A Collection of CollectionsA Collection of Collections

Surrealism in Britain

Surrealism was a revolutionary and subversive movement in art and literature that developed in Paris in the early 1920s, but flourished in Britain and elsewhere. The English Surrealist Group was founded in 1936 when the infamous 'International Surrealist Exhibition' was held in London. The Surrealists were concerned with seeing beyond the external appearance of things. Freud's theories concerning the unconscious and its relation to dreams were of huge importance to the Surrealists and much of their art depicted dream worlds and fantastical visual imagery from the unconscious mind. The poet André Breton explained that, 'Surrealism is where dream and reality meet, to create a new reality, a surreality'.

The works on display in this room include an important group on loan to the Gallery from a private collection featuring some of Britain's best known Surrealist artists such as John Armstrong, Edward Burra and Merlyn Evans. Eduardo Paolozzi, perhaps better known for his Pop prints and sculptures, also experimented with Surrealist techniques in the form of early collages. Outsider Artist Scottie Wilson was admired and collected by many British and European artists for his expressive, uninhibited drawings that were seen to resemble the Surrealist 'automatic' approach to composition.

Key works from the Collection include: 'The Duenna' (1930) by Edward Burra, 'Self Portrait' (1938) by Eileen Agar and 'The Open Door' (1930) by John Armstrong.