Surrealist artists tried to unlock the creative potential of the unconscious mind and make work without thinking. Surrealist works typically have an element of surprise and put together elements that are not normally associated together. This work fascinated 20th century audiences and artists like Salvador Dalí became very famous, rich and influential.

Find out about Surrealism and then using cheap materials make a surrealist sculpture yourself.

A lesson plan inspired by the work of Salvador Dalí and Edward James.

Key Stage:

KS 3&4 Art and Design


This lesson plan can be used:
As an introduction to Surrealism and the art of Salvador Dalí.
To develop ideas and understanding of processes and materials.
As part of study of any artist using automatism, juxtaposition and dream sequences in their work.
As part of individual study

<b>Surrealist movement</b>

Surrealist movement

Surrealism began in Europe in the mid 1920's amongst artists interested in the power of the unconscious mind. In 1924 two Surrealist manifestos were launched and artists met in the cafes of Paris to experiment with ways of exploring the subconscious. Techniques included automatic drawing and automatic writing. As Surrealism developed so did the techniques used by the artists. These included using images cut from magazines and book illustrations collaged together to make a new work.
<b>Suggested Classroom Activity</b>

Suggested Classroom Activity

One thing the artists who met in the cafes did to explore the mind was to play games including Consequences. This game involves one person writing a line or a phrase and then passing the paper on for the next person to add their contribution until you have an absurd story. The artists invented a drawing version of this game which they called Exquisite Corpse. Artists playing this game included Man Ray, André Breton, Yves Tanguy, and Max Morise.


Have a go at this game yourselves. Fold a piece of A4 paper into four equal sections. In the top section the first person draws the head of a creature. Make sure there are two lines from the neck that are visible on the next fold and pass the paper to the next person. The second person draws the upper body, the third the lower body and the fourth the legs, feet or tail. When the paper is unfolded there should be a unique fantasy creature produced as the product of four minds.

Surrealist Artists

The putting together of objects that are not normally seen together and the exploration of dreams were the biggest influences on artists. The Surrealist movement allowed a move away from the restrictions of realism. The list of Surrealist artists is quite a long one and includes some of the big names of 20th century art including: Joan Miró, Max Ernst, René Magritte and Salvador Dalí.
Watch this short film about the Lobster Telephone sculptures by Salvador Dalí and Edward James.

Surrealist Sculpture Workshop

Now use found objects and old toys to make a new sculpture in a Surrealist style. We used old toys bought cheaply from a charity shop and glue guns to join fabric, plastic and metal objects. The choice of objects is up to you. Each student was given a base board to fix their sculpture to for added support.

Watch this very short film to see a group try this workshop. We gave this group of S3 students less than an hour to create at least one sculpture each.

Development Activity:

There are a number of other resources on CultureStreet about artists influenced by Surrealism in their work that can be used to support this lesson plan.  You could start with Joan Miro who made sculpture as well as paintings. There is also a Creative Writing workshop from Seven Stories, Centre for the Children's Book in which students produce imaginative writing that links to the experiments the Surrealists tried in the 1920's.

Learning Objectives:

Pupils should increase their understanding of Surrealism and the Surrealist artists interest in the unconscious mind.
In addition students can gain knowledge and understanding of the work and approaches of artists, craftspeople or designers from contemporary and/or historical contexts, periods, societies and cultures.
Students can refine their ideas as work progresses through experimenting with media, materials, techniques and process.

Research, Notes and Links:

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