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Dream art

Related: art - dream - fantastic art - surrealism

Poem of the Soul, Nightmare (1854) - Louis Janmot (1814-1892)

Dream art

References to dreams in art are as old as literature itself: the story of Gilgamesh, the Bible, and the Iliad all describe dreams of major characters and the meanings thereof. However, dreams as art, without a "real" frame story, appear to be a later development—though there is no way to know whether many premodern works were dream-based.

In European literature, the Romantic movement emphasized the value of emotion and irrational inspiration. "Visions", whether from dreams or intoxication, served as raw material and were taken to represent the artist's highest creative potential.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Symbolism and Expressionism introduced dream imagery into visual art. Expressionism was also a literary movement, and included the later work of the playwright August Strindberg, who coined the term "dream play" for a style of narrative that did not distinguish between fantasy and reality.

At the same time, discussion of dreams reached a new level of public awareness in the Western world due to the work of Sigmund Freud, who introduced the notion of the subconscious mind as a field of scientific inquiry. Freud greatly influenced the 20th-century Surrealists, who combined the visionary impulses of Romantics and Expressionists with a focus on the unconscious as a creative tool, and an assumption that apparently irrational content could contain significant meaning, perhaps more so than rational content.

The invention of film and animation brought new possibilities for vivid depiction of nonrealistic events, but films consisting entirely of dream imagery have remained an avant-garde rarity. Comic books and comic strips have explored dreams somewhat more often, starting with Winsor McCay's popular newspaper strips; the trend toward confessional works in alternative comics of the 1980s saw a proliferation of artists drawing their own dreams.

Dream material continues to be used by a wide range of contemporary artists for various purposes. This practice is considered by some to be of psychological value for the artist—independent of the artistic value of the results—as part of the discipline of "dream work".

The international Association for the Study of Dreams [1] holds an annual juried show of visual dream art.

Notable works directly based on dreams

Visual art


Works intended to resemble dreams, but not directly based on them


Drama Film Comics --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_art [Nov 2005]

Le Cauchemar (The Nightmare) - (1781) Henry Fuseli

Being in the grips of a nightmare is a common occurrence that we can all relate to, but we may never experience one exactly as a particular artist depicts it. Here Fuseli conjures up a terrifying image filled with mystery, panic, and yet with a vague and disturbing familiarity. It suggests the way the woman feels in the grip of a demonic nightmare, not what she sees. The Nightmare was reproduced as an engraving; a copy hung in Sigmund Freuds apartment in Vienna in the 1920s.

Traumnovelle (1925/26) - Arthur Schnitzler

Traumnovelle (1963) - Arthur Schnitzler [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Traumnovelle (1925/26) (adapted as the film Eyes Wide Shut by American director Stanley Kubrick)

Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle, adapted into the film Eyes Wide Shut by director Stanley Kubrick, and also dramatized for BBC Radio 4 as Dream Story, details the thoughts and psychological evolution of doctor Fridolin over a two day period. In this short time, he meets many people who give a clue to the world Schnitzler is creating for us. This all culminates in the masquerade ball, a wondrous event of masked individualism, sex, and danger for Fridolin the outsider.

The mystery of this novella comes from the self-discovery that Fridolin experiences, a descent into the depths of his own mind, and the changes in the relationships between people. It incorporates a plethora of psychological imagery and symbolism.

This book falls into the period of Viennese decadence after the turn of the century. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traumnovelle [Dec 2004]

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