Magic Realism

(style, 1920’s-1950’s)

Magic Realism is an artistic style applied to various types of arts such as literature, painting, film, and new media. Magic Realism applied to visual arts became popular in the US and Europe from 1920 to 1940. Technically, this movement lies between Surrealism and Photorealism, with its subject oftentimes rendered with photographic naturalism.


The term Magic Realism was first used by Franz Roh in his book ‘After Expressionism: Magic Realism: Problems of the Newest European Painting’. From then on, many artists, critics, and scholars curated Roh’s ideas and molded it to how Magic Realism is accepted today. Such curators included Gustav Hartlaub, Irene Guenthe, and Massimo Bontempelli. After these experts integrated their views, Magic Realism art was fully embraced by German and Italian painters.

It did not take long until American visual artists followed suit.  As a matter of fact, it was they who coined the term magical realists. Furthermore, there was once an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art entitled ‘American Realists and Magic Realists’. It was believed that Pierre Roy was the reason why Franz Roh’s formulations spread to the United States.1

Alexander Kanoldt Still Life II


When magic realism was applied to visual arts, it showcases extreme realism when mundane subjects are depicted. This creates an interior mystery to the subject, instead of showing the external and overtly magical feature of everyday reality. Additionally, Magic Realism art also showcases a return to ordinary subjects instead of the fantastical ones; exhibits the concurrence of a sense of distance with forward movements; and uses miniature details in expansive paintings.

Frida Kahlo Suicide of Dorothy Hale

Famous Artworks

Three of the famous artworks influenced by Magic Realism art are Alexander Kanoldt’s ‘Still Life II’ (1922), Paul Cadmus’ ‘The Fleet’s In!’ (1934), and Frida Kahlo’s ‘Suicide of Dorothy Hale’. The works of the artists influenced by Magic Realism have found its way around the famous galleries of the world.

Paul Cadmus The Fleets In

Famous Artists

The famous artists who were considered as strong followers of Magic Realism art are Italian painters Felice Casorati, Antonio Donghi, and Gian Paolo Dulbecco; German Alexander Kanoldt; Latin American Marcela Donoso; American Paul Cadmus, Jared French, Edward Hopper, Eyvind Earle, Gregory Gillespie, and Colleen Browing; Armenian Gayane Khachaturian; Swiss Erich ‘Ricco’ Wassmer; Dutch Carel Willink; and Mexican Frida Kahlo de Rivera.



Magic Realism Artists

Charley Toorop
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists
Michael Parkes
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists
George Tooker
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists
Dick Ket
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists
Pyke Koch
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists
Paul Cadmus
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists
Cindy Betzer Pharis
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists
Bjork Carlton
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists
Ivan Albright
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists
Mati Klarwein
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists
Philip Evergood
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists
Carel Willink
December 28, 2008 / By The Artists


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