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5 Female Surrealists You Should Know
Often the case in art history, the female artists of the genre have been overlooked by their male co...
Art Stuff 27 Nov 2022
Méret Oppenheim, Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure), Paris, 1936,Fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon, cup 4-3/8 inches in diameter; saucer 9-3/8 inches in diameter; spoon 8 inches long, overall height 2-7/8" (The Museum of Modern Art)
Méret Oppenheim, Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure), Paris, 1936,
Fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon, cup 4-3/8 inches in diameter; saucer 9-3/8 inches in diameter; spoon 8 inches long, overall height 2-7/8″ (The Museum of Modern Art)

Surrealism connects our daily lives to the world of fantasy, dreams, and desire. Since the Surrealist movement was founded in Paris in 1924, females are more known to be subjects rather than behind the canvas, as artist and historian Roland Penrose once stated: “of course the women were important…but it was because they were our muses.” Often the case in art history, the female artists of the genre have been overlooked by their male counterparts, yet they championed the movement, with their own ways of seeing and thinking.

Here, we highlight 5 female Surrealist artists you should know.

1. Frida Kahlo

A visitor looks at The Little Deer by Frida Kahlo, part of Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde at the Barbican Art Gallery in London (Photograph by John Phillips/ Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery)

Mexican artist and cultural icon Frida Kahlo is undoubtedly the world’s most famous female Surrealist. Despite not wanting to label her art as such, she was known for her many portraits and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico, often portrayed as delirious, dreamlike images. “I don´t really know if my paintings are Surrealist or not, but I do know they represent the frankest expression of myself” – she once said.

2. Remedios Varo

Remedios Varo - Rheumatic Pain (1948)
Remedios Varo – Rheumatic Pain (1948), oil on canvas via artschaft

Another Mexican-based artist to make the list is María de los Remedios Alicia Rodriga Varo y Uranga, known more commonly as Remedios Varo. The Spanish-born Mexican surrealist who worked in Spain, France, and Mexico combined traditional techniques, Surrealist methods, and mystical philosophic inquiry into visionary dreamscapes. The artist who created over 500 works during her lifetime once declared: “The dream world and the real world are the same”.

3. Dorothea Tanning

Dorothea Tanning was an American painter, printmaker, sculptor, writer, and poet whose work was heavily influenced by Surrealism. Self-taught, her early paintings depict dream-like scenes. Motifs of sunflowers, chess pieces, fabric, and doors often reappear in her work. The late artist who pushed the boundaries of Surrealism recently had a large-scale exhibition dedicated to her work at the Tate, London.

4. Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), The Meal of Lord Candlestick, 1938, oil on canvas,... A Leonora Carrington from the André-François Petit Collection
Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), The Meal of Lord Candlestick, 1938, oil on canvas via gazette-drouot.com

UK-born artist Leonora Carrington had a long and admired career, creating a varied range of paintings and sculptures that explored mythical subject matter over seven decades. After emigrating to Mexico, Carrington developed a close friendship with Remedios Varo, and like Doretha Tanning, had a close relationship with fellow Surrealist Max Ernst. She fine-tuned her artistic practice in Mexico and mastered her captivating, magical realist style.

5. Meret Oppenheim

A Sprawling Meret Oppenheim Survey Comes to MoMA | Vogue
The artist Meret Oppenheim at work in her studio in Oberhofen, Canton Bern, 1958. Photo: KEYSTONE/Walter Studer.

Meret Elisabeth Oppenheim was a German-born Swiss Surrealist artist and photographer, best known for her signature fur-covered dishware. The transformation of everyday objects into symbolic references, suffused with humor, eroticism, and menacing darkness, reflected her critical explorations of female sexuality, identity, and exploitation.

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