Surrealism (1950s-1960s)

Surrealism (or beyond reality) was founded as a literary movement in France that quickly incorporated visual artists. The movement was influenced by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and his analysis of dreams and the subconscious, and how the subconscious affects human behavior. Stylistically it was without abstraction and used dream-like images such as fantasy, spontaneous elements, and an irrational narrative. Surrealism had a significant following in Europe and the US.

  • Hughie Lee-Smith (1915-1999) – Smith’s paintings were based on images that expressed his feelings about the world through the use of long shadows, isolated figures, abandoned architectural settings. Smith graduated from Cleveland Museum School and joined the WPA-FAP as a painter and associated with Chicago’s South Side Community Art Center. After graduating with a degree in art education from Wayne State University, he turned to Surrealism to portray social issues such as poverty and racial oppression.


  1. Eldzier Cortor, (1916-2015) Cortor was a painter and printmaker who primarily focused on Black women in surreal settings. HerReceived a fine arts degree from the Chicago Art Institute and worked for the WPA-FAP documenting poverty on the South Side of Chicago. Grant to study Gullah people in the low country of Georgia and the Carolinas, interested in their retention of African culture and practices. This study would influence his work.


The Couple, 1948