Surrealism can best be described as a form of abstract art. It is one of the many from born out of the Dada movement around the beginning of the twentieth century. While there are many variations of this style, the two major forms are Automatism and Veristic Surrealism. Automatism is the only form of surrealism that was accepted by art critics after the war, according to Michael Bell, a specialist in American Art. It is what could be considered a form of "action" painting. Veristic Surrealism on the other hand, is still not recognized as a traditional art. It is more of a form that deals with the inner thinkings of the creator than the outer visual reality.
Dadaism laid the groundwork for the evolution of Surrealism. The Dada movement was against modern art and one could even say that it made a joke of it. Most artists in the movement were not just painters, or sculptors but in fact, were multitalented and participated in various art forms. "The Dada movement was perhaps the most decisive single influence on the development of twentieth-century art, and its innovations are so pervasive as to be virtually taken for granted today."( http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/dada/archive.html) These art forms would include Surrealism, Pop-Art and Minimalism, for example. Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase was one of the most popular paintings to come out of this era. This painting is innovative because he utilized "chrono-photography" to display the nude in his painting. One must look very closely to see the vision in the painting, but once it is seen you can clearly see the nude walking down the stairs. He created a controversy with this piece of work upon its release; it was praised and ridiculed at the same time. Andre Breton was also a contributor to the Surrealism era. A Dadaist at first, he then progressed into the Surrealist movement as well. While he did not contribute any artwork, he did assist in the opening of a studio for studying Surrealism.