Mario Gonzalez Lares

Imagination, Faculty of the Soul

“It will not be the fear of madness that forces us to lower the flag of imagination.”
— André Breton, First Surrealist Manifesto, 1924

The surrealist movement based its approach on the search for the imagination, inspiration, and creation of the artist, on extracting the deep consciousness of man, through two techniques, sleep, and a “psychic automatism” that tends to the suspension of the artist’s self in order to make creation a dictate of pure thought without any intervention or regulation of reason.

Salvador Dalí entered the Surrealism movement in 1930 and would come to turn this conception around with the introduction of his Paranoid-Critical Method, which he described as a “spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on the critical and systematic objectivity of associations and interpretations of delusional phenomena.”

In 1934, André Bretón, French writer, poet, and principal theorist of Surrealism, applauded Dalí’s technique, stating that Dalí “had given Surrealism an instrument of the highest conscious order” and that “it had been perfectly applicable to painting as well as to poetry, cinema, the elaboration of surrealist objects, fashion, sculpture, art history, and even, if necessary, to any kind of exegesis.”

In Dalí’s 1935 book, Conquest of the Irrational, he expresses: “The paranoid-critical activity discovers new and objective ‘meanings’ in the irrational; it tangibly passes the world of delirium to the plane of reality.”

According to this, we can distinguish in the method two moments, the paranoid moment and the critical moment, which together motivate the imagination of the artist to accompany him in the creative process.

The paranoid moment is a delirious, delusional state in which the artist receives “The images of concrete irrationality” which are, therefore, “authentically unknown images.”

The critical moment tries to shape the delirious images coming from the paranoid moment, rationalizing and interpreting them in order to capture them in reality.

As Dalí puts it: “All my ambition in the pictorial field is to materialize the images of concrete irrationality with the most imperial fury of precision.”

In 1960, the French painter, representative of abstract expressionism, and art theorist, Georges Mathieu, wrote: “Endowed with the most prodigious imagination, with a taste for the lavish, theatrical and the grandiose, but also for the random and the sacred, Dalí baffles superficial spirits…”

Thus, without “fear of madness”, let us apply Dalí’s Paranoid-Critical Method. “Let’s conquer the irrational” and raise “the flag of imagination” to form new ideas and new projects for the advancement of humanity.


Mario Gonzalez Lares is a researcher and a scholar of the life and work of Salvador Dalí who has assisted with documenting collections for both the Science Museum in Caracas, Venezuela and the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research, IVIC, contributor to the Catalogue Raisonné of Dalí’s work that the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí in Figueres, Spain manages in collaboration with The Dalí Museum, researcher on the trilogy of ballets by Dalí: Bacchanale, Labyrinth and Sacrifice as The Dalí Museum’s first Fellow, and author of two unpublished books: Dalí’s Tarot and Dalí’s Zodiac.

2 Comments

  • Gordana Vukelić
    5 months ago Reply

    We have to admit that certain madness existed with surrealists. It would be necessary to explore to what extent they were mad, since madness is serious mental disorder, and to what extent the art was created as the outcome of their genius. It is known from Dali’s biography that he was an extreme personality and artist. He was self -consited and did not care for social norms or rules, but had broken them as represented in his surealistic paintings. He himself defined the “paranoid critical Method” to liberate imagination. But the question is can imagination be liberated without “critical Method”. I prefer to understand his creative philosophy is highly metaphorical expression of his weird inner-self.
    This can be discussed.

    • Mario Gonzalez Lares
      5 months ago Reply

      Dear Gordana Vukelic, grateful for your comments that provide a new point of view.
      Actually, I don’t know if the search for new paths can be defined as madness. Just by reading some poems by Paul Eluard, seeing in detail the photos by Man Ray, the texts by André Breton and the paintings by Rene Magritte, among other surrealist expressions, not to mention Dalí, it is easy to come to the conclusion that they are the result of some genius.
      Definitely, there are different paths to free the imagination, that of the surrealists was one of them, Dalí applied it for a while and enriched it by taking it to the Critical Paranoid Method, the main difference is that the Surrealists go to search for the irrational in the subconscious and Dalí proposes the conquest of the irrational and uses this conquest to generate new ideas and concepts for his works.
      The discussion of these issues will always be fruitful and enriching, as well as allowing us to know and think from different points of view.
      Again grateful and always willing to exchange ideas.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Start typing and press Enter to search