Starting with the birth of the movement in Europe in the 1920s, the course introduces the key techniques and processes used by the Surrealists, its arrival in Australia in the 1930s and the ways that it continues to be referenced by artists, film-makers and advertisers working today.


Week 1
Surrealism in Europe
Learn how the unprecedented violence of the First World War, and the political and psychological theories of the 1920s, led to the founding of the Surrealist movement in 1924 with the publication of the first Surrealist Manifesto. Who were the key artists behind the movement, and why did it become so prevalent?
Week 2
Surrealist Techniques
Surrealist poets and artists developed an array of unconventional techniques and processes, tapping into the subconscious realm as well as experiments that overturned the notion of individual authorship and intentionality. Explore a selection of Surrealist techniques in detail including automatic processes, collage and Surrealist games including the exquisite corpse.
Week 3
Sex and Violence in Surrealism
While many are familiar with the more popular and well-known aspects of Surrealism, what is less well-known is the darker elements that underpinned the movement. Why did the Surrealists have an obsession with sex and violence, and how was this reflected in their art? Please note this section of the course includes content that some people may find confronting. Parental guidance is recommended for learners under 18 years of age.
Week 4
Surrealism in Australia
Following the birth of Surrealism in France in the 1920s, Surrealism quickly spread throughout Europe and then the world – arriving in Australia in the 1930s. How did Surrealism take hold in Australia, and who were the key artists that adopted the movement?
Week 5
Surrealism in the Contemporary
How and why do contemporary artists employ and adapt the concepts, techniques and methods of Surrealism? How is Surrealism continuing to influence contemporary visual culture, from film-makers to advertisers? Learn about the ongoing influence of the movement with examples of works in the NGV Collection and case studies of advertising and film.

Course objectives

  • Define the history and evolution of Surrealism
  • Identify key Surrealist artists
  • Describe the role that Surrealism played in Australian art
  • Discuss and interpret Surrealist art
  • Summarise the influence of Surrealism on contemporary art and visual culture

Enrolment options

Standard Course Enrolment

Includes eight weeks access to learning materials from the course start date.


  • General: $69
  • NGV Members: $63


Course dates are yet to be announced. Please register your interest to keep up to date about future courses.


Salvador DALÍ
Trilogy of the desert: Mirage (1946)
oil on canvas
36.1 x 59.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Eugenie Crawford Bequest, Professor AGL Shaw AO Bequest, The Nigel Peck AM and Patricia Peck Fund, Morry Fraid AM and The Spotlight Foundation, The Fox Family Foundation, Ken Harrison AM and Jill Harrison, The Hansen Little Foundation, The Betsy and Ollie Polasek Endowment and donors to the 2018 NGV Foundation Annual Dinner and 2018 NGV Annual Appeal, 2017
© Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/VEGAP, Madrid. Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia