Maybe you’ve seen the famous painting of a man dressed in a suit and bowler hat, with a green apple in front of his face. Or the painting of an apple with the French words, “Ceci n’est pas une pomme” written in calligraphy above it (“This is not an apple”…. meaning it’s not a real apple, but a painting of an apple!) Or the painting where it appears to be “raining men”, all wearing very proper suits and bowler hats, of course!
These are all paintings by Rene Magritte (1898-1967), the Belgian artist who helped to advance the avant-garde art movement of Surrealism, which began in the mid-1920’s.
You can recognize Surrealism by the way it presents a photo-realistic subject in an unusual, illogical, mysterious, or impossible way. Surrealism puts familiar objects in unexpected places, combines things you wouldn’t normally see together, or makes something much bigger (or smaller) than it is in real life. Like a dream where things seem real but don’t quite make sense, Surrealism will capture your imagination and make you really think about what you’re looking at!
The medium of collage is an ideal way to capture the essence of Surrealism. Any age can have fun with this project, but I’ve typically done this with grades 5 and up, since it does require some good scissor skills! Younger students will quickly grasp this concept and enjoy combining unrelated photos, but they may need help cutting carefully around each one before gluing them down.
Here’s a creative way to let your imagination run wild while recycling those old calendars and magazines you’ve been saving…
- paper or cardstock (any size) for the background (any theme of photography calendar would be perfect for this!)
- magazines with lots of photos (You can even use some real photos of yourself, your family, or your friends for added fun!)
- glue stick
- You can begin with a calendar page and use that for your background. Or, you can combine background photos to cover your paper. (Avoid having too much detail in the background or it may distract from the images you add to it.)
- Next, add some middle ground photos that don’t make sense when combined with your background. Look for objects that you can cut completely around. Careful cutting is the key to having a “believable” finished picture!
- Then, add a few foreground photos. Make sure the overall effect is “mysterious”!
- Finally, trim any photos that go over the edge for a clean, finished look.
Fun fact about Rene Magritte: He never wanted an art studio, but preferred to paint in his dining room… while wearing a suit and bowler hat!