Andre Breton did not believe that he had invented Surrealism in the early 1920s. Rather – as a sort of archaeologist of the unconscious – he was uncovering something that had always been there, existing at all times and in all places. Steeped as they were in the work of William Blake and Lewis Carroll, this idea of Surrealism was particularly appealing to many of the British artists and writers who became involved in the movement in the 1930s. Surrealism promised to break down the boundaries between everything: ‘The divisions we may hold between night and day – waking world and that of the dream, reality and the other thing, do not hold,’ wrote Paul Nash, one of the leading British surrealists. ‘They are penetrable, they are porous, translucent, transparent; in a word they are not there.’

In this talk, freelance art historian Dr David Boyd Haycock – curator of the short lived ‘British Surrealism’ exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery in the spring of 2020 – will explore the history of the movement in this country, from the Gothic to the Neo-Romantic.