Similar to Dadaism but much more dominant and influential, surrealism came out of World War 1 with artists exploring scenes that were often unsettling, illogical and inspired by the unconscious mind. Often leaning on non-sequitur, randomness and juxtaposition, many artists considered their work to be more of a philosophical movement. First coming out of Paris, it grew and inspired much of the art in the following decades.

Pablo Picasso

A Spanish painter, sculpter, printmaker and artist of many of mediums, Pablo Picasso is one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. Beyond his work with surrealism, he is also known as one of the creators of cubism as well. His style shifted greatly over the decades of his work, from his color focus early in his career to the cubism and surrealism of his later work.

Guernica [The horrors of war] (1937)

This powerful painting, done only in black, white and grey, depicts the bombing of Guernica, Spain by Nazi Germany and Fasict Italy in 1937. The screaming and suffering of the people and animals comes through very clearly, even though the style is has his distinctive look. He painted it right after he heard about the bombings and used the painting to raise war relief funds.

The Weeping Woman (1937)

Another painting made in response to Guernica, this portrait is of his mistress and muse, Dora Maar. It’s part of a larger series of paintings of weeping women, where he made four in total. This version of the painting is particularly of note because it’s complex line work. Although it has a strong abstract nature, the portrait is still very distinct.

René Magritte

Hailing from Belgium, Magritte is best known for his thought provoking images involving ordinary objects in unusual locations or context. He was known for his use of simple objects, like a pipe, an essel, or an apple for example, and putting them in strange context. This would create a poetic image, often challenging the viewer to question their expectations.

La Reproduction interdite (Not to Be Reproduced) (1937)

Edward James, an english poet, commissioned Magritte to do a self portrait. The back of his head is clear and detailed, with the hair slightly wavy and detailed. He looks at a mirror, but his face is not revealed. Instead the back of his head is shown again. It’s a interesting and frustrating image, that subverts what we expect to see. On the mantle next to the mirror sits Edgar Allan Poe's novel, The Narratives of Arthur Gordon Pym.

La Durée poignardée (Time Transfixed) (1938)

The artist explained this picture: “I decided to paint the image of a locomotive… . In order for its mystery to be evoked, another immediately familiar image without mystery—the image of a dining room fireplace—was joined.” The strangeness of the train floating out of the fireplace and of these two things that are of such a large difference in size creates a compelling image.