Examples of pre-20th century surrealist art?
October 4, 2015 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Can you suggest some examples of surreal or magical realist artworks – dreamlike scenes, fantastical animals, enchantments – but from before the 20th century (ie, before Surrealism, and fantasy/magic realist fiction)? For example: Gustave Doré; Bosch; some of the medieval religious art collected on the "Discarding Images" blog.
posted by dontjumplarry to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
William Blake, definitely!!
posted by kickingthecrap at 6:44 PM on October 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Voynich manuscript, maybe.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:53 PM on October 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Henry Fuseli
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 6:55 PM on October 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Symbolist painters like Odilon Redon, Gustave Moreau, and Arnold Böcklin.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:03 PM on October 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

M. Caution beat me to the Symbolists- definitely seek them out!

Maybe Piranesi's Carceri d'invenzione series? 18th-century etchings of massive, elaborate, weirdly empty prisons, a little reminiscent of Kay Sage or, to me anyway, de Chirico?
posted by Merzbau at 7:07 PM on October 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Breugel the Elder's "Big Fish Eat Little Fish". Clickable big version here.
posted by valetta at 7:41 PM on October 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Giuseppe Arcimboldo
posted by nightrecordings at 7:42 PM on October 4, 2015

Richard Dadd. The fairy painting was a popular Victorian genre, but Dadd's work stands out even in context.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:31 PM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lots of Goya works are this, like "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters"
posted by thetortoise at 9:28 PM on October 4, 2015

Several depictions of St. Anthony (notably the ones by Joos van Craesbeeck and Salvator Rosa) are also this.
posted by thetortoise at 9:48 PM on October 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

There’s a certain amount of proto-surrealist grotesquerie and weirdness to be found in 16th & 17th-century art: as well as Arcimboldo there were the Bizzarie di varie figure of Giovanni Battista Braccelli (previously at MeFi); Les Songes Drolatiques de Pantagruel; the Neuw Grottessken Buch of Christoph Jamnitzer; the designs of Arent van Bolten, etc.

From a later period: the work of the little-known 19th-century French artist Charles-Frédéric Soehnée.
posted by misteraitch at 11:52 PM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe Luis Ricardo Falero (2). 19th century, but a bit more cheesecakey witches and fairies-style Romanticism than pass-the-bong surrealism.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:14 AM on October 5, 2015

You may also consider Japanese yokai, but that's a different tradition.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:56 AM on October 5, 2015

John Henry Fuseli, particularly his many versions of The Nightmare
posted by Dwardles at 8:16 AM on October 5, 2015

Félicien Rops.
posted by progosk at 2:34 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

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