Blog / 2024 / Happy 100th Birthday, Surrealism!

March 25, 2024

Wishing an art movement “happy birthday” is silly. Sillier still is making Surrealism a present, as if it were an entity that could appreciate a gift. But I’m doing just that, and, when I think about it, I’m doing it because of Surrealism.

This art movement may have been inspired by Freud’s ideas and it may be known for its focus on cultivating the subconscious, but in the last century it’s also brought out humanity’s sense of play by making certain kinds of irrationality more acceptable. You know those talking dogs in commercials or the plush toy that looks like a happily halved avocado? I’d argue that we only get to have that goofiness because Surrealism made it easier (for Europeans and North Americans) to embrace a dreamlike understanding of reality.

And that’s why I made Surrealism a gift for its hundredth anniversary: a high school art lesson plan for surreal self-portraits, which you can download for free or take a quick look at here!

Free PDF

lesson plan for high school art class: Surreal Self-portraits
lesson plan by Gwenn Seemel

The lesson plan is designed to help students create images along the lines of the paintings in my Everything’s Fine series, communicating who they are and how they feel about the world through surreal self-portraiture.

It includes a brief history of Surrealism as well as suggestions for delivering the lesson and clear learning objectives, like the following.

two different kinds of angry self-portraits
Gwenn Seemel
detail of Over Grown Up and Off
2006 and 2024
acrylic on unmounted canvas and acrylic on panel
22 x 20 inches and 16 x 12 inches

Students will learn to communicate visually about a subject without simply creating a straightforward image of that subject.

For example, while a student who wants to show that they feel anger might ordinarily create an image of themselves with their eyebrows knit together and their eyes glaring, the goal of this lesson is to challenge them to paint something like a volcano erupting with a heart made of lava instead.

Help me celebrate a century of Surrealism by telling all the high school art teachers you know about this lesson plan!

Free PDF

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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