“Alsace” from The French Railways- Salvador Dalí
By Paul Chimera
(Mr. Chimera worked directly with Dali Museum founder Reynolds Morse, as the publicity director of the original Dali Museum when it was located in Beachwood, Ohio)
The French Railways
Alsace from The French Railways by Salvador Dali 1969
There’s really no mistaking a Dali! The Surrealist master had a distinctive style and flair that made everything very much his own – very much “Dalinian!” This interesting print – “Alsace,” based on Dali’s original gouache and collage and produced to help promote train travel on behalf of the French National Railway – is no exception.
Alsace is one of the main stops for France’s rail system, along with five others for which Dali produced unique images: Auvergne, Normandie, Alpes, Roussillon, and Paris.
In “Alsace,” Dali has focused on the fantastic Romanesque and Gothic architecture of Strasbourg in this historic and beautiful region of France. In collage, we see part of the Strasbourg Cathedral or Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. Dali’s surrealist twist here puts a kind of red cape around the image, giving it human-like characteristics, together with butterfly wings that fan out loosely on either side of the central figure. (In fact, this 6-piece print portfolio has alternately been called the “Butterfly” series.)
In some ways “Alsace” is a bit darker than the others in the series, in that Dali used heavy black for the suggestion of the butterfly wings, and the scene appears under an overcast if not storm-threatening sky. Perhaps all the more reason to be comfortable inside the modern French Railway system’s cars!
As is often the case with Dali, from the standpoint of technique, in “Alsace” he melds a fairly tight rendering of the background cathedral with a looser spontaneity of brushwork in the foreground. It adds up to that Dalinian earmark that makes a work by this 20th century master exclusively his own, predictably fascinating, and eminently collectible!
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