The Surrealists were also more than concerned with the human mind and its existence. The mind’s workings fascinated and enhcanted them. Yet, if the Renaissance painters were concerned with the triumphs of the mind, the domination of the human will – and thus, depicted this domination through the human’s struggle against the world – the Surrealists, influenced by psychoanalysis, could not help but show the human being’s weakness and fragmentarity.
Like in the bodily discourse, the human here is not shown to be himself, but rather the toy of various forces.They are not so much interested in the portrait, but in the mind as a collection of phobias and symptoms, an array of automatisms and instincts, they do battle against the certainties of reason and the human mind (Balakian, 1). And they depict the mind as such. Rene Magritte, best famous for in the context of the body for his human silhouettes, has a work that is fascinating in the context of this project: the «Le Bouqet touts fait». It displays a man, turned away from us, a man so common he would be completely lost in a crowd.
He stands, looking at nature, at a beautiful part – and in front of him, an image of Flora, taken from Boticelli’s masterpiece. The man is here does not matter: he is merely a third party, a kind of intermediary beween Nature and the symbol. The individual no longer matters here: he is less than the sum of his parts. Salvador Dali, in his most famous 1936 painting, «Soft Construction With Boiled Beans: Premonition of Civil War», shows us a creature completely different.
The humanlike being is completely present, unlike Magritte’s painting, but it is torn apart by an internal civil war.It destroys itself, unconsciously, but no less surely from it. here, the human face is possibly recognizable, but bears no portrait quality – while in the Renaissance, it would be impossible to step outside of canon and not have a portrait. The Renaissance human mind is individual – the Surrealist mind is similar to all else, subject to the same trials and trepidations, and triumphs over nothing. Solace, if to be sought at all, is to be sought not within the human being himself. Space and timeThe depictions of space and time mostly show how the artist perceives himself as relative to the world about. Thus, when the dominant paradigm changes, it is a certain thing that perspective will change, as well.
It is curious to note, however, that it is in the study of perspective that the Surrealist masters enamored by perspective and space-time conundrums possibly borrowed the most from the Renaissance. The Renaissance is famous for the introduction of perspective – but this happened more than a hundred years before the High Renaissance.By the 16th century, perspective had been well-studied and well-known, and used to a great extent – to hide or to create an effect. In this work we shall not dela with the evolution of landscape, but rather, show perspective on the example of architecture.
The great Venetian, Jacopo Tintoretto, uses architecture to dramatize his paintings, already made exceptional by the human poses, but even more effective when placed within the sweeping arches of his Renaissance halls and huge piazzas. The drama unfolds within places appropriately huge and ominous, built for great deeds.This is the function of most Renaissance architecture: to provide a space for great deeds.
It is no wonder that landscape painting at its purest had only taken tentative root by that time: space is not nearly as important as the people filling it. In this painting, San Marco, the patron saint of Venice, commits a miracle, and the landscape also choruses his greatness – it is shadowed by the human. The situation is quite opposite in the Surrealist camp. We shall use the example of Giorgio de Chirico.A Greek-fascinated-by-Italy, who, according to his own words, could hardly be called a Surrealist – and yet who was wildly popular with them – he is one of the true bridges between the Renaissance and Surrealism.
He shared the Renaissance conviction for good technique, and was far more interested in the old masters than in his own contemporaries – by his own admission, in Paris, the Surrealists were hoping they could make him into a legend and take him for his own against his will, like they tried to do to Da Vinci (Mazars, 4).