Abstract vs Surrealism: Difference and Comparison

Key Takeaways

  1. Subject Matter: Abstract art uses color, shape and form in non-representational ways. Surrealism depicts fantastical dreamscapes and subconscious imagery.
  2. Composition: Abstract works emphasize rhythm, balance and harmony in the overall composition. Surrealism juxtaposes unexpected or illogical elements in a disjointed manner.
  3. Meaning: Abstract art derives meaning from the emotional impact of elements like color and texture. Surrealism aims to reveal the irrational significance behind symbols and objects.

What is Abstract?

Abstract art is an experimental style that does not want to depict visual reality like traditional portrait-like art accurately. It focuses on shapes, lines, and colors to develop an aesthetic that is far from recognizable objects or figures.

Abstract art emerged in the early 20th century. Today this art is a diverse field. Artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian showed this art style daylight.

Abstract art seeks pure visual experience. The intention is not to portray distinct objects but rather to stimulate the imagination of the viewer. Abstract art is open to interpretation. 

From geometric abstractions to precise lines, the composition comes together through dynamic brushwork and tries to resonate with the spectator. 

Abstract art is relevant even today and always adapts to contemporary artistic techniques. Modern digital mediums help abstract art to stretch its boundaries even further. 

Abstract art has a global appeal. The structure and shape differ in different cultures. From European abstract expressionism to African abstraction, this field is vast and bears remarkable traits.

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What is Surrealism?

Surrealism is an artistic and literary movement. It emerged in the 1920s, and the artists who followed the surrealism movement were called surrealists. Salvador Dalí, André Breton, and René Magritte are some popular surrealists.

It is the art of subconscious mind and irrational dreams. It sits contrary to reality and rationality. The characteristics of this art are bizarre and dreamlike imagery.

Surrealist artworks combine unrelated objects or symbols to create a sense of mystery. The symbols bear cultural meanings. Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis and the idea of the unconscious mind have heavily motivated this whole movement. 

Salvador Dalí put forward the notion of “paranoia-criticism” within Surrealism. It means giving irrational thoughts and artistic expression. Dalí’s “The Persistence of Memory” is a dream-like scene where he shows melting clocks along with a distorted figure.

Not only in painting, Surrealism also left its impact on literature, film, and even fashion. It also comes out from two-dimensional, and as surrealists commenced their movement in sculpting as well. It is a significant movement in art history, and it persists to inspire contemporary artists.

Difference Between Abstract and Surrealism

  1. Abstract art is non-objective and non-representational, while surrealism is representational and uses symbolism and metaphor.
  2. Abstract art concentrates on shapes and colors to illustrate the artwork, while surrealism uses distorted images to create a dream-like state in the artwork.
  3. Abstract art is a step of modernism, while surrealism is related to the avant-garde movement.
  4. Abstract art is a reaction against traditional and representational art forms, whereas surrealism challenges rationalism.
  5. Abstract art is associated with spiritual or meditative practice, while surrealism stands as a political or social commentary.
  6. Abstract art is aesthetic experimentation, while surrealism explores the realms of psychology.
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Comparison Between Abstract and Surrealism

Parameter of ComparisonAbstractSurrealism
Definition It is artwork that uses non-representational forms and colors.It is artwork that explores the irrational realm of dreams and subconsciousness.
Subject MatterIt shows unrecognizable objects or figures.It shows distorted figures of familiar objects.
InfluenceIt is influenced by spirituality, music, and mostly nature.The unconscious mind, dreams, and psychoanalysis affect it.
OriginIt appeared in the early 20th century.It came in the 1920s as an artistic movement.
Composition It uses systematic lines, shapes, and colors to compose the artwork.It uses unexpected imagery and symbolism and juxtaposes the real form with dreamy figures.
  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=IBZbhP3rW-YC&oi=fnd&pg=PA6&dq=Difference+Between+Abstract+and+Surrealism&ots=pneMVS3rFu&sig=_9FZon0CqrsLRGR0LzX_SlPF9j8
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=W3kRDAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP8&dq=Difference+Between+Abstract+and+Surrealism&ots=pKQxumh3tT&sig=VDkv9TyhZSYQKHll8hgWaux821E 

Last Updated : 25 November, 2023

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