Surrealist Art, Self-Portraits, and Social Networks


Surrealism, the early 20 c. art and writing movement evolving out of the Dada avant garde movements around Paris.

I personally find surrealism very interesting. It is filled with surprise, juxtaposition, and non-sequitur. When one first takes in surrealist art, they might not know how to take it.  It’s not all flowers and parks from their impressionist movement predecessors. It’s kind of weird stuff to look at.

My first experience of surrealistic art was at an exhibition of Pablo Picasso at the High Museum. I was 12 and I just found the stuff to be weird. I personally love Monet and Van Gogh, so at that moment I didn’t really know how to take Picasso’s cubism or politically fired up paintings. What was a blue period? What did that mean?

The self portrait in Surrealism takes on more than just the portrait itself. When one looks at a self-portrait, we judge the likeness to the actual person. However, in Surrealism the self-portrait is much more than the physical. The expression of the internal is just as, if not more, important than the physical likeness.

So how does that link to social networking? Personally, I love social networking. I would tweet and write on walls all day long if I had the option. The interesting thing about social networking is that one has the opportunity to create their self-portrait for the whole world to see. Take for example, Facebook. Essentially, it is one big Surrealist self-portrait. Sure you put a picture on your profile that defines you, but then you add all this information, place more pictures on your profile for others to see. You try to create an all encompassing picture of yourself, while perhaps hiding some of the facts you don’t want people to know.  That’s fair enough. Privacy is not overrated in a social networking world that can sometimes put in words or in pictures the definition of TMI.

The Surrealists were early social networkers. Stretch? Perhaps not. They attempted to define themselves through self-portraits so that others could define their art. Their art has a tendency to look like their self portraits, just like your Facebook pages have a tendency to reflect the picture on the page, and thus the person who “owns” the page.

For your artistic enjoyment, I have compiled some of the self-portraits of Dali, Matisse, and Picasso for your artful enjoyment.

Be cultured. Be surreal.


What are the artists saying about themselves in their self-portraits? When we talk about self-portraits or creating facebook pages, is there a sense of “self-centered”ness?


3 Responses to “Surrealist Art, Self-Portraits, and Social Networks”

  1. 1 Ashley

    I really enjoyed reading this. Relating Surrealist art and self portraits to social media is a fantastic thought. I am not as into art as I would like to be, so I never would’ve thought of this.
    I agree with you that there is a definite link between the two and that, perhaps, surrealist artists were very primitive social networkers. While they were creating art that will last few the ages though, I have to point out that we’re merely creating Facebook pages in the template Facebook provides for us. And while we’d like to believe these pages will exist as an extension of ourselves forever, it is hard to believe that that will prove true. How long until we find another new thing to play with online and forget about Facebook? For that matter, what does it say about us that our social networking won’t last or be regarded as high class artwork such as the surrealist artists’ work?

  2. 2 cocojpojo

    Figures you would use your blog to be all educational. 🙂 Love.

  3. 3 Scott Reed

    Like many “social networks” of the time, the Surrealists also attempted to define themselves through a chosen set of constraints: the manifesto. (Andre Breton, if I’m not mistaken, wrote the first.)

    Maybe if you consider self-portraiture alongside the “affordances” of the manifesto, your metaphor can do even more interesting things! One, it helps us look at the “true artists” as being not totally unlike us nowadays, making meaning within constraints. That cuts back the other way, too: is Facebook a kind of “manifesto” for how we “should” construct our identities?

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