Monograffi Fine Art Galleries
Magic Realism - America's Surrealism ~

           Surrealism was little known in America until the early 1930s. Several events helped to spur interest and public awareness of the movement in the U.S. In late 1931 an exhibition entitled "Newer Super Realism" opened in Hartford, CT, at the Wadsworth Athenuem, introduced works by Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Picasso, Andre Masson, Leopold Survage, Joan Miro and Pierre Roy. In 1934 Peter Blume's South of Scranton was awarded the first prize at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, creating a big stir in the critical arena. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., of the Museum of Modern Art, curated the major exhibition "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism" in late 1936. Also important was the publicity generated by Salvador Dali from 1934 on, after he became associated with the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City. In the late 1930s many European Surrealists emigrated to New York City, fleeing the Nazi occupation of France.

        By the early 1940s the influence of Surrealism could be seen in the works of many American artists. A few of these artists, including Federico Castellon, James Guy and Walter Quirt, developed a full-fledged Surrealist outlook. But in the majority of works fantastic or surrealist elements were blended within the framework of the American Realism. These developments were formally recognized in a large exhibition "American Realists and Magic Realists" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York early in 1943. In the catalog's preface Magic Realism is defined in the words of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. as "the work of painters who by means of an exact realistic technique try to make plausible and convincing their improbable, dreamlike or fantastic visions".

        A number of characteristics help to distinguish the philosophical and aesthetic differences between Surrealism and Magic Realism. These pertain to both style and content:

a) Magic Realism features extreme sharpness and clarity in order to enhance the illusion of realism. Many Magic Realists utilized Egg Tempera or other similar techniques. 
b) Magic Realists carefully composed their works and typically executed well planned designs. One of the basic doctrine of Surrealism encourages spontaneity and irrationality.
c) The content of a work of Magic Realism must be within the realm of the possible, although it may be improbable. Surrealism exalts in the shocking and the impossible.
d) Magic Realism may be rooted in everyday reality, but it often also encompasses the phenomenal or unusual.
e) The Magic Realist often hides a great deal of content leaving its viewers to draw from their own experience to "fill in the blanks". The subject matter of a painting may suggest metaphors, ironic content or uncanniness. Surrealism is rarely subtle, often overtly nihilistic, bizarre or libidinal.

        All of the paintings below include elements of surrealism. South of Scranton by Peter Blume and The Dark Figure by Federico Castellon include fantastic features that clearly go beyond Magic Realism. However the remaining paintings shown below fall within the realm of Magic Realism, albeit in some instances they reach the limits of the possible.





Highway (1953)
by Pierre Roy


 Light of the World (1932 ) by Peter Blume


Mental Geography (1938)
by O. Louis Gugliemi







Desert Landscape (1941)
by George Ault


South of Scranton (1931)
by Peter Blume


The Artist Looks at Nature (1943)
by Charles Sheeler







Terror In Brooklyn (1941)
by O.Louis Gugliemi


 The Magic Hand (1949)
by Charles Rain


Father and Child (1947)
by Ben Shahn







The Lady and the Shoeshine Boy (1968) by John Wilde


 Pacific (1967) by Alex Colville


Suggestions for Hot Weather Entertainment 1 (1946)
by John Wilde







Poetic Justice (1945)
by Helen Lundeberg


 The Green Enchanteur (1946)
by Charles Rain


Portrait of Inez (1933)
by Helen Lundeberg




Nocturnal Pilgrimage by Federico Castellon 


The Mountain (c1933) by Helen Lundeberg




September 27 (1947) by John Atherton


White Cloud (1943) by John Rogers Cox




Eclipse (1946) by Charles Rain


Horse and Train (1954) by Alex Colville




Adrift (1982) by Andrew Wyeth


Painter's Folly (1989) by Andrew Wyeth




Night I (1963) by George Tooker


The Waiting Room (1959) by George Tooker




Odd Fellows Hall (1936) by O. Louis Gugliemi


Still Life with Kumquats (1960) by John Wilde




The Red Stairway (1944) by Ben Shahn




The Dark Figure (1938)  by Federico Castellon




Government Bureau (1956) by George Tooker




Fracture Ward (1944) by Peter Blume




Dawn in Pennsylvania (1942) by Edward Hopper




The Subway (1950) by George Tooker