Max Ernst was a German-born artist and a leading member of the surrealist movement. For the surrealists, the body and the mind were subjects of intense scrutiny. This can be seen in Ernst's painting in which the figure is distorted, fragmented and eroticized. The work also reflects the ideas of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and his interest in paranoia, sexuality and the power of the unconscious mind.
Hans Bellmer began creating his doll sculptures in 1933, the year Adolf Hitler assumed power in Germany with many interpreting his dolls as an act of political defiance against the ideals and social norms promoted by the Nazis. The distorted and abject figure seen in Germaine Richier's sculpture and Jean Dubuffet's painting reflects mankind's trauma in the post-war era. Since the early 1990s, Sarah Lucas has created works that respond critically to the surrealists while challenging sexual stereotypes. Her work depicts twisted bodily contortions using everyday materials including nylon stockings, representing a feminist response to classical Greek sculpture. Hannah Wilke's sculptural installation appears abstract, while suggesting bodily forms to evoke ideas of openness, vulnerability and affinity. In counterpoint to the surrealists, Jim Dine's work suggests another form of bodily fragmentation in the 1960s pop art era.