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Salvador Dali, 1970

Suite of lithographs


(pictured above: 3 of 25 works from the suite)


Salvador Dali, though he sometimes talked about having Arabic roots, was in fact very proudly Spanish, and some of his greatest works seem to be those that reflect the apotheosis of Spanish heritage, custom, and heart. A supreme example is a masterful canvas painted in the same year that Dali created his wonderful Carmen suite – the awe-inspiring tour d’ force, Hallucinogenic Toreador.


That masterwork, which preoccupied Dali intellectually for upwards of a year, and took nearly two years to fully complete, pays tribute to Spain’s national pastime: the bullfight, and does so through what might be Dali’s most riveting double-image ever – all, of course, with painstaking precision.


Set in Seville, Spain, circa 1830, the story of the opera, Carmen, is wonderfully Spanish in its colorful exuberance and inexorable tragedy. Dali’s 25-piece lithographic suite might be the single best of all of the Catalan painter’s graphic work – admittedly a subjective viewpoint, but one that would surely garner staunch agreement from many Dali collectors.


Free with her love, Carmen woos the corporal Don Jose, an inexperienced soldier, and their relationship leads to his rejection of his former lover. Yet he descends into madness when Carmen eventually turns from him to the bullfighter Escamillo.


Dali captures with refinement, drama, exquisite draftsmanship and deep emotion the salient scenes and little nuances of what has become one of the world’s most popular operas: the flower Carmen throws at the feet of Jose, choosing him as a lover; the dancing and drinking at the inn that is a local hangout for smugglers; Carmen’s private dance for Jose; tarot card reading; the duel with knives; the parade that enters the bull-fighting arena through a square in Seville.


Dali uses brilliant, colorful detail contrasted with dark, moody blacks in Parody on Micaela; captures the tension of the moment in Carmen and Don Jose Fleeing on Horseback; expresses valor and triumph through the relative simplicity and symmetry of Triumph of the Toreador; and makes palpable the ultimate tragedy in his death mask of a work, The Cards Spell Death to Carmen.


Through it all, Dali never lets us forget his surrealist and Spanish leanings, with wonderful details like his Ghost of Vermeer of Delft-like figure in The Bird has Flown, featuring the same outstretched leg doubling as table, complete with wine bottle. And the central figure through the doorway in Lillas Pastia’s Tavern, borrowed from the iconic Las Meninas masterpiece by Velasquez, Dali’s favorite Spanish painter.


From the glowing Portrait of Carmen to the rich and haunting Don Jose’s Final Appearance: The Bats Symbolizing Death, Dali’s Carmen suite is quite simply one of his most richly textured, beautiful and allegorical efforts in the medium of limited edition graphics.


Bust of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, sculpture by Salvador Dali

Bust of John Fitzgerald Kennedy



Original sculpture

Salvador Dali



Two iconic 20th century heroes share an unlikely nexus in this head-turning original sculpture: the decorated but ill-fated U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, and the Master of Surrealism, Salvador Dali.


Skillfully fashioned from Dali’s own hands – not merely a three-dimensional object based on a drawn design by the artist – this intriguing bronze is covered with….paper clips! How utterly Daliesque that he would choose to symbolize the bureaucracy in which world leaders are often mired, by the use of the most mundane trappings of the modern administrative office drawer!


Yet Dali author Robert Descharnes attaches another meaning – a far more disquieting one – to the morass of gold clips clinging to JFK’s face and head: “The idea of putting paper clips on this original bust of the assassinated President,” Descharnes writes, “conjures up the image of a death mask, as if it was covered with bees or grasshoppers (symbols of death and destruction for Dali). Following this, when it was edited in bronze, the face was cleaned up a bit to let the eyes be seen.”


Dali had a penchant for melding profound subject matter with common objects from everyday life, not unlike the peculiar juxtapositions that populate so much of our dream imagery. In his Bust of Dante, 1964, for example, silver spoons adorn the hair atop that bronze in green patina. His 1965 Chalice of Life, studded with gold, emeralds, sapphires, rubies and diamonds, also is engraved with dead leaves devoured by worms.


What the Bust of JFK, with its paper clip motif, reminds us is that Dali was driven, if not obsessed, by his need to be different. Take, for instance, his prints of L’ Apocalypse; they were formed not merely by rendering an image on a matrix, but instead by exploding specially produced grenades filled with nails. Litho stones prepared for his Don Quixote suite were worked on, in part, by an actual octopus Dali dipped in ink, while other images in the same project were borne of the random scattering of ink pellets shot from a rifle.


Hats designed for Schiaparelli looked like shoes and ink wells; lobsters doubled as telephone receivers; dinner jackets sported shot glasses filled with crème de mint; a coat hanger became a perfectly logical resting place for a white glass paste melting clock!


*         *       *


John F. Kennedy was also the subject of an original etching by Dali, and both works in tribute to the 35th president were followed – in commemoration of the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976 – with Dali’s paintings and graphics that paid homage to Abraham Lincoln. Multi-colored cubes inspired by the then new science of computer optics in effect replaced the Kennedy paper clips. Now another president’s image – Lincoln – is covered by multi-colored squares inspired by computer image pixilation.


Other statesmen and important figures from the annals of geopolitics occupied Dali’s creative interests, too. Among them: Charles De Gaulle, Moshe Dayan, Francisco Franco, David Ben-Gurion, Bebe Rockefeller.


Bust of John Fitzgerald Kennedy – a supreme example of Pop Art as well as the special Surrealism of Dali – presents the late President in a perplexing light, at once revered for the enormously important influence he had on world affairs and the direction of the United States during his administration, yet seemingly a slave to the realities of the system within which he inevitably had to operate. Could the paper clips represent a kind of human bondage? The constraints of a society whose mores and machinations are never quite amenable to substantive change?


Of course, Dali’s own thoughts on his creations add intrigue, insight, and – not uncharacteristically – confusion to the equation. Of Bust of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Dali commented: “The American is a polyp. Take an American individually, and he is not able to do much of anything. Take them collectively, five or six at a time, and you will have some excellent results, thanks to the quantity. We arrive at wonders: quantity of money; quantity of organization; quantity of technology – what do you think of Kennedy? – in a country of polyps, do what is convenient for polyps. The individuals obey the master polyp through the intermediation of the polyps. There could never be in the United States a chief of state as original as De Gaulle, with such profound thought.”


What should never be discounted when considering so many objects d’ art by Dali, however, was his undeniable sense of humor. Few would view Bust of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and not find the paper clip treatment amusing. Surely Salvador Dali intended such a reaction, and perhaps that was his ultimate aim: to make us smile in remembrance of, and respect for, a great American hero.


Las Meninas (Maids of Honor), Salvador Dali 1974

Las Meninas- ‘Maids of Honor’

from the suite Changes in Great Masterpieces






By Paul Chimera

Dali Historian

(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)


At age 77, Dali had built an astonishing legacy – including two of the most important of his creative undertakings. One was the establishment of his museum (Teatro-Museo Dali) in Figueras, Spain – the town of his birth in 1904. The other was his creation of the unprecedented suite of lithographs known as “Changes in Great Masterpieces” – including, immodestly, his own “Persistence of Memory.”


But none of the six graphics in this series is as supremely Spanish in tone and temperament as “Maids of Honor,” precisely because it depicts what scholars often cite as the single most important work of art by the Renaissance artist who was Salvador Dali’s single most respected: Diego de la Silva Velasquez.


Now, though, instead of a male figure standing in the doorway at the middle rear of the picture, Dali has given us a woman, looking very much like she might have been borrowed from a painting by Vermeer – even with the suggestion of a map on the wall behind her, as was often the case in Vermeer’s works.


Below, in smaller scale, we find a sepia reproduction of the Velasquez painting, between Dali’s fine sketches of a kneeling man and a woman in a billowy dress, very much like the blonde girl in the foreground of the Velasquez canvas.


The observer/collector gets a kind of dual treat here: the spectacular iconic image Velasquez painted in 1656, and Salvador Dali’s modern, surrealist re-interpretation of it – directly on an image of the original painting, plus the Daliesque sketches at the bottom of the print. It all adds up to something utterly unique and supremely “Dalinian!”


Caring for a Surrealist Watch


Salvador Dali’s…

Caring for a Surrealist Watch from Memories of Surrealism


Year: 1971
Medium: Etching on lithograph (hand-signed)
Publishers: Transworld Art, New York
Printer: Rigal, Fontenay-aux-Roses, France Jobin
Dimensions: Image size: 53 x 42 cm
Paper size: 76.2 x 55 cm

(signature in border not shown)

w/ certificate of authenticity.

For more information and pricing, email


Self-Portrait Sun Dial, 1966– Salvador Dali

Self-Portrait Sun Dial

Self- Portrait Sundial, Salvador Dali, 1966

Self- Portrait Sundial, Salvador Dali, 1966

By Paul Chimera
Dali Historian
(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)

It was completely natural and understandable that Salvador Dali would be interested in the subject of the ancient phenomenon of the sun dial. Ok, it’s coincidence (right?) that “dial” is an anagram of “Dali!” But, of course, time pieces of a more modern incarnation – watches and clocks – were as integral and central to Dali’s symbolic work as his mustache was to his public persona! In Dali’s case, those time pieces generally oozed with the gooiness of Camembert cheese left to run in the Mediterranean sun.

In his unique print, “Self-Portrait Sun Dial,” Dali puts himself squarely on the dial of the device, not so much in a manner meant to capture a literal likeness, but more as a metaphor for how Dali was so well known for his interpretation of time’s meaning within his surrealist world. It may be significant to note that, just as Dali’s soft watches could not properly function in so wilted a state, so too is his sun dial wall sculpture in Paris said to not actually be constructed to tell accurate time!

The same year Dali created this striking print, he designed a very similar image, intended as a sun dial and cast in cement, which hangs over the street, like a shop sign, in Paris. It appears on the outside wall above a bakery that used to be known as PainsDelices, and today is the Bagel Place café on Rue Saint Jacques.

In 1966, while a brass band from the Beaux-Arts played, Dali unveiled this gift to the city of Paris. He drew upon it during the ceremony, after being hoisted up by an industrial “bucket” lift, accompanied by his manager, Peter Moore, and Dali’s pet ocelot.

It was not mere happenstance that Dali’s sun-dial was ensconced above Rue Saint Jacques. The sun dial’s scallop-shaped face – just as in this print – symbolizes the throngs of pilgrims who in ancient times traveled Rue Saint Jacques on their journey to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The flames Dali shows us above the eyebrows symbolize the intense sun endured by those who made the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage.

Though the image in “Self-Portrait Sun Dial” may not truly resemble Dali’s face, it could be noted that at least the suggestion of Dali’s famous mustache is implied by the top part of the “D” in Dali’s signature, and the dot over the “I”. What is clear, however, is that this print is among the rare few that claim self-portrait status, and strikes at the core of Dali’s irrepressibly Spanish heritage.



Leda Atomica

Leda Atomica


Etching, 1947




Salvador Dali’s talents as a master draftsman were abundantly evident, no matter what medium he chose to work in. Best known as a Surrealist painter – in addition to his fame as a flamboyant showman – Dali was also wonderfully prolific and articulate as a writer and, among other creative outlets, an etcher and lithographer as well. Some of his finest work was done in these graphic mediums, and the present work – Leda Atomica – is a great example of both his creative energy and his technical accomplishment.


In this instance, Dali has chosen to work with a theme he had also explored with astonishing articulation in his oil on canvas of the same name. In the etching, we see a somewhat less detailed but still beautifully handled depiction of this classic theme, done in the style of the Old Masters. It has a classical, traditional look to it – yet Dali also brings it into a contemporary focus by linking his reverence for classicism with his then emerging excitement over new discoveries in atomic science.


Nuclear physics at the time was revealing a revolutionary, almost spellbinding fact: solid materials are actually made of particles, in a constant state of flux that Dali once described as “everything rumping and jumping about!”


Thus, in taking on the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan – Leda being the wife of the King of Sparta, who is ravaged by Zeus, the supreme ruler of the gods, but now appearing disguised as a swan – Dali gives us a contemporary, atomic view of things. Even the sea is detached and suspended above the ground. Since Dali’s relationship with Gala was almost mythical in some respects – he in fact often compared it to the relationship between gods and mortals – portraying Gala as Leda in this finely executed etching is right in keeping with the unique way Salvador Dali viewed his wife, model and muse.


The same year, 1947, saw several very important paintings emerge from Dali’s easel, clearly reflecting his interest in classical themes and their nexus with new scientific discoveries, most particularly in intra-atomic physics. Examples include Dematerialization near the Nose of Nero; Feather Equilibrium; and The Three Sphinxes of Bikini.


The Crucible of the Philosopher, 1977

The Crucible of the Philosopher




From The Alchemy of the Philosophers suite of mixed-media prints on parchment


By Paul Chimera

Dali Historian

(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)


As if often the case with an artist as complex and mysterious as Dali, we are sometimes left with more questions than answers. “The Crucible of the Philosopher” is one of 10 prints from the extraordinary “Alchemy of the Philosophers” suite, on which Dali worked for four years, and which synthesizes multiple creative techniques and mediums.


Alchemy was an ideal phenomenon from which Dali would draw inspiration, and to which Dali’s vivid imagination and quest for creative expression would be drawn. Since antiquity, alchemy’s early practitioners claimed profound powers, most notably aligned with their objective of turning base metals into silver and gold. No serious study of mythology, religion and spirituality could ensue without consideration of the influential philosophical tradition of alchemy.


In “The Crucible of the Philosopher,” the bold red structure, seemingly ablaze, may well represent the furnace for heating substances – metals, in this case, in an effort to transform them into gold. In fact, is that what Dali was showing us here? The elongated form in white at the top, and then green in the middle distance, may have been transmuted, in the lower left foreground, now appearing in gold.


Along the bottom and in the middle distance, a mélange of images appear: frolicking people and winged angels; a horse and rider; a unicorn; even an iconic Dali soft watch. It all suggests a powerfully positive mood, perhaps a metaphor for what alchemists hoped to achieve: unraveling mysteries to attain a greater level of human comprehension.


The concept of alchemy seems to accord more logically with Salvador Dali’s intentions than one might first imagine. Consider, after all, that the alchemists were about experimentation. That is precisely what Dali was about. He endeavored to in effect transform the world around him, lending his creativity and surrealist twists to just about everything: a common time piece becomes a soft iconic symbol; a series of unrelated objects – scissors, trombone, drum – comprise a bizarre surrealist sculpture; the structure of atomic particles represent the blueprint for an entire artistic period Dali called Nuclear-Mysticism.


Perhaps what sums up the appeal of “The Crucible of the Philosopher” is that Salvador Dali was – for all intents and purposes – a modern-day alchemist himself! He synthesized, transformed, re-imagined and created a new way of thinking and seeing – a world through the lens of a true surrealist, in thought as well as in deed.


Perhaps. After all, with a genius as formidable as Dali, the questions outnumber the answers. And maybe this is how it should be. After all, even Dali asked, “How do you expect the public to understand the meaning of the mages I transcribe when I myself, who am the one who makes them happen, I don’t understand them, either?”