Moon Animal, 1950
William Baziotes (United States, 1912–1963)
Oil on canvas
43 x 36 1/4 inches
Festival of Arts Purchase Fund 1951-6-1
In his Manifesto of Surrealism of 1924, André Breton defined the creative method of automatism as the use of free association to elicit literary imagery from the unconscious mind. In the 1930s and '40s, surrealists such as William Baziotes and Matta applied the approach to the visual arts in both their subject matter and style. Baziotes and Matta met in New York in 1940 and in the early part of the decade experimented with automatism, allowing paint to drip onto their canvases to create unguided forms. Their practices were to have an impact on a group of American artists that included Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock.
Automatism allowed Baziotes to become freer in his compositions, to use a more fluid line, and to engage the mythical and fantastical images of surrealist art and writing. He derived his imagery from Carl Jung's philosophy of unconscious archetypes, the representations of transhistorical and transcultural experiences. Such archetypes include the sun, the moon, and various animals. In Baziotes's Moon Animal, a biomorphic animal stands in the blue night before a small sun form that radiates a rectangle of light over a larger, glowing white moon.
Text by Erin K. Donovan, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008