Author Archives: Paul Chimera


Sizing up Salvador Dali…Literally!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


The question of whether size matters can apply to Surrealism as well as sex! And to a host of other things as well. When it comes to the art of Salvador Dali, the issue of size has rather famously applied to his best-known work of art: his iconic 1931 painting, The Persistence of Memory.


This work is so emblematic of Salvador Dali specifically, and Surrealism in general, that unless you know otherwise, you imagine it to be immense, or at least large. Those are relative terms, of course, but no matter how you slice it, most people expect the original to have the same impact in its dimensions that it has in its unforgettably strange imagery and wonderfully detailed technique.


It’s therefore kind of fun to see the reaction of folks when it’s revealed that Persistence of Memory is, as I like to compare it, about the size of your average laptop computer screen. But it would be cool to imagine this tiny jewel in monumental size, don’t you think?




Another work whose dimensions surprised me when it recently came to auction is Portrait of Gala with Two Lamb Chops Balanced on Her Shoulder. While I knew it was a comparatively small canvas, it just never occurred to me just how diminutive it is.




One relatively small Dali painting I believe would have been far more powerful had it been maybe five times as large is the 1945 work, Uranium and Atomica Melancholica Idyll. Can you imagine the impact of the war imagery here, magnified to such a lifelike scale! I feel similarly about The Metamorphosis of Narcissus – a most exceptional masterpiece, but which might have been even more sensational were it created in far larger dimensions.


31947190_2155598648007397_7484476281354977280_n dali-melancholy-atomic-uranic-idyll DNJFUA_WsAEDVew


Then there are works like The Enigma of William Tell, virtually necessitating its large size – horizontal in this case – to accommodate that most inelegant and outrageous elongated buttock!


574977_3741496263331_1798188186_n the-enigma-of-william-tell_jpgLarge


It would likewise be unimaginable if Dali’s great Sacrament of the Last Supper were even a medium-size work. So much of the awesome spirit of this masterwork owes to its size; when you stand before it at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., you almost feel a part of the sacred feast.


1009893_10206902580296089_2296491227146703534_n DALE_171 IMG_3097


Even more difficult to picture in dimensions other than the immense ones Dali chose are my favorite Dali painting and my favorite double-image Dali painting, respectively: Santiago El Grande, and The Hallucinogenic Toreador. These great pictures are exquisitely rich in detail and symbolism. But the sheer size of the canvases themselves most certainly adds to their enormous impact.


ByTz-zPCMAAr29p art1-1-093bd3a52565fb3a


And there’s no question that the impact of the tremendous masterpiece, Tuna Fishing, is greatly enhanced by the enormity of the work — an impact that just wouldn’t work in small dimensions.


24506-Dali, Salvador 0e81e224e2a3bfdc9f4961c8ef88da7e 025


Dali gave us the best of both worlds when it came to his Madonna of Port Lligat – the first one very small and perfectly executed, the second one of monumental proportions and considered Dali’s first major Nuclear-Mystical painting.


f6ec19204e9bc1d7dbc7583055b9e83e couplewithMadonnaPLligat


The size of Ascension of Christ is interesting to me, because it falls into the category of large – but can you picture the enhanced impact of this stunning work if it were the size of, say, The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus! Columbus, as one of Dali’s most intricate and detailed canvases, simply could never have been done effectively, were it the size of, for instance, The Apotheosis of Homer.



15104847777_5d70c49f3f_b DEYu6OQXkAAHscZ the-apotheosis-of-homer


This latter title would be absolutely breathtaking, were it the size of The Battle of Tetuan; can you even begin to imagine that!




Let me mention two other works, both small, which I think could have been even more remarkable if they were far bigger, even though they’re certainly wonderful as they are. One is The Phantom Cart. It’s a small painting, but the vastness of the landscape could have been greatly underscored, had it been seven feet long.


Pixtot with Dali _30d922b4-41d7-11e6-80db-dfffb1de8362


Meanwhile, can you picture the dynamic impact that would have been created, had Dali chosen to go very big on the small but powerful work, One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate? That leaping tiger would be fearsome!




Size may not necessarily matter, but it’s fun to imagine. That’s what Surrealism was all about. And, for this blog post, that’s the long and the short of it.



Nearly 10 Years Ago, Atlanta Show Proved Dali was a ‘Nuclear-Mysticist’!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


Time melts – and flies – when it comes to Salvador Dali.


It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a decade since my second biggest Dali dream came true – seeing in person Dali’s great masterpiece, Santiago El Grande. My number one dream came true far earlier – in 1973 and ’74 – when I got to meet and spend some time with the celebrated Salvador Dali himself at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. (I also got to see Gala very briefly, though I didn’t formally meet her).



Dali and me, 1973.

Dali and me, 1973.


In 2010, despite my dislike of flying, my wife and I jetted off to Atlanta, Georgia’s High Museum of Art to see the fruits of the curatorial efforts of my friend, Elliott King, Ph.D. The Washington & Lee University art history professor and Dali specialist was instrumental in organizing what I’ve always believed to be the greatest Dali exhibition to date.


Dr. King explains a Dali painting to a group; Santiago El Grande is seen in background.

Dr. King explains a Dali painting to a group; Santiago El Grande is seen in background.


Delta Airlines got in the Dali spirit with a flying Dali mustache!

Delta Airlines got in the Dali spirit with a flying Dali mustache!


Even though places like the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Philadelphia Museum of Art have held extraordinary Dali retrospectives, no exhibition to my knowledge has featured as many of the large Dali masterworks as the Dali – The Late Work exhibition in Atlanta. Or at least not as many truly outstanding ones.


This exceptional show, which King tells me drew some 260,000 visitors – including 20,000 in its final “Dali ‘til Dawn” 24 hours – included Santiago El Grande, The Madonna of Port Lligat (the huge one), The Ecumenical Council, Assumpta Corpuscularia Lapislazulina, and the most iconic of all, Christ of St. John of the Cross – arguably the most famous religious painting of the 20th century and, in this historian’s view, one of the greatest paintings ever, religious or otherwise.


BoWJ_JBIIAEAHI6 0f17b4ef993ce2b9da74e47c8bb1402e The_Ecumenical_Council_by_Salvador_Dali aug-28-2010-atlanta-ga-us-atlanta-ga-august-28-salvador-dalis-assumpta-cacntj Christ_of_Saint_John_of_the_Cross


There were many other smaller but no less giant artistic statements by Dali, too, exploring a host of ideas and themes.


Another seldom-seen gem in the Dali - The Late Work show.

Another seldom-seen gem in the Dali – The Late Work show.


The focus, of course, was on the “late” works, meaning Dali’s under-appreciated post-Surrealism, Nuclear-Mystical period. Some have credited Dali – The Late Work exhibition with sort of “legitimizing” these later, not technically surrealist works by the Catalan master. But I find it astonishing – and just plain ignorant – that many critics still dismiss this later period as being far less significant than Dali’s purely surrealist works, mainly of the late 1920s and 1930s.


The whole point of Dali – The Late Work, well, much of the point, anyway, was to shine a light on Dali’s Nuclear-Mystical period, when he essentially exited the house of Surrealism and entered a brand new dwelling made relevant by the dropping of the atomic bomb. Freud’s shingle over the doorway was promptly replaced by that of Heisenberg.


How ironic that, when Salvador Dali’s work first came to America, the critics were so confounded by the ants and flies and soft watches and burning giraffes that they dismissed Dali as something of a lunatic. Now, with respect to Dali’s post-surrealist period (i.e., his “late work”), the critics couldn’t wrap their heads approvingly around this body of work precisely because it lacked the ants and flies and watches and giraffes!


You can’t please everyone.


Without a doubt, the Atlanta showing of the remarkable works in the Dali – The Late Work exhibition – now in the history books for nearly a decade (seems like I just toured it yesterday!) – was a giant step forward in painting a far more complete and accurate picture of Salvador Dali. An artist who, let it be said, was not just a Surrealist – but a Nuclear-Mysticist!



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

1 Dali Boulevard

America’s Dali Museum Should be High on Everyone’s Bucket List!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


A late-breaking news report informs us that the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida is going through another growth spurt. According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, a planned $38 million expansion will allow for a new parking garage, space for digital interaction, and education space.




I love following America’s Dali Museum, because for me it’s the most interesting art museum in the country. That, of course, is because Salvador Dali was the most interesting, innovative, exciting and skillful artist of the past century. Sorry, Pablo.


It all started when Reynolds and Eleanor Morse made the pivotal decision to display a large portion of their privately held collection of Dali art in an annexed wing of their plastic injection molding supply office building in the Cleveland suburb of Beachwood, Ohio. I had the pleasure of handling publicity for the world’s first Dali Museum – at the time the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to the work of a single living artist.


In 1982, the Morse collection – unparalleled then and now, and including some 90 or so oils, plus drawings, watercolors, prints, sculpture and other items – was relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida. I had the pleasure of meeting and having a drink with Dali’s manager, Capt. Peter Moore, when we were both in town during the museum’s inauguration week.


Then the collection at Third Street South in St. Pete picked itself up and moved a few blocks to its present, more hurricane-friendly location in an exciting new building at 1 Dali Boulevard. The amoeba-like glass atrium area has grown on me, and it somewhat echoes the glass geodesic dome atop the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain. (I still, however, don’t care for the St. Pete Dali Museum logo, but that’s a whole other story).




Now we get word that the Salvador Dali Museum will be undergoing an additional expansion. It’s good news – always – seeing the nation’s Dali Museum changing, growing, and becoming even more exciting and accommodating.


If you haven’t yet been to the Salvador Dali Museum in Florida, this adventure simply must be placed high up on your bucket list!


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


Small Dali Print May Fetch Big Auction Price

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


It’s been said that everything old is new again. That maxim seems to help connect the dots when we look this time not at a major Salvador Dali oil painting coming to auction, but instead an etching – and it dates all the way back to the year 1924. Salvador was just out of his teens when he created the etching, titled Tete de jeune fille (Girls’ Head), and printed it himself.


The signed and dated print, whose image size is a diminutive 4 5/8 inches x 3 5/8 inches, has a very important provenance, because it’s from the estate of Paul Eluard. Not only was Eluard an esteemed poet in his time, but of course he was married to Gala – until a wickedly unique Salvador Dali caught the Russian muse’s eye. That not only changed Eluard’s life, and Gala’s, and Dali’s, it also changed the course of Surrealism.


That’s because, no matter how things evolved and changed over the years, there is no question that Kazan, Russia-born Gala (Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, 1894 -1982) was the single greatest influence in Salvador Dali’s personal life and remarkable artistic career. He simply would not have been the force he was in the Surrealist movement, were it not for the formidable influence of Gala.


What’s old is new again, in that the Tete de jeune fille etching goes on the auction block at Christie’s in New York City April 17-18 and carries a pre-sale estimate of $30,000 – $50,000 – a pretty tidy sum for a tiny Salvador Dali print.




In connecting the historical dots, we’re reminded that Dali’s 1929 Portrait of Paul Eluard – a stunning surrealist work in itself – has the distinction of being the highest-priced Dali work sold at auction to date, garnering $21.5 million on Feb. 10, 2011. While that may be eclipsed by some of the insane mega-million-dollar sales we’ve been seeing of late for some other artists, it’s still a very healthy chunk of change for a small oil on cardboard.


portrait-of-paul-eluard_jpg!Large paul-eluard


I always think it’s a shame that important Dali’s like the Eluard portrait are sequestered in some private collector’s home somewhere, rather than being available for the art- and Dali-loving public to enjoy. Hopefully, in time, that will change. Meantime, it’s noteworthy that a very small Salvador Dali print is expected to garner a big price at auction. Stay tuned.


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




Tombs of Salvador Dali, Man Ray Endure Sad Indignities

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


What is it about Surrealists and tombs? First it was Salvador Dali, when a woman claiming to be the love child of Dali and his housekeeper managed to get a Spanish court order to have the kingpin of Surrealism’s body exhumed.




Testing of DNA left the woman SOL. That’s an American slang expression you may want to look up, if you’re not familiar with it. It was an outrage that poor Salvador Dali’s grave had to be trifled with in such an unspeakably intrusive manner. Pathetic! Dali deserves better.


Now another Surrealist and contemporary of Dali, Man Ray, is in the news, after some miscreant(s) desecrated his tomb in the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris, France. According to news reports, the gravestone was apparently wrenched off Ray’s tomb; a portrait of the artist and his wife also was smashed.


c700cX-XMaUE_585x1170 a7583c09beed740bedbdd54764622c3b manray-2 p01dr0j1


Ray, a leading figure in both Dada and Surrealism art movements, was also highly influential in the field of fashion photography. It’s widely held that his best-known work – simple but clever and compelling – was a 1924 photomontage called Ingre’s Violin. In it, he transformed the naked back of singer Kiki de Montparnasse – his lover and muse – into a violin. Dali quoted the idea in his own 1950s Red Orchestra painting as part of his Seven Lively Arts series of oils.




I cannot help but recall the incident where, in the early ‘60s, a museum-goer in Glasgow, Scotland hurled a chunk of jagged sandstone at Salvador Dali’s stunning and iconic religious masterwork, Christ of St. John of the Cross.


0_GP19194569-1 0_DALI-7


What is it about great artists and great art that stirs the emotions so? That moves people to drastic, antisocial acts like these? Are they jealous? Angry? Laden with religious or political axes to grind? Mentally unstable? Might the object of their apparent wrath just as easily have been, say, an automobile? Or a corporate office? Or something other than priceless fine art – or sacred resting places?


One thing is clear: art isn’t something that stays shrouded and sequestered in the corner of life. It’s not a wallflower afraid to step up and dance. No. Art in general, and the art of Salvador Dali and the Surrealists in particular, can often strike like a tidal wave.


Let’s not forget the firestorm created when Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel’s surrealist cinema classic, L’Age d’ Or, aired at Studio 28 in Paris, France in 1929. An exhibit of Surrealist paintings in the theatre lobby was trashed by dissidents, whose sensibilities came unhinged by the avant-garde maelstrom these examples of Surrealism stirred in them.


Art sure can be interesting.



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


Dali’s ‘Soft Construction…’ is Always in Demand

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


Salvador Dali’s Soft-Construction with Boiled Beans; Premonition of Civil War just keeps popping up on the Daliscope – the Dalinian radar, if you will. And every time it does – such as its latest encampment in Baltimore – I’m immediately transported back to my freshman year of college.


That’s how I got forever hooked on everything Dali, when the professor in my art appreciation course put a slide of Soft-Construction up on the screen.




Baam! Hooked forever! The fluid, precise technique…the scintillating color hues…the bizarre and alluring nature of the imagery. The work is so emblematic of Dali’s Surrealism: a bit of sex, a dash of the grotesque, a hint of genius – all knitted together by technical skill rivaling the Renaissance masters.




TIME magazine art critic and author Robert Hughes would go on to opine that Salvador Dali’s Soft-Construction with Boiled Beans; Premonition of Civil War was the single most important “war picture” of the 20th century. Yes, out-gunning even Pablo Picasso’s iconic canvas, Guernica.


Picasso's Guernica takes back seat to Dali.

Picasso’s Guernica takes back seat to Dali.


Now Soft-Construction finds itself as one of the gems in an exhibition called “Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s” at the Baltimore Museum of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. The show opened February 24 and runs through May 26. It includes works by Magritte, Ernst, Masson, Picasso and others, including, of course, what for me will always be the show-stopper: Dali’s Soft-Construction (which must upset a lot of people who travel to its permanent home, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, only to find it’s so often out on loan). Also in the show is Dali’s wonderful double-image oil, Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach.




Dali’s Soft Construction with Boiled Beans; Premonition of Civil War is such a compelling metaphor for the Spanish Civil War, depicting the self-strangulation and annihilation that defines what civil war is. The work’s riveting color palette and flashes of eroticism serve to make it even more exciting and hard to resist. Among the many things that have been said and written about Salvador Dali – past, present, and yet to come – one thing seems certain: his work is always exciting!


That’s enough to keep me coming back for more.




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


Dali Borrowed Others’ Imagery to Pay Immortal Respect to Them

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


Denigrators of Dali and his art like to suggest that Dali “stole” ideas and even entire imagery from other artists. Not all the time, of course, but frequently. And they would be right, and they would be wrong. “Stole”? No. But influenced by? Acknowledged the work of others? Nodded to artists he admired and respected? Absolutely and unabashedly!


Salvador Dali had unapologetic veneration for the Old Masters. He was especially fond of Velazquez, Raphael, Vermeer, and Leonardo, though there were many others as well to whom he paid tribute in his 20th century references to some of the greats before him. They had a profound influence on his thinking and on his diverse oeuvre. In fact, a book is currently in work that is tracing the parallels between Salvador Dali’s work and the Old Masters (more on that when information becomes available).


Dali’s penchant for allowing the ideas of contemporaries and precursors to help guide his own outstanding works of art developed early on. We see, for example, that his Still Life of 1924 seems influenced by a work done in 1919 by Giorgio Morandi. And that Dali’s Venus and Sailor of 1925 shows a clear parallel with Picasso’s Two Women Running on a Beach of 1922.


still-life-7_jpg!Large Morandi_Natura-Morta-1920 venus-and-sailor-1 untitled


Likewise, during the same basic period, Dali’s Figures Lying on the Sand of 1926 also reveals the influence of Picasso.




Dali’s remarkable Basket of Bread – the first of two major bread basket paintings he executed (1926) — may owe its inspiration to The Annunciation of 1638, painted by one of Dali’s favorite artists, Zurbaran. It was Zurbaran who absolutely influenced Dali’s Skull of Zurbaran, one of this historian’s personal favorites, located in the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.


the-basket-of-bread aeca11b458be6a956f08c46bda35f770skull-of-zurbaran


In that quite fertile surrealism period of the 1930s, Salvador Dali gained inspiration and specific compositional elements from Arnold Bocklin’s haunting and iconic canvas, Isle of the Dead of 1880. It became a point of departure for many of the Surrealist’s works, such as The Birth of Liquid Fears of 1932. And even one whose title mentions Bocklin by name: The True Painting of the Isle of the Dead by Arnold Bocklin at the Hour of the Angelus, also of ‘32.


412255_ww650_hh352 71812_4cfbbf60-e761-484d-b8d2-c29122026249_-1_570 the-true-painting-of-the-isle-of-the-dead-by-arnold-böcklin-at-the-hour-of-the-angelus_jpg!Large


Speaking of The Angelus, Jean-Francois Millet had an incalculable influence on Salvador Dali, responsible for what can only be called an obsession Dali developed over Millet’s  painting, The Angelus. Those two iconic male and female figures, bowed in prayer while standing in a field, appeared in various incarnations in dozens and dozens of Dali paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, sculptural works, and even commercial items.



Hieronymus Bosch is credited with influencing Dali, though perhaps less so than some may think. Still, comparisons have been made between, for instance, the scorpion-like figure disgorging an undefined animal in a detail of Bosch’s Temptation of Saint Anthony (1501), and Dali’s popular 1944 picture, One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate.


Hieronymus_Bosch_-_Triptych_of_Temptation_of_St_Anthony_(detail)_-_WGA2598 dream-caused-by-the-flight-of-a-bee-around-a-pomegranate-one-second-before-awakening


And the Renaissance master Raphael was quoted nearly verbatim, when his Sistine Madonna imagery was transferred to Dali’s great canvas, The Virgin of Guadalupe – the Madonna’s face now becoming that of Dali’s wife, muse, and leading model, Gala.


51m02zeOqUL the-virgin-of-guadalupe


There are countless examples where Dali paid homage to other artists he admired, respected, and emulated. It’s a testament to how he acknowledged the debt he owed to these masterful painters of the past. Without them, Dali probably wouldn’t have been the modern master he was.



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


Groucho, Chico, Harpo…Dali? Marx/Dali Collaboration gets Reimagined!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


There’s just no way Salvador Dali’s star is ever going to fade. In fact, his popularity and people’s fascination with everything about the man continue to rise — sometimes out of activities long-since forgotten.


Two very different and surprising Dali-related revivals are making news today, proving that everything old is new again, and that includes when it’s connected to the kingpin of Surrealism.


One revival reportedly in-production is a remake of Dune (director Denis Villeneuve) – a film adaptation, tried several times in the past, of the classic Frank Herbert novel. David Lynch’s attempt to bring his interpretation to movie theaters in 1984 tanked, and the reviews weren’t pretty.


Originally, Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to bring Dune to the big screen in the ‘70s. And that’s where our boy, Salvador, comes in. Jodorowsky wanted Dali to star in the movie as the emperor of a galaxy. Other luminaries in the cast were, to my knowledge, David Carradine, Orson Welles, and Mick Jagger.




Dali said to Jodorowsky, let’s do this – but with just one teeny-tiny string of a mustache hair attached: he insisted on being paid $100,000 per minute of screen time. (For an hour and a half movie, that would have meant a $9 million bonanza for Dali!)


Yikes! Didn’t happen. It was goodbye, not hello, Dali.


Meanwhile, there’s been another and, in my view, really unexpected revival involving Salvador Dali. Who the heck saw THIS coming! Most Dali aficionados probably know that he loved the Marx Brothers – Harpo most especially – and had written a screenplay for a movie that, as it turned out, was rejected by MGM.


dali marx 2 decada-30-dali-marx Harpo por dali tumblr_lsedbsceyy1r2khlho1_500


The proposed film had the curious and perplexing title, “Giraffes on Horseback Salad” – a title, of course, perfectly sensible in the surreal world of Salvador Dali. And billed as “the strangest movie never made.”




Now author John Frank, who found what was long thought to be the lost script penned by the artist, has joined with comedian Tim Heidecker and Spanish comics creator Manuela Pertega in the production of a graphic novel of the same title.


At Amazon, where the unusual new book is available, they said this about the zany new publication: “Surrealism meets Hollywood meets film history in the graphic novel, which turns an unproduced script by Salvador Dali into a fantastic comedy starring Groucho, Chico, and Harpo Marx.” As Dali delighted in saying, “Never a dully moment with Dali!”





[Images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes]





Dali’s ‘Persistence’ Priceless; His ‘Santiago’ Inspired by Architecture

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


Two iconic Salvador Dali masterpieces are on my radar as I write, each for entirely different reasons. Thanks, Enrique Zepeda, based in Mexico City and partner in Dali Authorities. Enrique recently acquired a Spanish magazine, Blanco y Negro of 1959, which featured several Dali paintings – including a helpful juxtaposition of Santiago El Grande with an interior view of the Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse, France.


53717357_559475484565746_8119968352664813568_nPalmier_des_Jacobins santiago-el-grande


The fact that Dali was inspired by this vaulted architecture was brought out pictorially in an early paperback book, Dali – The Masterworks, by Dali patron A. Reynolds Morse. But the above-noted magazine (translated as Black and White) puts the two images side by side, making it perfectly clear how the one influenced the other.



*     *     *     *     *     *     *



Precious Persistence

I’m sure I’ll be forever amazed at how much, or, rather, how little Dali’s most famous work of art was sold for in the year it was painted. I’m talking of course about the Persistence of Memory of 1931, painted when Salvador was just 27 years old. My friend, Elliott King, Ph.D., a Dali expert, author and art professor, recently clarified things for me when it came to just how the transaction went down all those years back.


Art collector and gallery owner Julian Levy purchased the small canvas for $250. He offered it to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for $400, but the museum found that too expensive. ($400 in 1931 would be equivalent to about $6,242.00 today.) Elliott King told me that a museum board of trustees member bought the picture for approximately $350, then donated it to the museum.


I know of one author and art collector who told me this week that he would expect Persistence of Memory to bring at least $60 million at auction today. Its small size, he speculates, is the only reason it might not go for more. It’s all conjecture, of course, but I personal don’t believe Persistence of Memory’s size would affect how much it would bring at auction. The work is too iconic, too famous, too much of a historical art treasure to be concerned with how many square inches it has.




In fact, its smaller size might even add to its monetary value, since its diminutive nature sort of accords with its jewel-like miniaturist allure. The undeniable fact is that Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory is not only his most famous work and not only the most famous work in all of Surrealism, but just might be the most famous painting in the 20th century. Its value in dollars and cents? Positively priceless.



[Images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes]


Salvador Dali Prints and Paintings Surrealistically Celebrate Spring!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


With spring around that proverbial corner, sometimes a Salvador Dali aficionado’s thoughts turn to flowers, and Dali definitely had a feminine side. In fact, many of his works – even those with no flowers in them – exude a distinctly feminine touch.


So in the spirit of the imminent arrival of spring, let’s take a look at a few Dali works – prints as well as paintings – that celebrate Surrealism in a flowery fashion. We’ll start with some prints (which can be lithographs, etchings, engravings, or intaglio).


A quite popular one is his Flora Dalinea (Dalinean Flowers) suite of 1968. This has got to be one of the finest examples of Dali’s delightful imagination and undeniable humor.


2235_10419385_0 H1118-L58227335

His melding of human and vegetable, as it were, is uncanny. Musical Lily is of particular delight, where a lily serves as the pavillon (horn) of a gramophone, while vinyl records spin on the stems! And let’s not forget Chrysanthemum, where the center of the flower offers up a fried egg, sunny side up – one with a side of bacon! Delectably Dalinian!


Another set of Dali prints worthy of our attention is the Surrealistic Flowers suite of 1972, with such titles as Kissing Tulips, Roses of Memory, and Elephant Lily. Spring Explosive and The Sacred Springtime, of 1965 and 1966 respectively, are other lovely examples of flowers in Dali’s printmaking oeuvre. And of course he paid tribute to his wife in the print, Gala’s Bouquet.


s-l300 roses of memory 9zn_Dali_fev152 thcf128cd68d1ca5a867712583e3b60de5

I’m especially taken with jasmines – a sure sign of spring – and the flower, symbolizing purity, appears in a number of great Dali paintings, including Santiago El Grande, The Virgin of Guadalupe, Galatae, and Jasmines. Occasionally, they also showed up behind Dali’s ear or affixed to his mustache!


serenity knitters 200 the-virgin-of-guadalupe 0772-10688-300x29806YT_Salavdor_Dali_2331497g-247x300 e4a750d6f531b55b8aa9da311ed449e8-233x300

Speaking of oils on canvas, let’s move on to some truly spectacular Salvador Dali paintings, where flowers bloom proudly. The first one that springs to mind is The Virgin of Guadalupe. The orbit of roses encircling the Madonna figure features some of the most beautiful roses ever painted by any artist of any era. Wow!



Of course, we must not let much time pass before mentioning Meditative Rose. This work just might be the single most beautiful painting ever to come off of the easel of Salvador Dali. A debatable assertion, of course, but many would agree. I know plenty of mostly women Dali admirers who have a reproduction of this work hanging on their office wall (and a few men, too).




Woman with Head of Roses was an early surrealist canvas — seen here as a Dali print —  which even gave rise to some public display of Surrealism in Trafalgar Square.


2010_NYR_02353_0201_000(salvador_dali_the_flowering_of_inspiration) legge

Whether the symbolism leans toward beauty or eroticism, the rose has figured prominently throughout Dali’s career – perhaps reaching its apogee on a large scale in the great Hallucinogenic Toreador of 1970 (possibly my favorite of all Dali paintings, on permanent view at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida).



Flowers sprouted up in far more Dali works than I’ve noted here, but I hope I’ve provided a hint of spring, coming soon to a weather forecast near you.


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