Surrealists Unbirthday Celebration 

Students in Upper School Art Teacher Holly Clifford’s Art Fundamentals class sang “Happy Unbirthday” to the Surrealists in a recent assignment. Tasked with selecting an artist from a list of Surrealists, students examined the artists’ lives and their work, detailing, in their sketchbooks, information such as dates of birth and death, places of residence, family information, relationships and influences, training, significant life events, mediums explored, interesting facts and fun stories.
Choices included André Breton (the founder of Surrealism), Jean Arp (a highly versatile artist), Max Ernst (painting from his inner psyche), Yves Tanguy (exploring dreams and the unconscious), Man Ray (the pre-Surrealist), Andre Masson (the artist defying classification), Rene Magritte (the artist evoking mystery), Luis Bunuel (a pioneer of Surrealist cinema), Salvador Dali (rendering dreams and hallucinations), and Leonora Carrington (the artist of remarkable individuality).

Founded in Paris in 1924, Surrealism was an artistic and literary movement. It proposed that the Enlightenment—the influential 17th- and 18th-century intellectual movement that championed reason and individualism—had suppressed the superior qualities of the irrational, unconscious mind. Surrealism’s goal was to liberate thought, language, and human experience from the oppressive boundaries of rationalism.

In addition to biographical details, students were asked to create an unbirthday card for their artist. The card design could be painted, colored, collaged, etc., and was to reflect the style of their chosen artist. 

What is an unbirthday without a gift? Students drew or made an unbirthday gift for their artist based on what they learned and then wrote a paragraph to detail their selection and why. The celebration included each student giving a presentation to their classmates, highlighting what they learned about their artists and why the gift was fitting based on their research. The ending of class was sweet: Treats were passed out, and the students celebrated their projects with one another outdoors. 
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