Author Archives: Paul Chimera


Salvador Dali and Celebrity: He was a ‘Star’s Star!’

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


My friend, Elliott King, Ph.D., a Dali expert, professor, author, and exhibition curator, summed it up nicely: “Dali was sort of a star’s star.”


So true. Which is why this post focuses on Dali and celebrity – his, and those celebs with whom he had some connection. By no means is this an exhaustive survey or in-depth study of the topic at hand.


I’ve simply touched upon well-known personalities who played some role in the not so secret life of Salvador Dali. The take-away is a realization of just how wide the net was cast when it came to this star’s star.


Dali’s meetings with Coco Chanel inspired him to venture into the world of clothing design. Now a forthcoming new biography of Chanel – Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life – reportedly suggests that Dali and Chanel had an affair.


Dali and Chanel

Dali and Chanel


Hmmm. What I know for sure is that the photo here of Salvador and Coco having a cigarette together is really quite surprising, considering Dali was not a smoker at all (photo notwithstanding) and was in fact a hypochondriac.


Dali lighting up??

Dali lighting up??


Dali collaborated with Christian Dior to design costumes for plays, and of course with Alfred Hitchcock in designing the famous dream sequence for Spellbound.


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Speaking of cinema, Dali became good friends with Jack Warner of Warner Bros. Studio, and painted portraits of Warner and his wife Ann.


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Dali and Gala’s war time residence at Del Monte Lodge in Pebble Beach, Calif., allowed Dali easy opportunity to rub shoulders with the movie crowd. Dali’s Surrealist Night in an Enchanted Forest surrealist party at the Del Monte Lodge in 1941 drew the likes of Jackie Coogan, Bob Hope, and Ginger Rogers, among others.



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Marie-Helene de Rothschild held her famous Surrealist Ball of Dec. 2, 1972, and the requirement that everyone attending had to come with a surrealist head logically appealed to Dali.


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That Rothschild was a member of the super-wealthy Rothschild banking family and Parisian high-society appealed to him, too!


Also along the cinema trail were the likes of Walt Disney, with whom Dali collaborated on the cinema short, Destino. Harpo Marx and Salvador Dali became fast friends, and while a film Dali wrote for the Marx Brothers never saw the light of day, it’s reported that a novel is due out in November that’s an adaptation of Dali’s Giraffes on Horseback Salad script.


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Oh! Back momentarily to fashion to acknowledge the collaboration between Dali and designer Elsa Schiaparelli – so impressive that it warranted a special exhibition some months back at the St. Pete Dali Museum.


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One of Dali’s idols was the early cinematic genius, Charlie Chaplain. Dali once explained that he, Dali, fancied himself as someone who wanted to be both a great painter and “one cloon (clown), like Charlie Chaplain.”


Chaplain was Dali's hero.

Chaplain was Dali’s hero.


One of the all-time movie and stage greats, Sir Laurence Olivier, had a key role in Dali’s celebrity when he was the subject of a famous portrait by Dali of Olivier in the role of Richard III.


Salvador Dali painting Laurence Olivier, 1955


Speaking of portraits, Dali painted an interesting one of cosmetics queen Helena Rubinstein, shown chained to a steep cliff by a string of pearls. Dali painted a portrait of her prince husband, too. Come to think of it, Dali did a fine pencil portrait of Harpo – I almost forgot.


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In the quasi-portrait category land two other well-known cinema luminaries – the irrepressible Mae West, whose features inspired Dali’s Portrait of Mae West, Which Can Be Used as an Apartment, and the iconic Mae West lips sofa. Meanwhile, little Shirley Temple, whose collage head appears in Dali’s 1939 painting showing her with the body of a sphinx-like lion. On top of that cute little head sits a purple bat.


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The list of celebs who Dali knew, and in some cases collaborated with, seems endless: Jackie Gleason (Dali designed his Lonesome Echo LP cover); Raquel Welsh (Dali did a splatter-dash “portrait” of her as a promotional stunt to promote the feature film, Fantastic Voyage, for which Dali also painted a splendid canvas); Marilyn Monroe (the two never met, so far as I know, but Dali created a wild piece titled Marilyn Monroe, employing the 3-D effects of Rolex and Fresnel lenses); Alice Cooper (he was the subject of one of Dali’s holograms).


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Then there was Andy Warhol, and folks he helped Dali meet, such as Jagger and Jones of The Rolling Stones. David Bowie was in the mix, too. And we cannot leave out Mia Farrow…Sigmund Freud…French singer/artist/actor/director/writer Serge Gainsbourg…Yul Brenner…Bobbie Kennedy…The Duke and Duchess of Windsor…Merv Griffin…Ed Sullivan…Dick Cavett…Whitey Ford…John Lennon. A rather diverse group!


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Dali detested the idea of not being noticed. Fortunately, he never had to worry about that.


Dali and B.B.

Dali and B.B.


For even if he wasn’t partying with Bridgett Bardot, or seen dining with Gina Lollobrigida, he would forever be noticed for being Salvador Dali. A star’s star.



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


One of History’s Greatest Paintings, by Dali, Returns Home

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


I’m returning today to Salvador Dali’s monumental masterpiece, Christ of St. John of the Cross, upon news of its long-awaited return home. Scotland’s favorite work of art had been away from the Kelvingrove Art Museum in Glasgow for months – first on loan to the Royal Academy of Arts in London, then a stint at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.




Now the nearly 7-foot-tall canvas – possibly the most popular religious painting of the 20th century – is back in its permanent digs.


Can you think of any other painting whose return after being out on loan would warrant stories in major news outlets? The BBC News, under the headline, “One of the Best-Known Paintings in Scotland has Returned to Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in Glasgow,” wrote:


“Glasgow Life chairman David McDonald said, ‘After a hugely successful visit to the Royal Academy and the Dali Museum it’s wonderful to welcome Christ of St. John of the Cross back to Kelvingrove, in time for the upcoming holiday period. The must-see painting is one of the best-loved works in Glasgow Museum’ entire collection, for both tourists and Glaswegians alike. It’s certain to captivate the thousands of people who will visit the museum during the summer months.’”


Art Daily’s headline read, “Dali’s ‘Christ of St. John of the Cross’ back on show at Kelvingrove Museum.”


This is a big deal, folks! Surely you realize the immense importance and stunning grandeur of this very special masterpiece.


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I recently wrote a post here at The Salvador Dali Society® about the horror of showing up at a museum that owns an art piece you’ve had on your bucket list, only to be shocked to learn the piece is on-loan somewhere.


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Can you imagine the agony of this happening, after making the trip to Glasgow to finally see in person the iconic Christ of St. John of the Cross? I’m not sure there’s a word to adequately describe how deeply the sorrow and frustration would cut.


The very core of Salvador Dali’s genius is embodied in a work like Christ of St. John of the Cross. Grown men have literally wept upon seeing it in person.


Why? What makes this painting so magical?



I believe the answer is found on two main levels. One is the unique way Dali portrayed the crucified messiah: not with a cruel and humiliating crown of thorns; nor nailed wrists and feet; nor bloodied spear-pierced side – but, instead, as a symbol of beauty. Of a joyous arisen son of God. With a beautiful, unharmed body – fit, strong, perfect.





All seen from an unprecedented vantage point, from above – as if God Himself is looking down to welcome the ascension of His Son.


The other level on which Dali’s Christ is so admired is the virtuosity of its execution. Dali’s command of his craft was masterfully displayed in the anatomical realism, the handling of light, the stunning nature of the sky and clouds. It looks indeed like it might have been painted by Leonardo or Velazquez or Caravaggio.


A vote in Scotland some years back placed the Dali masterpiece as the country’s favorite work of art. It’s easy to see why. And when such a glorious triumph of art history returns home, it’s a homecoming worthy of international headlines.


Yet I have to wonder why Christ of St. John of the Cross’s several-month stay in St. Pete wasn’t a headline in every major American newspaper. Why it wasn’t a story on every major network news show.


I don’t think it’s overstatement to say that Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross is one of the most famous – and certainly one of the most remarkably executed paintings – in history.


Dali and Bobby Kennedy before a world masterpiece.

Dali and Bobby Kennedy before a world masterpiece.


The Persistence of Memory is surely Salvador Dali’s most renowned painting. But Christ of St. John of the Cross might be his best.


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


Dali’s Double-Imagery was a Hallmark of his Genius

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


With summer just seven days away, let’s embrace a lovely little motif that Salvador Dali employed in a number of his works – whether oil paintings, prints, watercolors, even three-dimensional items.


I’m talking about his double-image of birds in a sunny sky that collectively form a human face. When people try to define just what it was about Salvador Dali that set him apart from his contemporaries, one distinction that emerges is his invention and application of his unique creative process known as the Paranoiac-Critical method. That’s going to be the subject of a forthcoming blog post here at The Salvador Dali Society®.


But another clear hallmark of Dali’s surrealism was his mastery of double-imagery. It was a kind of optical playground he loved to romp around in, and quite frequently.




The birds/face visual trope was seen perhaps most picturesquely in his watercolor over pencil on board painting titled Dance of the Flower Maidens (1942). I think it’s one of the most sensuous and beautiful pictures of Dali’s prodigious career.


The double-image is obviously seen in the six doves in the middle of the circular work (it was designed for a porcelain plate) that form the eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth and chin of the woman’s face.


Dali also perpetuated the women with heads of roses idea that was first seen in his Woman with Head of Roses of 1935.




A similar appearance of the face comprised of birds in flight was seen in the large wall panel Salvador Dali painted for cosmetics queen Helena Rubinstein’s New York City apartment. It was one of three such panels he created for her, sold some years back at Christie’s or Sotheby’s auction. He also painted a somewhat controversial portrait of Rubinstein, chained to a cliff by a string of pearls.


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The birds/face double-imagery turns up yet again on one side of a silver Israeli-commissioned Peace Medal Dali designed, in this case the sides of the face formed by two olive branches – the traditional symbol of peace.




The repetition of images and leitmotifs in the artist’s work was all part of what was known as Dalinian Continuity. It was a purposeful reappearance of certain images throughout Dali’s oeuvre.


This phenomenon alone – this carefully planned, carefully executed linkage – is enough to form the basis of a detailed study. Perhaps a book. Because it rather ingeniously tied things together through the long arc of his career. Even small, esoteric details found in his works of the 1920s returned in paintings and prints and other works many decades later.


Just further evidence of the man’s genius.


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








Sorry, Dali’s ‘Persistence of Memory’ Isn’t Home Right Now.

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Would the Louvre be quite the same without Leonardo’s Mona Lisa? Would New York’s Museum of Modern Art be the same without Dali’s Persistence of Memory?


A recent news report about The Persistence of Memory being on loan to an art exhibition in Australia brought back a personal memory that got me thinking about the worst potential museum-going experience: learning that the one main work you came to see is not there!


It’s not at all hard to imagine folks traveling long distances – perhaps from locations across the world, in some cases – to check off their bucket list seeing Dali’s iconic melting watches in the flesh.




Small in size, The Persistence of Memory qualifies as one of the biggest achievements in art history. It’s not only the most universally recognized Salvador Dali painting, but is unquestionably the most famous surrealist canvas ever created.


So it’s not at all inconceivable that people would travel very long distances to see the work, which has been a part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection for many decades, when it was acquired for $250!


But anyone visiting the MoMA today, as I write this on June 10 (coincidentally the 36th anniversary of the death of Dali’s wife, Gala) will be profoundly disappointed to learn, perhaps to their very real horror, that if they want to see it, they’re on the wrong continent. At least for some months to come.


Sorry, but Dali’s Persistence of Memory isn’t home right now.


The mega-masterpiece will hang until Oct. 7 in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, part of a collaborative exhibition between the Gallery and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. A newspaper recently quoted MoMA director Glenn Lowry: “I keep thinking, ‘What? We lent (it)? What were we thinking?”


That’s surely what untold numbers of MoMA visitors will be wondering between now and when the priceless Dali returns to the Big Apple about four and a half months from now.


*     *      *     *     *


I myself had two similar experiences – one very close to home, the other more distant. Years back I paid my admission price to enter the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in my hometown of Buffalo, New York. As was my habit, I headed straight for the wall on which a number of surrealist paintings hung, including works by Joan Miro, Yves Tanguy, and, of course, Salvador Dali: his stunning Transparent Simulacrum of the Feigned Image of 1938.


It wasn’t there.




A quick inquiry found that the painting was out on loan at an exhibition in Europe. I checked out Picasso, Miro, Warhol, Van Gogh and others, but I sure missed that perfectly painted Dali.


Things got much worse when, back in the late 1970s or early ‘80s, I don’t quite recall, I traveled by train from Buffalo to Boston, Massachusetts for the expressed purpose of seeing Dali’s large Homage to Crick and Watson painting. It was owned then by, and displayed at, New England Merchants National Bank at Prudential Plaza.


I was beyond crestfallen when I traveled all that way, only to find the bank was undergoing a major lobby renovation, in which the huge painting was normally displayed. The painting was there when I showed up, all right – crated within miles of plywood nailed hopelessly shut!


The train trip back from Boston was sad and long.


I never got to see the work until some 10 years later, when it was part of the big Dali retrospective at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, Canada. It is now, of course, in the permanent collection of The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.


So my advice to you is simple and so, so important: call ahead!


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


Dali: ‘I Wanted to Become the Most Spectacular Painter in the World!’

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


In the book, Salvador Dali, by Robert and Nicholas Descharnes (Edita – Lausanne, 1993), Dali is quoted thusly: “At the age of 25 I wanted to become the world’s most sensational painter, and I did.”


It’s interesting that Dali didn’t say he wanted to become the world’s “best” painter. He said he wanted to become the most sensational painter. This is a telling comment about how he viewed himself and his destiny.


Some people say Salvador Dali’s greatest work was himself! That he was a genius at creating and cultivating a persona that was impossible not to notice – even if, alternately, it charmed some and enraged others. Dali himself admitted he loved “being Dali.” He loved creating scandals. He loved being a “cloon” (clown) like his idol, Charlie Chaplain.


“Let them speak of Dali,” he quipped, always referring to himself in the third-person, “even if they speak well of him!”


Sensational Dali began developing at an early age. Anecdotes abound about him kicking friends in the head; biting into a dead bat; jumping from dangerous, precarious heights just to shock onlookers; even intentionally leaving his own feces around the house, like an untrained dog. Yeah, disgusting, I know.


His insubordinate behavior at the San Fernando School of Fine Arts in Madrid got him expelled. His “too surrealist” politics got him ousted from the formal Surrealist group, over which Andre Breton lorded.


Dali with his "grass car"

Dali with his “grass car” — just one of countless antics that kept him in the headlines!


Dali’s antics sprang from two key motivations: (1) to aggressively if not intrusively establish his own identity – free from being the reflection of his dead brother before him; and (2) the desire to market his life’s work by being a publicity agent’s dream; i.e., someone who had a real genius for getting noticed by the press.


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

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All the while, however, Dali’s talent broke through the mire of megalomania like burning giraffes and weightless elephants that simply couldn’t help being noticed. His early one-man exhibitions in Paris and Barcelona pretty much sold out.


No doubt his eccentric behavior as well as his undeniable gifts as a painter landed him commissions from people such as the Vicomtesse de Noailles – money that helped him and Gala purchase a small fisherman’s hut at Port Lligat. Dali went on to paint the Vicomtesse’s portrait.


Portrait of his first patron.

Portrait of his first patron


And, of course, to greatly expand that little hut into a remarkable sprawling villa, which is now a museum that’s part of the Dali Triangle (the Port Lligat villa, the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, and the Castle at Pubol).


At one point, Dali’s sensationally flamboyant behavior was viewed as a liability. Author Paul H. Walton once wrote, “The reputation of Salvador Dali has been so aggressively established through self-promotion that it forms a barrier to the calm assessment of his art.”


Walton was referring to things like:

  • Dali arriving for a lecture at the Sorbonne in Paris in a Rolls Royce filled with cauliflowers.
  • Dali delivering a lecture in London dressed in a deep sea diving suit, in whose helmet he nearly suffocated when he and others struggled to get it off his head.
  • Dali beginning an interpretation of Vermeer’s Lacemaker by seating himself on a wheelbarrow in the rhinoceros pen at a Paris zoo.
  • Dali holding a press conference with shock-rocker Alice Cooper, announcing his intention to create a cylindrical hologram of Cooper’s brain – topped with ants and a chocolate éclair.


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Such a list could continue endlessly. And author Walton’s observation was no doubt true at the time. But today it seems clear it was Dali’s very “craziness” (crazy like a fox!) that helped make him world famous and, indeed, an international sensation.


The capes…the walking sticks…the bulging eyes…the surreal entourage…and of course the iconic Velazquez-inspired mustache — it was all carefully cultivated and calculated to get attention and create the spectacle Dali knew would help bring him fame and fortune.


Had that alone been his act – just a brilliant knack for performance art and headline-making, with incidental, mediocre artistic talent – Dali might well have been a flash in the pan. A forgotten footnote in the history of art and pop culture. But we know the rest of the story.


Today, Salvador Dali’s comment, quoted in the previously referenced book, must be modified: “At the age of 25, Dali wanted to become the world’s most sensational artist. He succeeded. Along the way, he also became the world’s best artist.”


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

A novel approach to an ill-fated screenplay.

Dali’s ‘Lost Classic’ Reimagined 81 Years Later!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Like the weather, Dali is hot, hot, hot!


Have you noticed how Salvador Dali is turning up just about everywhere these days? There’s a major feature biopic in production now about the Master, titled DaliLand, with Ben Kingsley playing Dali in his later years, along with Leslie Manville as Gala and Tim Roth as Captain Peter Moore.


Meanwhile, there’s developing news out of Australia, which is on the cusp of funding the permanent acquisition of Mirage, the wonderful Dali painting that was one of a trilogy he was commissioned to create to promote Desert Flower perfume in 1946. Mirage is on indefinite loan to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, pending completion of a special fund-raising campaign to land the work permanently – the one and only Salvador Dali painting on that continent. And, boy, are they fortunate: it’s truly one of the most beautiful works Dali ever painted.


Aussie awesome!

Aussie awesome!


Nostalgic Echo

From the nostalgia files come two most interesting projects making headlines – sort of. One is somewhat in doubt, or at least interminably delayed, it appears. I’m talking about a book that was supposed to be published months ago (in fact, the original publishing date was Dec. 23, 2016!), dealing with the sensational surrealist party Salvador and Gala Dali threw in 1941, while they were living at the Del Monte Lodge in Pebble Beach, California, during the war. The bash was a fund-raiser for refugee artists.


The book, Dali’s 1941: Salvador Dali’s Surrealist Ball, Through the Lens of Julian P. Graham (Paul Skellett and Simon Weitzman, authors; Foreword by Zak Sloman) is to feature primarily photographs taken by a friend of Dali, which captured both the celebrity-attended party and pre-party preparations, showing Dali and Gala being fitted for their outrageous costumes.


Will it ever be published?

Will it ever be published?


But now amazon has announced to those of us who’d pre-ordered the book that in fact it will not be available through them and we should look for it through other channels. Hmmmm. This kind of confusion would actually fill Dali with glee!


Salad Days: A ‘Lost Classic, Here at Last!’

Meanwhile, reaching even further back is a surprising development in connection with a never-realized, zany screenplay cooked up by Salvador Dali for the Marx Brothers. The film’s curious title was Giraffes on Horseback Salad, but it was rejected by, I think, MGM.


According to Wikipedia, the film was to be a love story between a Spanish aristocrat named Jimmy (played by Harpo Marx, with whom Dali had a keen friendship) and a “beautiful surrealist woman, whose face is never seen by the audience.”


A novel approach to an ill-fated screenplay.

A novel approach to an ill-fated screenplay.


The screenplay was thought to be lost, but it was recently found and has now been reimagined in book form – a surrealist graphic novel, adapted by screenwriter Josh Frank. With the story by Frank comes adaptation with Tim Heidecker and illustrations by Manuela Pertega. The cover says it all: “The Strangest Movie Never Made!” The book reportedly comes out in November. I hope it’s as much fun as the cover!


Poetry in Dali-Motion

Far less strange is the just-published book of poetry, Dali: In Verse, by British author Sarah Hobbs.


Versatile Dali.

Versatile Dali.


Yours truly was flattered to have been asked to write the Foreword to the book, as Dali historian with The Salvador Dali Society® of Torrance, California, (though I’m actually based in Buffalo, New York). It’s a wonderful book for those who dig Dali and the unique insights that poetry allows.



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






The Inside Scoop on Dali’s Outdoor Painting!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


The French term “plein air” means open air, and refers to the process of creating a work of art outdoors. Salvador Dali loved the outdoors – most especially at his villa in Port Lligat, Spain, but even during the cold season, when he and Gala spent several decades making New York City their winter home.


It was not uncommon to see Dali and Gala taking horse-drawn sleigh rides in the Big Apple!


Working outdoors for Dali was not his usual modus operandi, but he did indeed enjoy the plein air approach to his craft. Here are a few snaps of the maestro at work in the great outdoors:


It’s unclear just what he was painting here – looks like a series of large rhino horns – but judging from the barretina on his head and that long-sleeve, rather warm-looking top he’s wearing – it must have been chilly that day.




Likewise, the long-sleeve shirt in this photo suggests another cool day that found Mr. Dali diligently at work on the cover of the extraordinary book, The Apocalypse of St. John, against a tranquil view of the beautiful bay.




Here are two early 1930s views of the artist working under clear skies – one in another long-sleeve shirt, the other having jettisoned a shirt altogether.


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This photo, showing Dali posing as he balances a walking stick between his foot and chin, was taken at the island of La Farnera, near Port Lligat, and shows Dali creating a loosely sketched religious work in oils, while Gala reads – perhaps aloud to her husband – as a boat approaches in the distance.


Dali spent a great deal of time under the hot Mediterranean sun and later in life had skin conditions addressed by his dermatologist, Dr. Edmund Klein.


Here the master paints on an object on his Port Lligat villa terrace, while his close companion, Amanda Lear, looks on admiringly. Dali’s right leg is pressed against an apparent table-top that features a detail of his iconic gold “candy box” book cover design for the 1968 book, Dali De Draeger, written by Max Gerard.




The book set records in terms of the number of copies sold, and I believe Dali won a book cover design award, to boot.


When it came to making prints, Salvador Dali not surprisingly took a very different approach. He was a calculating contrarian, and here he proceeded to use an actual octopus, whose tentacles dipped in ink created spectacular designs on the matrix from which lithographs were pulled.





No doubt the most widely known outdoor art-creating experience on Dali’s resume was his visit to the Vincennes Zoo, in Paris, France. It was there he seated himself on a wheelbarrow (referencing Millet’s Angelus painting), and used a live rhinoceros – more precisely, its horn – as the basis for his paranoiac-critical interpretation of Vemeer’s The Lacemaker.


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It was, of course, another example of Dali’s genius as a performance artist and a man who knew how to make headlines.


Finally, here we see the aging Master, not far from the end of his life, valiantly hanging on to what he did best, indoors or out.


Painting nearly to the end.

Painting nearly to the end.


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









Salvador Dali Influenced…Everything!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Dali the influencer…where to begin? Salvador Dali has influenced, well, just about everything. There are so many areas of culture and society on which his extraordinary creativity has left its mark. It’s dizzying.


One of today’s pop culture icons – the often unpredictable and flamboyant singer/musician Lady Gaga – is an unabashed Dali aficionado, clearly influenced by the Master. Here’s an interesting photo of her sprouting Dalinian rhino horns! Like Dali, she knows how to knock the world off-balance.




Of course, there can be no question that Gaga’s piano on skyscraper legs was inspired by Dali’s iconic gravity-defying elephants, where the animal’s normal limbs are supplanted by truly outrageous mile-high flamingo legs!




Stop and think about it. So many of the very successful musical artists became so because they adopted a kind of surrealist pose, a sense of outrageousness. Elton John, for example, who, in his beginning years as a performer, donned spectacularly trippy, over-the-top outfits, glasses and headgear. Go way back to pianist Liberace; his flamboyant capes with luxurious collars – and his signature candelabra atop his piano – helped make him a star in his day.


And, as already mentioned, Lady Gaga, whose taste for surrealist leanings was famously displayed in her now iconic “meat dress.” Didn’t Dali put meat on the shoulder of Gala in a certain 1930s painting? Why yes, yes he did.


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Lady Gaga also posed for the paparazzi sporting a bit of upper-lip hair of the handlebar mustache variety. And wearing a “soft” outfit that is surrealist and Dalinian.Wonder where those ideas came from.


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What’s absolutely key with such artists is that they have backed up the attention-getting hi-jinx with undeniable talent. Just as, behind Dali’s publicity-seeking antics, lay an artistic talent second to no one of his time.


Funny enough, cartoonists have long enjoyed using the mustache and mystique of Dali to help make readers laugh. Here are a couple examples for your amusement.


Salvador Dali before his morning cup of coffee.

Salvador Dali before his morning cup of coffee.

At Salvador Dali's funeral,

At Salvador Dali’s funeral,



Dali influenced the world of advertising in a big way. Marketers loved – and still do – the surreal tableau and “soft” vibe that have helped them sell all manner of commercial goods.




Sometimes things got a bit controversial, such as when DuPont ran a magazine ad years back that too-closely emulated the famous photo collaboration, Dali Atomicus, between the painter and photographer Philippe Halsman. As I recall it, the Halsman estate ended up suing DuPont for copyright infringement.


Dali Atomicus influenced a controversial DuPont ad.

Dali Atomicus influenced a controversial DuPont ad.


Dali also influenced fashion, and from Oct. 18, 2017 to Jan. 14 of this year, the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida mounted an interesting exhibition demonstrating Dali’s influence on fashion icon Elsa Schiaparelli’s haute couture gowns, accessories and more. Not to mention a spate of wrist watches whose misshapen dials owe to The Persistence of Memory.


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Even outdoor wall artists couldn’t resist brightening up large, dull spaces with things Daliesque.




Dali’s cinema work, perhaps most especially his famous dream sequence in Selznick’s and Hitchcock’s Spellbound, doubtlessly influenced generations of film makers and videographers, most prominently in the music video genre. Countless numbers of music videos have been shaped by the dreamscapes and surrealist inventions of Salvador Dali.


Hitchcock, Alfred


When, on those peculiar occasions when people admit they don’t know who Salvador Dali was, I simply tell them he was an oil painter, watercolorist, etcher, lithographer, engraver, sculptor, poet, orator, film-maker, book illustrator, movie and theater set designer, costume designer, textile designer, librettist, author, novelist, performance artist, game show guest, and genius. Among other things.


And talent that influenced everything.


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Salvador Dali and the ‘Awe’ Factor!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


So many of Salvador Dali works truly leaves us in awe. The term “awesome” is way overused today. It’s become a tired cliché. Being in awe of something is to truly be transfixed and transformed by it. And that’s a rare occurrence.


But it happens with astonishing frequency when we consider certain of Salvador Dali’s works. Everyone has their favorites. My bias will be evident here, because – unlike an outlandish comment made to me by the late, esteemed TIME magazine art critic, Robert Hughes – I believe Dali’s post-surrealist works were his most magical, most awe-inspiring.


Back in the 1970s, I wrote to Mr. Hughes, asking him what he thought of Dali. I sensed from most of his coverage that he wasn’t a fan. But I wasn’t prepared for this comment, in the letter I received back: “Salvador Dali has done nothing of significance since the publication of his ‘Secret Life’ autobiography in 1941.”


Today, that comment is laughable. It was then, too.


Obviously there are many surrealist works by Dali, mostly from the 1930s, that qualify as ones we regard with awe. The Persistence of Memory probably leads the way, in part because it is inherently mysterious and reality-bending, in part because it’s the most famous surrealist painting of all time.




Of course, there are tremendous works like Slave Market with Disappearing Bust of Voltaire; Espana; Soft Construction with Boiled Beans, and countless others – all of which leave art lovers in awe of Dali’s imagination and talent at the easel.


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For me, it’s almost exclusively the post-surrealist, Nuclear-Mystical masterworks that engender awe. I’m talking about breathtaking masterpieces such as Christ of St. John of the Cross, The Sacrament of the Last Supper, Santiago El Grande, Battle of Tetuan, The Madonna of Port Lligat, Assumpta Corpuscularia Lapislazulina, among others.

All painted after 1941 — sorry, Mr. Hughes!


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I remember seeing Corpus Hypercubus (Crucifixion) for the first time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It was sandwiched between Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein and an abstract-expressionist work.


'Corpus' drew a crowd.

‘Corpus’ drew a crowd.


I noticed a few people standing before the Picasso, and a small number in front of the abstract painting. And then there was the throng looking up in silent awe at Corpus Hypercubus. This is the “stun” factor, the “awe” factor, that Salvador Dali’s work is all about.


In my view, there are two chief reasons that explain why Dali works hold such allure. One is the inimitable twist Dali put on everything. He saw in a very different way, in no small part due to his Paranoiac-Critical method, which involved – to quote Dali himself – “systematic objectivity of the associations and interpretations of delirious phenomena.”


It added up to spectacular and monumental double-image magic like The Hallucinogenic Toreador, and powerfully moving images like Santiago El Grande and Ascension. And, indeed, the remarkable Tuna Fishing.


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The other chief reason why Dali’s work elicits such a palpable sense of awe in us is his painting technique – probably the best of anyone in the last century. Early on, Dali described it as “hand-painted color photography,” and a work like The Virgin of Guadalupe or Nature Morte Vivante demonstrates that if ever there were hand-painted works that look photographic in their precision, these are two of many that fit the bill.


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In short, Salvador Dali’s exceptional technical skill seemed to make the unreal real. And that, my friends, truly is awesome.


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Allegorical Saint and Angels in Adoration of the Holy Spirit

Dali’s Watercolors a Beautiful Look at his Painterly Genius

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Salvador Dali was a master watercolorist. It’s a medium often overlooked when we consider Dali’s genius as a painter. Oils…drawings…prints…sculpture, sure.


But watercolors? I have a strong sense that few of us think of these washy works on paper when we consider the main man of surrealism. Yet we really ought to – and today we’re going to.


Here’s why: some of Salvador Dali’s absolute best work – evocative, stirring, esthetically stunning – was in the medium of watercolor, sometimes joined by a touch of gouache or a dip of a pen.


One series I’m certain most Dali aficionados are not familiar with are the wonderful watercolors Dali painted, on commission from Albert and Mary Lasker, of three scenes from three distinct venues in Italy: Rome, Venice, and Naples. Shown here with the Venice watercolor is Alfonso Miranda, manager of the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City, Mexico, where the lovely picture hangs.


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Meanwhile, Dali’s Alba Madonna of the Birds is a magical religious watercolor that’s a direct nod to Raphael’s Alba Madonna, and it’s interesting to see the two works paired here. It’s in the collection of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, and I recall Reynolds and Eleanor Morse – founders/benefactors of the Dali Museum – remarking how they especially loved this beautiful little gem of a painting.


Salvador Dali meets Raphael

Salvador Dali meets Raphael


When several popular artists were commissioned to paint a picture suitable for Hugh Hefner’s iconic Playboy magazine, Dali produced this sinewy female nude in a sort of dream-like setting, inviting viewers to fantasize as to the face they’d put on her sexy body.




One of Dali’s most beautiful watercolors, in my estimation, is Cosmic Contemplation of 1951, which also employed red ink. Here’s how the Florida Dali Museum describes it:


Cosmic Contemplation

Cosmic Contemplation


“The celestial sky is comprised of a large central cloud in the shape similar to that of a dodecahedron. Within this shape various visions of angels and saints are projected in an ecstasy. The cloud itself seems to burst through with holes in fragmentation in some type of heavenly explosion. The figures of men and angels gather on the surrounding mountainside above a valley and point to the spectacle in the firmament.”


There are, of course, many other wonderful watercolors created by Salvador Dali. Some were done as book illustrations, others as single strokes of genius. I’m going to close this blog post with my personal favorite Dali watercolor – a work whose beauty is truly soaring. It’s titled Allegorical Saint and Angels in Adoration of the Holy Spirit, painted in 1959 and one of the gems of the works on paper in the collection of the Salvador Dali Museum in Florida, which describes the painting this way:


Allegorical Saint and Angels in Adoration of the Holy Spirit


“In this symbolic narration, the saint and angels are depicted adoring the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove surrounded by roses. The composition is an excellent example of Dali’s ability to conceive hidden images within the configuration of streaks of blotted watercolor. The artist using a tonal wash wipes the wet color away to form what appears to be angel wings. Dali then draws the fine detail of the figures. The composition combines Dali’s metaphysical preoccupations with classical interpretations.”


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