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The early literary surrealists of the mid-1920s were skeptical of any visual possibility. Their aim — to fuse art with life, reality and dreams — was to be realized through the immediacy of writing. Painting, by contrast, was a laborious, indirect expression mediated by style and technique. Andre Breton, the leader, central theorist and “pope” of surrealism, held out for a visual effectuation. It arrived with Salvador Dali (1904-89), whose entire career — from painter and sculptor to filmmaker, book illustrator, perfumer, jeweler and media celebrity — is currently being explored at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art.

Dali began painting between 1910-14, though it was in Madrid from 1922 that he attended the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts and met fellow dorm residents, such as Luis Bunuel. It was with Bunuel that he made the infamous surrealist short “Un Chien Andalou” (1929), in which a pig’s eyeball is slashed with a knife as a cloud drifts across the midnight moon’s face. Their later filmic-comedy “L’Age d’Or” (1930), known for its lax mores, so outraged its audience that art works in the cinema foyer were smashed.

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