Difference Between Dada and Surrealism

Main Difference – Dada vs Surrealism

Dada and Surrealism are two artistic movements that began in the early 20th century. Surrealism is a movement that developed out of Dada; this movement was also greatly influenced by Freud’s theories on ego, superego and id. This influence of Freudian theories can be identified as the main difference between Dada and Surrealism.

This article explores, 

1. What is Dada?
     – movement, characteristics, artists

2. What is Surrealism?
     – movement, influence, characteristics, artists

3. What is the difference between Dada and Surrealism?

Difference Between Dada and Surrealism - Comparison Summary

What is Dada

Dada or Dadaism is an artistic movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th-century, repudiating and mocking artistic and social conventions and emphasising the illogical and absurd. The time period from 1916 to 1922 was the height of this movement.

The beginning of this movement corresponds to the outbreak of the First World War. Dada was a protest against the bourgeois nationalists and colonial interests, and against intellectual and cultural conformity, which the participants of this movement felt were causes for the war.

In addition to being anti-war, it was also as anti-art movement. It ignored aesthetics, which was a major concern of the traditional art, and instead of appealing to sensibilities, it aimed to offend. Dada artists used numerous demonstrations, manifestos and exhibitions of absurdist art that were intentionally created to shock, offend and scandalise the public and the authorities.

Some of the techniques they used include

  • Collages – pasting pieces of paper items such as maps, tickets, etc.
  • Photomontages – collages made using real photographs
  • Assemblage – assembly of everyday objects to produce meaningful/ meaningless objects of war 
  • Readymade objects – using manufactured objects as art

Despite this negativistic nature, Dadaism influenced some important movements such as surrealism, pop art, punk rock, as well as some contemporary art styles. Antonin Artaud, Tristan Tzara, Raoul Hausmann, Johannes Baader and Max Ernst are some followers of this movement.

Key Difference - Dada vs Surrealism

What is Surrealism

Surrealism is a movement that began in the 1920s. This movement grew out of Dadaism and was greatly influenced by the theories of Sigmund Freud.

Surrealists believed that Freud’s concepts of dreams, ego, superego and id  led to the authentic self and a truer reality. They used painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself and created unnerving, illogical scenes or strange creatures using everyday objects. 

Characteristics of Surrealism

  • Incorporation of spontaneity
  • Exploration of unconsciousness and dream as a true form of reality
  • Expression of sexuality, violence, ecstasy, decay, etc.
  • Focus on the irrational, mythological, and mysterious

Jean Arp, Hans Bellmer, Louise Bourgeois, Leonora Carrington, Joseph Cornell and Salvadore Dalí are some of the most well-known artists of surrealism. 

Difference Between Dada and Surrealism

Difference Between Dada and Surrealism


Dada is an artistic movement that flouted conventional aesthetic and cultural values by producing works marked by nonsense, travesty, and incongruity.

Surrealism is an artistic movement that attempts to express the workings of the subconscious and is characterised by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of subject matter.

Time Period

Dada began before the 1920s. 

Surrealism began in the 1920s and was developed from Dada.

Freudian Theories

Dada was not influenced by Freudian theories.

Surrealism was influenced by Freudian theories of the subconscious.

Art Techniques

Dada artists used collages, photomontages, assemblage or ready-made objects.

Surrealists painted illogical scenes or strange creatures using everyday objects. 

Image Courtesy:

“ABCD-Hausmann” (Fair use) via

“Marks. Oil on canvas. Surrealism” By Nadir M. García – A través del autor  via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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