Author Archives: Paul Chimera

Ascension-1958

Feeling of Ascension sets Dali’s Depictions of Christ Apart

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

One of the hallmarks of Salvador Dali’s art was his counter-culture vision: when, in art school, his drawing instructor had the class copy a particular statue, Dali drew a pair of scales! That’s what he saw, he insisted.

 

How an artist “sees” is what makes him or her unique. It’s what sets one artist apart from another, and from us. It allows us to share the artist’s vision and get a peek into his soul.

 

When it came to depicting Jesus Christ – a most appropriate subject this time of year, to be sure – Dali’s penchant for seeing in a very special way didn’t disappoint.

 

In the four major religious paintings by Salvador Dali – all depicting the image of Christ – his subject is either shown ascending toward heaven, or there’s a related detail expressing the feeling of ascension. Unlike most other famous paintings of Jesus through art history, Dali showed absolutely no hint of pain, anguish, or despondency.

 

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Perhaps the best-known painting of Christ expressing the horror of crucifixion was that of Mathias Grunewald, in his gruesome The Crucifixion of Christ. El Greco showed the torturous crown of thorns, while Dali’s favorite painter – Velasquez – portrayed a beautiful Christ form with the nails in his bloodied hands and feet, as well as His lanced right side.

 

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But Salvador Dali’s vision was deliberately different. No nails. No thorns. Bo blood. No sense of pain or anguish. Instead, he chose to emphasize a feeling of triumph, of the victory of good or evil, and the ultimate beauty of Christ’s life and infinite meaning.

 

What’s more, Dali was especially interested in portraying the central significance of Christ’s time on earth – his Resurrection – thus showing a feeling of ascension in his major oils.

 

We see it in Christ of St. John of the Cross (1951), where the crucified savior rises high above the clouds, as we welcome his heavenly journey from the vantage point of God the Father.

 

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A sense of ascension is likewise felt in Corpus Hypercubus (1954), as we witness the towering figure of Jesus rise from a hypercube.

 

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And the very title of Dali’s 1958 picture, Ascension of Christ (a.k.a., Ascension), speaks of the rising Christ figure heading toward the heavens.

 

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Finally, in The Sacrament of the Last Supper (1955), the figure of Jesus Christ gestures upwards, while the torso in the central background of the large painting may be interpreted as a representation of Christ’s ascension.

 

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These various images of Jesus Christ by Salvador Dali wield enormous favor among art lovers everywhere – expressly because they’re unconventional. Different. Unexpected. And pretty magnificent.

 

[All images gratefully used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only.]

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The Many Depictions of Christ, Salvador Dali-Style

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

Christians honor the real reason for the season – not that they don’t also lock a big holiday hug on jolly old Saint Nick – and this brings us to – of all people – Salvador Dali.

 

Dali’s religious art in general is legendary and impressive. And his depictions of Jesus Christ in particular are pretty widely known; some consider them examples of his very best work.

 

But I must admit it never quite occurred to me just how prolific Dali was when it came to portraying Christ. The works that leap immediately to mind are the oil paintings, Christ of St. John of the Cross, The Sacrament of the Last Supper, and Corpus Hypercubus (Crucifixion), in Glasgow, Scotland; Washington, D.C., and New York City, respectively.

 

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But there are more. Many more. Most that probably don’t leap so readily to mind, but are indeed significant. And Salvador Dali’s depictions of the Creator span all mediums: oils, prints, watercolors, drawings, sculpture – even jewelry.

 

Of his Art-in-Jewels piece, Lapis Lazuli Cross, Dali wrote, “Rays of diamonds represent the Light of Christ; the rubies, His Blood. The tree of engraved gold is mounted on cubes of lapis lazuli, the whole signifying in color and form and matter, the Strength and the Power of Christ.”

 

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Lapis Lazuli Cross (left)

 

It’s also interesting to see the disparate way Dali actually rendered his images of Jesus. For example, he showed him from the extraordinary vantage point of the viewer being above Christ’s head (God the Father’s view) in the iconic Christ of St. John of the Cross; his face is not seen.

 

He showed Christ emerging from a hypercube in the mathematically ingenious Corpus Hypercubus (a.k.a., Crucifixion); again, his face is not seen.

 

And yet we very much discern a distinctive portrait of Christ in Dali’s The Sacred Heart of Jesus ( albeit his eyes are downcast).

 

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Then there was a kind of “ghosted” treatment of Christ, where his figure could easily be missed altogether, unless you know to look for it. I’m talking right in the very center of the large masterwork, whose lengthy title is typically abbreviated to The Perpignan Railway Station. Astute observers will also notice the bloody gash in Christ’s right side.

 

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Then there’s Christ on the cross – which replaces the sword often brandished by such horsemen – held in the hand of the Apostle, St. James, in the 1957 masterpiece, Santiago El Grande (shown here in a detail).

 

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Let’s enjoy, then – as oils, prints, drawings, sculpture and more – the many manners in which Salvador Dali depicted Jesus Christ, as we get ever closer to the celebration of his birth – a most joyous and, yes, Dalinian time of year . . .

Dali depicted the Lord in many prints and drawings . . .

 

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And in additional, remarkable paintings . . .

 

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Sculpted pieces also honored the image of Christ . . .

 

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Through it all, the lighter side of Salvador Dali managed to break through, from time to time . . .

 

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Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah,  and happy holidays to the loyal readers of this blog from The Salvador Dali Society, Inc.

 

 

[Images gratefully used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only]

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DALI’S DELIGHTFUL DIVERSITY!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

I’m continually dazzled by Dali’s undying diversity. OK, shameless alliteration aside, it really is rather extraordinary to consider how truly diverse Salvador Dali’s catalog was.

 

While Dali was indefatigably a Surrealist, his work embraced so many different styles that it’s little wonder he was so inscrutable to categorize.

 

Take, for example, his monumental The Sacrament of the Last Supper of 1955. While it’s the most popular work of art in Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, it doesn’t seem to “fit” neatly into any specified genre. Is it Surrealist? Well  certainly in some ways it is. Is it realism? Yes, though in a surrealistic manner. Is it modern? Yes, but in a classical style. Is it classical? It is, but with a kind of modern twist.

 

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What we know for sure is that it’s an enormous favorite with the public – but a kind of art work-non-grata in the minds of the museum brass. They’ve never disguised their disdain for it (undoubtedly born of jealousy).

 

Let’s move on to some other Dalis . . .

While, yes, Dali was the supreme Surrealist, he was also the artist who painted the Briggs Family portrait in a manner that – save for a few tangential background details – is about as anti-surrealist as you can get.

 

This is a Dali?!

This is a Dali?!

 

It’s literally hard to believe that the limp watches from The Persistence of Memory

 

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were painted by the same man who painted this traditional, almost department store photography studio-like canvas of the Briggs clan. It shows off Dali’s exceptional realistic technique, to be sure.

 

Yet so does Nature Morte Vivante (1956, Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida). This work just might be the single most photographic, most hyperrealist of all the oils Salvador Dali executed.

 

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The irony is that many people not very well acquainted with the art of Salvador Dali assume he just painted droopy clocks. They’re aware of The Persistence of Memory but not much else he did. In other words, they know of very little diversity in Dali’s work.

 

The fact is, of course, that the same artist who painted a man with an impossibly elongated, phallic buttock that needed to be held up with a crutch,

 

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also painted the utter magnificence of Christ of St. John of the Cross – without question one of the greatest religious paintings of all time.

 

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The Catalan genius who painted this…

 

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…is the same man who painted this…

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Dali’s diversity is just one more reason to admire the man.

 

[All images gratefully used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only]

 

 

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Dali’s Portrait of Poet Remains his Highest Auction Price

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

In the Dali world, we’re still waiting for “the big one.” No, not a California earthquake (God willing, that will never happen), but a blockbuster auction sale of a Dali painting. A sale that eclipses even heavy-hitters like Picasso and Warhol and Van Gogh.

 

The kind that catapults the name Salvador Dali into international headlines for all the right reasons. The kind that will have people everywhere talking about it the next morning around the office water cooler.

 

We can speculate about why Salvador Dali’s prices at auction haven’t risen (yet) to the level of some of his contemporaries, such as Warhol, Miro, and Magritte. And, perhaps in general, surrealist art is still somewhat arcane – and less desirable – because its appeal is, well, different.

 

Surrealism wasn’t exactly a sweet and tidy little place. It wasn’t a simple screen print of Elizabeth Taylor. Or a starry night landscape. Or a soup can label. It was, instead, about the relatively bizarre, and sometimes downright disturbing. So it’s not for everyone. And, in fact, it’s for a smaller segment of the marketplace than, say, a traditional landscape or a colorful abstract-expressionist picture.

 

But Surrealism has, in fact, gained in popularity in recent years, and auction prices of works by Surrealism’s big names – Magritte, Miro and, of course, Salvador Dali – bear that out.

While Dali hasn’t yet hit the ultra-high price levels of some others, his works have nonetheless fared very respectably at the major auction houses – and the news keeps getting better.

 

The all-time highest auction price to date for a Dali work (and we’re of course talking oils versus drawings, watercolors, prints, or sculpture) was the impressive $22.4 million fetched in February of 2011 for Portrait of Paul Eluard (1929, private collection). Not bad for an oil on cardboard – not canvas – measuring only some 10 x 13 inches!

 

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The work is super significant in Dali’s oeuvre, for two key reasons. One is that it depicts the French poet Paul Eluard, who was Gala Dali’s first husband. She would of course leave him for her legendary love affair and eventual marriage to Salvador. So the subject of this portrait painting is obviously crucial.

 

The other thing to appreciate about the portrait is that it brings together in one tightly executed painting so many of the quintessential surrealist elements of Dali’s unique brand of art: a lion’s head, the dreaded grasshopper, the Great Masturbator head, the double image of the grasshopper’s eye also serving as that of a fish’s eye, and assorted other details that capture the personal and obsessive nature of Dali’s surrealism.

 

Not to mention that it was painted exquisitely by the then-25-year-old Dali.

 

Meanwhile, other great Dali paintings and their auction prices include Springtime Necrophilia ($16.3 million), Enigmatic Elements in a Landscape ($11 million), Study for Honey is Sweeter than Blood ($6.8 million), Night Specter on the Beach ($5.68 million), and My Wife Nude Contemplating Her own Flesh Becoming Stairs, Three Vertebra of a Column, Sky and Architecture… ($4.76 million).

 

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It all adds up to nearly $67,000,000.00 Not bad, Mr. Dali, not bad.

 

 

[All images gratefully used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only]

 

 

Forgotten Horizon 1936 Salvador Dal? 1904-1989 Bequeathed by the Hon. Mrs A.E. Pleydell-Bouverie through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1968 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01078

Dali’s Technique: ‘Not a Single Mislaid Stroke’

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

We know quite a bit about what Dali painted, but not so much about how he painted. So I was pleased to recently come across information provided by the Tate Museum in London about its 1936 painting, Forgotten Horizon, and how master Dali painted it.

 

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The work is small, just a little larger than an 8” x 10” photograph, and was one of a series of paintings Salvador Dali did on wood panels, depicting the beach at Rosas on the Costa Brava in Spain.

 

Forgotten Horizon portrays that beach featuring “alluringly posed dancers meant to stimulate the imagination and subconscious,” as a Tate statement describes it. The museum did a technical analysis, revealing that, while Dali’s technique was based on tradition, he also melded methods and materials in a manner all his own.

 

According to the Tate analysis, Dali first painted the setting of the sky, the water and the sand over white priming, then added the dancers, which, as the Tate puts it, “seem to float in the landscape.”

 

Tate specialists conducted a detailed analysis of the head of the far left figure in the group, employing raking light – a bright light directed from the side to show up details of painting technique. Said the Tate: “…the texture and energy in the paint application that’s apparent in this detail belies the flat, calm appearance of the work as seen from a normal viewing distance.”

 

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The source of the dancers is reportedly a now-lost postcard. Using infrared light analysis, Tate specialists determined that Dali was able to transfer the postcard image to the panel of wood, outlining the figures and facial details.

 

High-technology helped uncover Dali’s sketching: the Tate’s infrared camera “provides a series of small images which are pieced together into a mosaic,” a document notes. “Infrared light penetrates the upper layers of paint and is either absorbed by the black media used for the under drawing, such as pencil, ink, or diluted black paint, or reflected by the white priming layer. This contrasting absorption or reflection is translated into a visible black and white image, which reveals Dali’s preparatory outlines.”

 

As a result of ultra-violet light analysis, Tate conservators were able to conclude that “Dali either used natural resin on its own or mixed with linseed oil paint to create a more liquid media which could be laid down easily and fluidly with a very small brush.”

 

The central figure is said to be Dali’s cousin, Carolinetta, whom Dali featured earlier in his 1934 painting, Apparition of My Cousin Carolinetta on the Beach at Rosas.

 

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The Tate’s microscopic analysis and magnified details illustrated its fluid quality. “Dali,” the museum notes, “had a sure hand as he laid the paint on the surface. There is not a single mislaid stroke or error in his application.”

 

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Interestingly enough, the same trio of dancers showed up in 1935 in Dali’s Puzzle of Autumn (collection Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida). However, in this earlier version, the order of the dancers is reversed; the one on the extreme left in Forgotten Horizon is on the extreme right in Puzzle of Autumn. And their outline, as a group, is the same shape as the “puzzle pieces” in the Puzzle of Autumn work (were you aware of that before now?).

 

Puzzle of Autumn

Puzzle of Autumn

 

All this reminds me how I’d love to know so much more about how Dali went about creating his paintings, not to mention his drawings, prints, and works in other media. Not only the technical aspects of their rendering, but the thought process that went into his works – most especially the highly complex, walls-size masterworks.

 

[All images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only]

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Dali Gone 30 Years, Come January 23rd . . .

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

It’s impossible to comprehend that, come January 23, 2019, Salvador Dali will have been gone 30 years.

 

I vividly remember as if it were yesterday being glued to the television set and taping (VHS tapes in the VCR; it was state-of-the-art at the time) every report I could about the Master’s passing. Every station imaginable carried the news, of course, of the artistic titan’s death. As did all other media across the globe (there was no social media at the time).

 

That was three decades ago? Unbelievable. Yet true.

 

I don’t know yet of any specific plans by museums or other entities to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Dali’s death, although I believe I’ve heard rumblings of an exhibition in Australia specially mounted for the occasion. I’m certain the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, will do something for the milestone as well. Not to mention the Teatro-Museo Dali in Spain.

 

Meantime, we remember so much about the complex man from the small town of Figueres, Spain, who went on to single-handedly define Surrealism for the masses and the art history books.

 

We remember Dali as a boy and young man . . .

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Posing with his wife Gala…

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Loving Gala…

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Spending time with luminaries such as Walt Disney, John Lennon, Alice Cooper, Paul Newman, Sophia Loren, Harpo Marx…

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This 1957 photo released by the Walt Disney Family Foundation shows surrealistic artist Salvador Dali, left, and Walt Disney at a beach in Spain. Besides his love of wholesome entertainment, Walt Disney also had an appreciation for the eccentric that led to a short-lived partnership and decades-long friendship with Dali. (Walt Disney Family Foundation via AP)

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Just hanging out….

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Looking like a crazy man…

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Wearing a bread or sausage hat…

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01 Jan 1974 --- Spanish Painter Salvador Dali --- Image by © John Bryson/Sygma/Corbis

Wearing his surrealism on his sleeve – and sometimes crème de mint glasses…

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Donning a football helmet…

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Getting his hair done…

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Monkeying around …

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Playing chess with Gala…

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Playing chess with Marcel Duchamp…

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Posing with 1993 world champion chess master Antoly Karpov…

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Designing a one-of-a-kind chess set…

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Being a rock star wannabe….

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Playing Santa…

Original caption: 12/22/1961-Salvador Dali, Spanish painter, wearing Santa claus beard and a hat of his own creation called "Dali's Complex." Photograph. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

And handing out oranges to kids at Christmas time…

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Sleigh-riding in the Big Apple with Gala and Enrique Sabater…

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Painting with shaving cream…

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Painting the outrageous…

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Painting the beautiful…

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Painting mirrors…

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Designing mirrors…

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Traveling in unique ways…

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Appearing on popular TV shows like I’ve Got A Secret and the Ed Sullivan Show…

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Playing the piano – or at least sitting at one…

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Painting pianos in many of his works…

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Hanging by his famous mustache from a helicopter, or so it would seem…

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Jumping for joy…

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Jumping rope…

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Looking regal…

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Dedicating the first Dali Museum in Beachwood, Ohio…

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Inducted into the prestigious French Royal Academy of Art…

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Painting portraits…

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Attending the bullfights with pal Amanda Lear…

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Posing with his leading collector Reynolds Morse…

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Signing books for adoring fans…

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Appearing on magazine covers…

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Taking a snooze…

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Immortalized in a statue…

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Painting masterpieces…

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In his ailing final years…

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Lying in the casket…

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Immortal for all eternity.

 

[All images gratefully used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only]

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Salvador Dali: ‘A Genius with a Lot of Energy!’

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

Sometimes it seems as if the world couldn’t quite turn on its axis without the influence of Salvador Dali shining its bright light….somewhere.

 

Recently, that light made for a most illuminating talk at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Its collection – donated by the late Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, originally of Cleveland, Ohio – is surely the best in the world. Included among the hundreds of Dali prints, drawings, watercolors, sculptures, holograms and more are nearly 100 oil paintings – including the very first one the Morse’s purchased in the early 1940s: Daddy Longlegs of the Evening…Hope!

 

And that’s where today’s story begins. Because it was the one painting selected by St. Petersburg artist Steven Kenny to try his hand at copying. And I mean copying precisely, exactly, maybe even neurotically! Right down to a particular tube of blue oil paint manufactured years ago in Barcelona, Spain.

 

Kenny did a quite wonderful portrait of Dali in 1993, revealing his typical painstaking technique.

Dali by Kenny

Dali by Kenny

 

He considers himself a neo-surrealist, but, like Dali, has not shied away from commercial work, such as his ongoing commission to design eye-catching packaging for Celestial brand tea. He also did four album covers for the rock band, Journey, among other popular musicians.

 

Just a few days ago Kenny was the featured speaker at the Dali Museum in St. Pete, explaining through a slide presentation called Duplicating Dali how he went about copying Daddy Longlegs of the Evening…Hope! It was a fascinating adventure that Kenny originally expected would take maybe three months; in actuality, the ambitious project spanned 19 months.

 

I think the presentation at the museum was so interesting that, with some revisions, it could make a great PBS television special!

 

Kenny pointed out how Daddy Longlegs, done in 1940, was Dali’s first work painted in the United States, and that the Catalan master clearly made sure it was near-perfect. Kenny was in awe, he said, of how Dali achieved some of the effects in his work, surmising that Dali wanted this to be a truly magnificent first impression among his new American audience.

 

For example, in this picture, Kenny uses red lines he describes as “fan-shaped armature that helps move the viewer’s eye across the painting and gives structure to the various elements.” Translation: Dali was a perfectionist who wanted to achieve perfection.

 

Visual harmony, even if the violin-cello is a bit limp.

Visual harmony, even if the violoncello is a bit limp.

 

Not only did the St. Pete artist do a meticulous job in copying the picture itself, but he also constructed a frame to match as precisely as possible the style of wood frame on the original, now nearly 80-year-old Dali canvas.

 

The original Dali stayed on the wall.

The original Dali stayed on the wall.

 

All of this is examined quite wonderfully in the video, seen below.

 

“He (Dali) had his issues,” Kenny commented, “but above all, he was probably just a genius with a lot of energy, because he really wore me down trying to copy this.”

 

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What I find so noteworthy is how Salvador Dali continues to have such a wide-reaching impact on today’s artists and present-day culture. Whether it’s an outrageous outfit worn by Lady Gaga, or outstanding tattoos that are making body art so compelling today, the influence of Salvador Dali – the continuing light of his genius – cannot be denied, and shows no signs of dimming in the slightest.

 

Enjoy . . .

 

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Dali ‘Covered’ the Music Industry in Surrealist Style

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

Salvador Dali claimed he was not much of a music appreciator. He insisted that music was immensely inferior to art – painting, more precisely – and that the eye clearly triumphed over the ear.

 

And yet Dali was a master of contradiction. He would hum and whistle to himself while he worked tirelessly at his easel, or on the matrix of whatever print he might have been creating. He was said to favor recordings by Wagner, likening the scratchy sound of needle on vinyl to sardines frying in a pan.

 

I’m personally not aware that Dali played any instrument, and yet you can find photos showing him seated at a piano; it appears he knew what he was doing. He certainly included musical instruments in many of his paintings – the piano most prominently, owing to his recollection of the al fresco concerts the Dali family friends, the Pitchots, would hold in Cadaques when Salvador was a young boy.

 

And of course, his surrealism was populated by violins and cellos and tubas and guitars and, yes, those ubiquitous grand pianos — usually misshapen, but instruments nonetheless.

 

One musical arena that seemed to strike a chord with Dali was the design of record album covers for a variety of musical artists. One of the most commonly known is Lonesome Echo, an album by Jackie Gleason – himself something of a surrealist within musical and comical arenas.

 

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And there were a host of other covers, some of which you see here.

 

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But one that seldom seems to get mentioned is one of the most surrealist and unique – in my view, anyway – and ironically features almost all collage, save for the metallic gold lettering and a swirl or two of paint.

 

It’s the LP cover for Jho Archer, a Haitian jazz musician. But aside from Archer’s name lettered with gold metallic paint, a flame-like swirl shooting from the television set, and Dali’s own signature, everything else is collage: seven butterflies; the TV; lilies that double as gramophone speakers; and Archer’s mouth, seen twice. Oh, and there’s a red Dali crutch holding up one of the flowery speakers, plus a green-hued landscape on the TV screen. These latter two elements were painted.

 

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But except for those touches, the design is collage-driven – and that’s very cool. It’s a decidedly different and Dalinian album design, and I for one would love to know what Archer’s reaction was to it. It also seems to be a bit rare. I’ve seen pretty much all the other album covers shown here offered now and again on ebay, but have never seen the Jho Archer piece on the auction block.

 

(All images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only)

 

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‘Dali Atomicus’ One of History’s Most Famous Photographs

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

If there’s any doubt that Salvador Dali did it all, try to find any artistic road on which he didn’t travel. Impossible.

 

One outlet through which Dali made his mark was photography. Not behind the camera (usually), but in front of it. And in creative collaboration most famously with the celebrated French photographer Philippe Halsman.

 

Today I want to look at Dali Atomicus of 1948, doubtlessly not only the best-known photograph with which Dali was involved, but indeed one of the most famous photographs of an entire century.

 

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The Dali/Halsman collaboration was such a tour d’ force in the annals of creative pairings. They even did a book together – Dali’s Mustache – featuring extraordinarily clever photos of Dali’s upper lip hair in every imaginable pose, together with amusing text calculated to get a chuckle out of readers.

 

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Dali Atomicus took upwards of 20 takes before the duo was completely satisfied. The two creative geniuses endeavored to depict the phenomenon of intra-atomic space, in which – at the sub-atomic level – nothing touches anything else.

 

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Various elements were hung on virtually invisible wires, while water and cats where tossed, and Dali leaped into the frame on que – until all the elements levitated for the perfect storm. (Dali was on record saying not only did the cats not mind being tossed, but that they appeared to enjoy it!)

 

On the right of the composition is a reproduction of Salvador Dali’s great masterpiece, Leda Atomica – itself a quintessential representation of his interpretation of quantum physics melded with the iconic Greek myth of Leda and the Swan.

 

What I don’t think many people realize is that the wires were retouched out. And Dali painted water and cats legs onto the canvas in the middle of the photo, sort of echoing the larger photographic tableau.

 

Photos of Halsman and Dali working on this project, and the persistent leaps Dali took to eventually achieve the final effect, are nearly as popular as the finished photograph itself.

(Images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only, with acknowledgment of the estate of Philippe Halsman and copyright therein)

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Dali and the Missing Movies

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

When it comes to Salvador Dali and film, three things leap to mind: the films Dali made; the scenes he created for films; and the films he appeared in. We think pretty immediately of creative efforts such as Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’ Or, which he made with Luis Bunuel, and which he appeared in; Spellbound, the Hitchcock thriller for which he created the iconic dream sequence; and Destino, the animated Oscar-nominated film short in collaboration with Walt Disney Studios.

 

It’s not much of a leap, moreover, to consider footage that was shot of Dali, from essentially routine broadcast news stories to TV appearances on American TV game and talk shows.

 

But three pieces of film remain something of a mystery. In fact, I can’t say for certain if one of them even exists! I’m talking, for starters, about the 1952 multi-city tour Dali made in America, accompanied by his leading patrons, A. Reynolds and Eleanor R. Morse and, of course, the artist’s wife, Gala.

 

Dali, a genius at self-promotion, launched a tour through Iowa, Missouri, Texas and Florida under the banner, “Selling Nuclear-Mysticism.” It was a fairly clean break from the Surrealism that made him famous and that up to then had categorized him in the minds of critics and the art-appreciating public as the master of Surrealism. Now he was promoting his art influenced not by Freud, but by Heisenberg.

 

While I’ve seen a few photos of Dali on stage with Reynolds Morse, lecturing about his Nuclear-Mysticism, I’ve never seen any film footage of these tour stops. Surely there must have been cameras rolling somewhere, by someone. What a pleasure it would be to see and hear Dali on this middle-America tour. (If any reader knows where such footage can be obtained, please let us know at The Salvador Dali Society, Inc.©.)

 

Now to another bit of slippery celluloid. I’ve written about the CBS News film footage (or what is ABC?) I saw only once, years ago, of Dali conducting a bizarre press conference in which he “drew” on a chalkboard – using not a typical implement of draftsmanship, but instead a can of Foamy Shave Cream! (See photo).

 

A "lunatic" Dali paints with shaving cream and makes a mess of a famous journalist's suit!

A “lunatic” Dali paints with shaving cream and makes a mess of a famous journalist’s suit!

 

Well-known newsman Harry Reasoner was seated in the front row. He remained outwardly stoic, but surely stunned, when – in a flurry of effusiveness – Dali managed to “accidentally” (?) splatter a considerable quantity of shaving cream upon the doubtlessly expensive suit Mr. Reasoner was wearing.

 

It was one of those delightful Dalinian moments, and this blogger would like to know how that unique Dali moment could be viewed again.

 

Finally, there was about a 15-minute film shot by the then-vice president of Reynolds Morse’s IMS Company of Beachwood, Ohio (his name is Edward). It was taken of Dali when the artist came to Beachwood (Cleveland) on March 7, 1971, for the inauguration of his museum. I had the privilege of privately screening the 16-mm film in Edward’s home, showing Dali strutting about the one-room museum, drawing a cross on a woman’s forehead, and other details that frankly have faded from my memory over some 35 years now.

 

Dali and collector Morse in the original Dali Museum, Beachwood, Ohio.

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Dali and Reynolds Morse in the original Dali Museum, Beachwood, Ohio.

 

It all reminds me how much there’s yet to discover about Salvador Dali. Including paintings that may have never been reproduced in books or catalogs, but which will surely come to auction at some future date. We’ll be watching, and reporting.

 

(Images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only)

[Special thanks to Cookie Weaver of Dali Authorities for locating the photo of the “shaving cream” press conference]