The Romantic Fairy Tale and Surrealism: Marvelous Non-Sense and Dark Apprehensions

Karin Sanders


Romanticism and surrealism shared a fascination with the fairy tale. Yet each was beholden to specific historical moments and particular aesthetic demands. What they wanted were not the same. This article considers  how the romantic fairy tale nevertheless functions as a ‘seed’ for surrealists. Contagions, commonalities, and contrasts between the two movements are briefly outlined. A selection of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen is used to demonstrate how a host of visual reinterpretations including lithographs, photo-collages, and video art by twentieth-century surrealists like Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst, and twenty-first-century avant-garde artists like Åsa Sjöström, have reinterpreted the latent possibilities of non-sense in the fairy tale: the marvelous, the absurd, and the dream-like. The article demonstrates that by evoking the dark-romantic sides of Andersen’s works these avant-garde reconceptualizations in visual media predominantly point to shock, violence, war, and ecological disasters.


Avant-garde; Salvador Dalí; Max Ernst; Åsa Sjöström; H. C. Andersen

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ISSN: 2246-2945  

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