: Museum Open House; Surrealism: Seekers of the Dream; 4; Museum Open House: Surrealism: Seekers of the Dream. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from