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Dream art

dream art, dream artwork
Dream art is any form of art directly based on material from dreams, or which employs dream-like imagery


  • 1 History
  • 2 Notable works directly based on dreams
    • 21 Visual art
    • 22 Literature
    • 23 Film
    • 24 Comics
    • 25 Music
  • 3 Works intended to resemble dreams, but not directly based on them
    • 31 Novels
    • 32 Drama
    • 33 Film
    • 34 Comics
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 Further reading
  • 7 External links


References to dreams in art are as old as literature itself: the story of Gilgamesh, the Bible, and the Iliad all describe dreams of major characters and the meanings thereof However, dreams as art, without a "real" frame story, appear to be a later development—though there is no way to know whether many premodern works were dream-based

In European literature, the Romantic movement emphasized the value of emotion and irrational inspiration "Visions", whether from dreams or intoxication, served as raw material and were taken to represent the artist's highest creative potential

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Symbolism and Expressionism introduced dream imagery into visual art Expressionism was also a literary movement, and included the later work of the playwright August Strindberg, who coined the term "dream play" for a style of narrative that did not distinguish between fantasy and reality

At the same time, discussion of dreams reached a new level of public awareness in the Western world due to the work of Sigmund Freud, who introduced the notion of the subconscious mind as a field of scientific inquiry Freud greatly influenced the 20th-century Surrealists, who combined the visionary impulses of Romantics and Expressionists with a focus on the unconscious as a creative tool, and an assumption that apparently irrational content could contain significant meaning, perhaps more so than rational content

The invention of film and animation brought new possibilities for vivid depiction of nonrealistic events, but films consisting entirely of dream imagery have remained an avant-garde rarity Comic books and comic strips have explored dreams somewhat more often, starting with Winsor McCay's popular newspaper strips; the trend toward confessional works in alternative comics of the 1980s saw a proliferation of artists drawing their own dreams

In the collection, The Committee of Sleep, Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett identifies modern dream-inspired art such as paintings including Jasper Johns's Flag, much of the work of Jim Dine and Salvador Dalí, novels ranging from "Sophie's Choice" to works by Anne Rice and Stephen King and films including Robert Altman's Three Women, John Sayles Brother from Another Planet and Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries That book also describes how Paul McCartney's Yesterday was heard by him in a dream and Most of Billy Joel's and Ladysmith Black Mambazo's music has originated in dreams

Dream material continues to be used by a wide range of contemporary artists for various purposes This practice is considered by some to be of psychological value for the artist—independent of the artistic value of the results—as part of the discipline of "dream work"

The international Association for the Study of Dreams1 holds an annual juried show of visual dream art

Notable works directly based on dreamsedit

Visual artedit

  • Many works by William Blake 1757–1827
  • Many works by Salvador Dalí 1904–1989
  • Many works by Man Ray
  • Many works by Max Magnus Norman
  • Many works by Elle Nicolai
  • Many works by Odilon Redon 1840–1916
  • Many works by Jonathan Borofsky born 1942
  • Many works by Jim Shaw born 1952
  • Many works by David Reisman born 19582
  • Many works by Jane Gifford wwwjanegiffordcouk
  • The works of Alan Sweeney 3
  • Online illustrated daily dreams of Robin Whitmore 4
  • Many works by Kevin Coffee 5
  • Many works by Carl Linkhart 6
  • Alfredo Arcia's art 7
  • Sheila Heldebrand Toth's collages 8
  • Art presented on exhibitions of the International Association for the Study of Dreams 9


  • "Kubla Khan" 1816 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge possibly based on a dream provoked by opium
  • Frankenstein 1818 by Mary Shelley
  • The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde 1886 by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath 1927 and other works by HP Lovecraft
  • The Art of Dreaming 1993 ISBN 0-06-092554-X Carlos Castaneda
  • The Facts of Winter 2005 by Paul LaFarge
  • Most of Clive Barker's work
  • Dracula Bram Stoker claimed was inspired by a nightmare he had experienced


Main article: Oneiric film theory
  • Several films of Andrei Tarkovsky, most notably The Mirror
  • The major films of Sergei Parajanov, most notably Sayat Nova and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
  • Much of the filmography of David Lynch eg Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, etc
  • The Brother from Another Planet by John Sayles
  • Dreams 1990 by Akira Kurosawa
  • Many works of Federico Fellini 1920–1993
  • Meshes of the Afternoon 1943, At Land 1944, and Ritual in Transfigured Time 1946 by Maya Deren
  • 3 Women 1977 by Robert Altman
  • Waking Life 2001 by Richard Linklater
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 2004 and Science of Sleep 2006 by Michel Gondry
  • The works of Luis Buñuel
  • Paprika 2006 by Satoshi Kon
  • Eyes Wide Shut 1999 by Stanley Kubrick
  • Inception 2010 directed by Christopher Nolan


  • Many short works of Julie Doucet
  • Many short works of David B
  • Jim by Jim Woodring
  • Psychonaut by Aleksandar Zograf
  • Rare Bit Fiends by Rick Veitch
  • Slow Wave by Jesse Reklaw


  • Devil's Trill Sonata by Giuseppe Tartini
  • La Villa Strangiato by Rush
  • Selected Ambient Works Volume II by Aphex Twin
  • Yesterday by Paul McCartney
  • El Cielo by Dredg
  • Inside a Dream by Jane Wiedlin
  • Isn't Anything and Loveless by My Bloody Valentine
  • And the Glass-Handed Kites and other works of Mew
  • If I Needed You by Townes Van Zandt
  • The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking by Roger Waters
  • Lucid Dreams by Celia Green
  • Micro Cuts by Muse
  • My Fruit PsychobellsA Seed Combustible, Bath, Leaving Your Body Map, and Part the Second by maudlin of the Well
  • Dimethyltryptamine by Jay Electronica
  • Until the Quiet Comes by Flying Lotus1

Works intended to resemble dreams, but not directly based on themedit


  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll 1865
  • The Nightmare has Triplets trilogy by James Branch Cabell
    • Smirt: An Urbane Nightmare 1934
    • Smith: A Sylvan Interlude 1934
    • Smire: An Acceptance in the Third Person 1937
  • The Coma by Alex Garland
  • "Darkness at Noon" by Arther Koestler
  • Most of the works of Franz Kafka
  • Finnegans Wake by James Joyce


  • A Dream Play 1901 and other plays by August Strindberg during his Symbolist and Expressionist periods
  • Copacabana by Barry Manilow born 1947


  • Un chien andalou 1927 by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí actually started when Buñuel and Dalí discussed their dreams, then decided to start with two of them and make a film
  • Many films by Maya Deren 1917–1961
  • Many films by David Lynch, especially Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive, contain dreamlike elements
  • Dream scenes are popular in many horror movies, notably the Nightmare on Elm Street series
  • The Trial by Orson Welles based on the novel by Franz Kafka
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind features around witnessing the effects of having one's memory erased through dreaming
  • The Science of Sleep 2006 by Michel Gondry
  • The Cell 2000 by Tarsem Singh contains vivid and surreal imagery to convey the mind-world of a serial killer
  • The Good Night 2007 by Jake Paltrow
  • The animated science fiction film Paprika 2006 by Satoshi Kon features intense dream imagery
  • Inception 2010 by Christopher Nolan contains extravagant sequences inside the dreams of people through "dream sharing" There are many sequences in 'reality' that also feature very dream-like imagery, questioning the main protagonist's state of consciousness


  • Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend 1904–1921 and Little Nemo 1905–1913 by Winsor McCay also his animated films
  • The Sandman DC Comics/Vertigo by Neil Gaiman
  • Many works of Milo Manara

See alsoedit

  • Fantastic art
  • Dream pop
  • Shoegaze
  • Psychedelic art


  1. ^ Lawler, Karen October 5, 2012 "Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes" State County Kildare Archived from the original on 2012-10-20 Retrieved 2012-10-05 

Further readingedit

  • Dieterle, Bernard and Engel, Manfred eds The Dream and the Enlightenment / Le Rêve et les Lumières Paris: Honoré Champion 2003, ISBN 2-7453-0672-3
  • Dieterle, Bernard and Engel, Manfred eds Writing the Dream / Écrire le rêve = Cultural Dream Studies 1 Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2017, ISBN 978-3-8260-6120-2

External linksedit

  • Dreams: Artwork of the Collective Unconscious 1998 by Gail Bixler-Thomas
  • Fuzzy Dreamz 1996 by Dr Hugo Heyrman —an online art project of short films, forming a psychogeography of dreams
  • Dreamingtimescouk - Collection of dream artworks

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