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Losing Sight to Gain Vision: The Eye in European Surrealist Painting


Losing Sight to Gain Vision: The Eye in European Surrealist Painting

Nemnom, Christa (2021) Losing Sight to Gain Vision: The Eye in European Surrealist Painting. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Founded in 1924, European Surrealism intended to resist and evade the core values of modern society and bourgeois thought. While aiming to surpass the rational and to reach inspired vision, the Surrealists sought ways of challenging bodily capacities and sensory perception. They quickly targeted eyesight, a sense historically linked to reason and masculinity, and central to the Western worldview. Extensive publications cover the history of the senses across eras and cultures, the shifting conception of the senses in twentieth-century Europe, psychoanalytic readings of Surrealist art and literature, and feminist interpretations of the Surrealist treatment of the body. Yet few studies flesh out the effects of the modern rethinking of sight on its attributed connotations, or on the art historical approach to the cultural productions of the modern avant-garde, particularly Surrealism. This thesis addresses these gaps by offering a contemporary reading of Surrealist art, its antiocular imagery, and its multilayered implications. I examine, through three selected paintings, how Surrealist artists Joan Miró, Victor Brauner, and René Magritte used the representation of the eye as a symbol to question and redefine the meanings of sight. All three artists undermined the prevalent meanings of eyesight as oppressive, rational, and mechanical by highlighting affect, subjectivity, and inspiration in their oeuvre. Whether through symbolic abstraction, physical mutilation, or a combination of both, they fundamentally challenged sensory perception and empirical reality in an effort to achieve metaphysical revelation.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Nemnom, Christa
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Date:21 September 2021
Thesis Supervisor(s):Pezolet, Nicola Tullio
Keywords:Surrealism; Surrealist painting; Ocularcentrism; Eyes; Miró; Brauner; Magritte
ID Code:988992
Deposited By: Christa Nemnom
Deposited On:16 Jun 2022 14:57
Last Modified:16 Jun 2022 14:57
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