Author Archives: Paul Chimera


Salvador Dali’s Magnificent Realism Brings People to their Knees!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian-Writer


The Stendhal Syndrome is a curious and interesting phenomenon, whereby people are brought to a state of dizziness and sometimes even loss of consciousness in the presence of great art.


Scientists don’t quite know why this happens, but when it comes to the art of Salvador Dali, I have some thoughts on the subject; that is, on Stendhal and Dali.


I remember, back in 1972, visiting the original Dali Museum in Beachwood, Ohio, and probably experiencing at least some of the Stendhal effect while standing in awe before the three immense, powerfully evocative masterworks there: Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, The Ecumenical Council, and Hallucinogenic Toreador (all three now in the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, U.S.A.).


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Seeing such artistic genius for the first time in person can be overwhelming. It literally brought me to my knees as I held my arms up in a gesture of adulation. Others around me surely must have thought I was crazy – or at least a fanatic! (When I met Dali for the first time in 1973, I told him I was a “fanatic admirer,” and he repeated that description with delightful satisfaction and in a French accent, nodding his head: “Ahhh,” he replied approvingly, “fanatique admirer!”).


But there is a sort of additional dimension to this Stendhal thing, at least for me, and it pertains specifically to the almost unbelievable realism Dali was so skilled at achieving. Today, for example, I was leafing through the big Philadelphia Museum of Art Dali catalog issued for the great centennial exhibition there in 2005, and stopped at page 370.


It’s a full-bleed reproduction of a detail of Dali’s magnificent 1954 masterpiece, Corpus Hypercubus.




As many times as I’ve seen that work – mostly in reproductions, but several times in the flesh – I was again rendered almost dizzy by the magical realism Dali achieved in this painting.


The detail in the catalog shows a large presentation of the image of Gala; the handling of her gold satin garments is nothing short of breathtaking. I believe it to be as good as the Old Masters.



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As I studied the catalog page with an unceasing sense of admiration, I then focused on the upper right corner of the page, which shows an extreme close-up of the lower leg area and feet of the unconventionally crucified Christ. From the reflection of the polished toe nails to the veins and muscles beneath the skin, it is again a sight of magnificent realism that – even in a catalog reproduction – nearly puts me in a Stendhal Syndrome-like trance.




I experienced a similar almost dizzying sense of awe when I first saw Santiago El Grande in person at the Dali: The Late Work exhibition in 2010-2011 at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.




What makes it all the more intriguing for me is that so many people still find it astonishing that such Renaissance-like mastery came from such a surrealist “mad-man.” That the same artist who gave us floppy watches, floppy phalluses, and paintings of great masturbators, also gave us monumental beauty in paintings – and, yes, in drawings, watercolors, prints and sculpture, too.


Beauty that can, alas, sometimes bring us to our knees.



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


From Tiny to Towering, Size Plays a Key Role in Salvador Dali’s Art

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian-Writer


The issue of whether size matters is on the radar again, thanks to an interesting photo I’ve recently come across. It shows a variation of Dali’s most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory, but much, much larger (artist unknown).




Ironically, many people who’ve seen reproductions of Persistence but aren’t especially familiar with its actual size, assume the canvas is far larger than its diminutive 9.4” x 12.9” dimensions.


Small in size, a giant of Surrealism.

Small in size, a giant of Surrealism. Collection Museum of Modern Art, New York City.


Indeed, the large presentation shown in this photograph is more in line with the size many presume the original to be. That said, it’s fun to imagine Persistence of Memory in these larger dimensions, isn’t it!




Now let’s turn our attention to Dali’s 1933 oil on canvas, Portrait of Gala with Two Lamb Chops Balanced on Her Shoulder.


Visitors look and comment at the painting "Portarit of Gala with Two Chops Balanced on Her Shoulder, 1934" by artist Salvador Dali during the exhibition entitled "Gala Salvador Dali, a room of its own in Pubol" at MNAC (National Art Museum of Catalonia) in Barcelona on July 5, 2018. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION        (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

Much smaller than most of us ever knew.


The work was featured in a recent exhibition in Barcelona devoted to Gala Dali, and even many Dali aficionados and scholars were not aware of just how tiny the picture is. The photo of it here makes it quite clear just how brilliant a miniature Dali painting can be – all 2.3 x 3.1 inches of it!


The size issue also has a flip side. Dali’s stereoscopic work, The Chair, is usually shown out of its display space at the Teatro-Museu Dali in Figueres, Spain. As a result, I for one always imagined its size to be more or less similar to probably Dali’s most accomplished stereoscopic work, Dali from the Back Painting Gala from the Back Eternalized by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected in Six Real Mirrors (unfinished) of 1972-1973.



Dali from the Back Painting Gala from the Back…


In fact, as you can plainly see in the photo here, Dali’s The Chair is immense.


chair perspective shot


Immense characterizes many of Salvador Dali’s most famous works: Santiago El Grande, Discover of America by Christopher Columbus, The Battle of Tetuan, Tuna Fishing, and many others. Not to be outdone, Dali’s miniature paintings also occupy unforgettable importance in his prodigious oeuvre – works such as The Weaning of Furniture Nutrition, The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft, Which Can be Used as Table, Portrait of Gala, The Specter of Sex Appeal, and countless others.


Dali worked in every size, in every medium, in every style. Whether such a giant of an artistic phenomenon’s most famous work – the tiny Persistence of Memory – is of any special significance is anyone’s guess.


But one thing’s for certain: one of the smallest paintings of the 20th century is also one of the most famous. In the last century, and in the history of art.


Salvador Dali’s ‘Soft Construction’: ‘I Knew it was Something Special’

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian-Writer


“So, how did you get hooked on Dali?” people ask me all the time.


“Soft Construction with Boiled Beans,” I reply.


My entrée to the world of Dali.

My entrée to the world of Dali.


That great 1936 painting was the door that opened the world of Salvador Dali to me. At the time, around 1968, I knew it solely by that title. The rest of the title – Premonition of Civil War – was never included in any references to the painting, as I recall. Not at that time, anyway. Later, it somehow seemed to appear as the full title.


But no matter. The fact is that this single canvas was the one that got me. Not the Persistence of Memory, or Christ of St. John of the Cross, or others that could have been the initial hook. Nope, not them; it was Soft Construction with Boiled Beans – a title I used to delight in repeating to people, when they asked me how I got into what would become a lifelong study of Salvador Dali’s life and work.


Speaking of study, this preparatory study itself is museum-quality!

This preparatory study itself is museum-quality.


Actually, the term “soft construction” seems rather indistinct for a Dali painting, doesn’t it? Generally his titles are more specific, more concrete. “Soft construction” just seems a bit obtuse for what is in fact a very precise, purposeful, and powerful artistic statement. And the “boiled beans” part sounds like an amusing afterthought – as if, oh, yeah, let’s throw in some boiled beans for good measure. Ha! (It turns out, too, that the appearance of the Lenin figure walking aimlessly at lower left also appeared the same year in The Chemist of Ampurdan in Search of Absolutely Nothing).


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In 1968, I was sitting in an art appreciation course my freshman year of college. By 1971 I graduated with a degree in magazine journalism from Ohio University. But in ’68 I knew little about journalism and even less about Surrealism. Until the professor, giving a slide lecture, showed one work by Salvador Dali: Soft Construction with Boiled Beans.

Baam! The image hit me like a giant rock plucked from the environs of Cape Creus!


I loved the anguished look of the central figure, even though I had no informed understanding of what I was seeing. The fluidity of form spoke to me. Here was a highly imaginative work, skillfully painted. In some respects it had a kind of photographic quality to it. And I loved the luscious lime green and other colors.


I had to find out more – much more – about the man who painted it. Which led me to literally run to the library after class to look up anything and everything I could get my hands on about Salvador Dali. No internet in those days, of course. And not much in O.U.’s library, either. But enough to whet my appetite, after I’d just had a delectable horse d’ oeuvre when that slide appeared on the screen.


Pathetically, the professor wasn’t kind. In talking about various styles of art, he said of the Dali picture, “And then there are things like this!” It seemed clear he was using a sardonic tone, as if to dismiss Dali as someone not to be taken very seriously. Indeed, at that time the art world was largely down on the artist, primarily because they didn’t understand him, and his antics got their professorial knickers in a knot.


Never mind that professor; I thought the Dali work was genius.


Soft Construction with Boiled Beans_Premonition of Civil War_1936


Fast forward some five decades, and the esteemed art critic for TIME magazine, Robert Hughes, declared in a TIME article that, in his view, the greatest war picture of the 20th century was Salvador Dali’s Soft Construction with Boiled Beans; Premonition of Civil War. No, not Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. Sorry, Pablo.


Somehow I just knew, when I saw a slide of this painting back in my college days – and, of course, I’ve seen the work in person several times (it’s in the Philadelphia Museum of Art) – that it was something special.



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

Dali’s Obsession with Millet’s ‘Angelus’ was a Key Dimension of his Mystique

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian-Writer


Obsessed! There’s probably no better way to put it when it came to Salvador Dali’s relentless focus on The Angelus – a painting by Jean-Francois Millet. Dali saw the widely known, iconic painting of a peasant couple in prayer as an image of repressed sexual desire.


"The Angelus" by Jean-Francois Millet

“The Angelus” by Jean-Francois Millet


And he also saw it as a funeral scene, since he’d long contended that the 19th century French painter had originally depicted a child’s coffin where the basket is. The Louvre eventually proceeded with an X-ray examination of the Millet canvas, discovering quite astonishingly the outline of a small casket underneath the basket of potatoes!


The two bowed figures appeared in countless Dali paintings, drawings, prints, watercolors, sculpture and objects he designed or inspired. One painting of 1932, titled simply Angelus, is one this historian was not aware of until only a few years ago. It showed up in a catalog or book somewhere, and, though around for some 80-plus years, was “new” to me.

Dali’s “Angelus”


As a Dali historian, am I to love every Salvador Dali painting or print or whatever creation this genius and master of Surrealism produced? No. Do I love – or at least really like – most of what Dali did? Sure I do. But not all of it.


Angelus is one Dali picture I’m not enamored of, but it does perpetuate Dali’s Angelus of Millet obsession. And it does invite a look at a few features here.


The black left and right borders, together with the large open space that recedes to the vanishing point, give the painting the look of a stage design or theatre backdrop.


I remember, upon first seeing a reproduction of this painting, being drawn to the two recessed spaces in which, at left, we see two figures with long objects (bread?) on their heads, and at right a formally dressed man playing a cello. These details seem to suggest the balconies of a grand music hall, adding to the theater backdrop feel of this work. I like the way these two spaces are “cut” into the otherwise flat and frankly rather drab look of this composition. What’s more, the cello-playing figure recalls the 1920 work, Portrait of the Cellist Ricardo Pichot.


Dali's Portrait of the Cellist Ricardo Pitchot

Dali’s Portrait of the Cellist Ricardo Pichot


Dali saw the woman’s posture in Millet’s Angelus as suggestive of a female praying mantis, which devours its mate after copulation. Could that account for the gaping hole in the man’s chest? And the fact that he’s partially naked?


I’ve written quite a lot about the concept of Dalinian Continuity – the linking of one Dali work to another by the intentional repetition of certain images. We see it here, in Angelus, not only in the obvious Angelus of Millet figures, but also in the car growing out of the rocky cliff formation in the middle distance.


The same car “growing” out of rock was to appear the following year (1933-1934) in an untitled Dali painting, which recently came to auction and brought a very large million dollar-plus sum for a very small painting.


Untitled, this small Dali recently brought a big chunk of change at auction.

Untitled, this small Dali recently brought a big chunk of change at auction.


Angelus seems to lack the fluid magic of most Dali works from this fertile 1930s period of his best surrealism. That’s how I see it, anyway. Hey, they can’t all be home runs.


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


Dali did Double-Imagery Better than Anyone Else


By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian-Writer


One of the most impressive and memorable aspects of Salvador Dali’s art was his absolute mastery of double-imagery. I’m not sure any artist in history did it as well as Dali did.


This, of course, is when a painted object or scene becomes, at the same time, something entirely different – depending on how your brain shifts your visual perception from “A” to “B” and back again.


Dali simply loved this kind of illusion. He was a magician with a paint brush!


Probably the most well-known champion of double-imagery painting from art history was Giuseppe Arcimboldi, who did a good number of paintings like this one, where fruits and vegetables and other mainly food items converged to form portraits.


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Double-imagery very much accorded with Dali’s Paranoiac-Critical creative method, because true paranoids actually do often perceive double images and multiple meanings in things around them. Dali was able to conjure up such images in the way he viewed and perceived most everything – and then transcribe his visions (that’s the “critical” part of the Paranoiac-Critical method) onto canvas (or print matrix, paper, copper plates, whatever) so that we, too, could share in his optical experience.


The whole sense of irrationality intrinsic to such double-imagery was on the same page with the very purpose of Surrealism. So it was a very inviting road on which Salvador Dali frequently traveled. Here are some of the sights to see along the Dali double-image trail (not necessarily in chronological order):


I believe his first important double-image painting was The Invisible Man. It was an ambitious and complex oil painting, and the appearance of a seated man among the various elements came off quite successfully.




Another early and fascinating effort was the photo of an African hut scene, which, when repositioned a quarter turn, offered up for Dali the appearance of a face. He worked it beautifully to show us what indeed looks like a woman’s face.


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A skull theme informed three distinct double-image pictures by Dali, seen here. One was Café Skull, the other a poster design commissioned by the U.S. government to warn servicemen about the evils of venereal disease, and the third is the magnificent oil, Skull of Zurbaran – the only Dali gem gracing the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.


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Portraiture plays a role in several Dali double-images, too. One is the iconic work, Portrait of Mae West, Which Can Be Used as a Surrealist Apartment. The framed pictures on the wall become the eyes of Ms. West, with the fireplace somewhat unflatteringly representing her nostrils, and the lips sofa that also spawned an actual sofa of this shape. Years later this theme would find itself the center of attention as the Mae West Room in the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain.


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In the picture, below left, a bowed woman, derived from Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter, is at the same time part of what makes up a profile of a bearded man. Abraham Lincoln emerges out of a multiplicity of colored cubes, while Dali puts a slightly different twist on the double-image technique in his commanding and clever “double-portrait” of Isabel Styler-Tas.


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Dali employed his double-imagery genius in the canvas, Old Age, Adolescence and Infancy, and more elegantly in the great Swans Reflecting Elephants.


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Dali’s Royal Tiger (I’m using the shortened title) presents us with a composition of cubes – not unlike the Lincoln and Zurbaran works previously discussed – but this time they roar with the macro-image of a Bengal tiger.




Two of the most important paintings ever by Dali pivot around tremendous double-image talent: The Endless Enigma – in which a dog, guitar, fruit dish, face, and horse, are hidden yet seen – and Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach. Do you see the large dog? There are other elements to detect, as well.

Dali paintings can sure be fun!


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Without any doubt in my mind, the three most important double-image paintings ever created by Salvador Dali happen to be three of the most famous works he ever created: Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Slave Market with Disappearing Bust of Voltaire, and The Hallucinogenic Toreador. If you don’t know about the double-images in these three masterpieces, you’re probably not interested in this blog — and therefore you’re probably not here!


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Finally, here’s a dandy Dali double-image from his animation project, Destino, with Walt Disney Studios; and the late in life work, Landscape with Hidden Image of Michelangelo – definitely a slightly different take on Dali’s more typical double-image approach (turn it upside down!).


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Of course, there are others. But I think this helps us remember (as if we could forget!) that among many things, Salvador Dali will always be respected as the artist who mastered double-imagery probably better than anyone else.



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






Dali a Renaissance Man? That’s an Understatement!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian-Writer


The dictionary defines it as “a person with many talents or areas of knowledge.” Renaissance man. Nothing described Salvador Dali if not those two words. What an understatement! Dali pretty much did it all. It’s part of what defined him as a genius.


The irony is that Dali’s iconic, globally familiar “soft watches” – first popularized in his most universally recognized painting, The Persistence of Memory of 1931 – sort of type-cast Dali. Many people know of those unforgettable watches and clocks, but not much else. Leading them to falsely believe that’s pretty much all Dali did – in addition to creating an international spectacle of himself.


How wrong they are. That’s another understatement. Because Salvador Dali was indeed a 20th century Renaissance man, not unlike Leonardo Da Vinci in his time. A. Reynolds Morse – benefactor of the Dali Museum in Florida – called Dali the “Leonardo of our time.” I’d have to agree.

The arenas in which his creative genius made a lasting impact seem endless…


There are, first and foremost, the glorious paintings


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And Dali’s creative ideas resulted in many diverse prints (lithographs, etchings, etc.) . . .


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Dali’s drawings were superbly executed . . .

McBeith drawing an example of Dali's painstaking draftsmanship.

Macbeth drawing an example of Dali’s painstaking draftsmanship.


While sculpture wasn’t what Dali was best known for, he turned out some interesting work . . .


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Watercolor was a medium in which Dali truly excelled . . .


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Dali could assemble anything into a surrealist work of art . . .




And he had interesting ideas in furniture design . . .


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Movie making and animation were also part of Dali’s creative repertoire . . .


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Movie set scene design, too . . .




And theatre set design . . .


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Dali was also a prolific writer and an exceptionally gifted one . . .


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Book illustration was an arena Dali mastered wonderfully . . .


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And Salvador salivated over his positively insane cookbook . . .




Yes, even opera benefited from the Dalinian touch . . .


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Dali demonstrated his facility at poetry in a book titled the same as one of his most ingenious paintings . . .




He used photography in many ways, including a platform for his collaborative ideas with Philippe Halsman . . .




Salvador Dali was the first major artist to harness the phenomenon of holography . . .


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And then there were his 1970s 3-D stereoscopic works . . .




Dali’s impact was certainly felt in both print and broadcast advertising . . .


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The Catalan master did plenty of commercial design. He said most people work to get money. Dali explained he got money so he could work! Meaning the healthy commissions from his commercial work gave him the freedom to spend most of his time creating great art . . .


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Did you know Dali was also a costume designer . . .


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And he did lots of highly collectible magazine cover designs . . .




The renaissance man from Spain’s Costa Brava made his mark on the world of fashion and jewelry . . .


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Dali even dabbled in newspaper journalism — well, sort of . . .


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And there was architecture on his resume as well . . .


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Even some early acting (of the silent type) . . .





To say Dali did it all is, well, an understatement! (And, yes, I know some things were left out. There are only so many hours in the day!)



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





There’s Room for Both Gala and ‘Marie’ at the Top of Dali’s ‘Battle of Tetuan’!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian-Writer


It turns out there’s room for both at the top of Salvador Dali’s large Battle of Tetuan painting: Gala standing above the battle scene, and – in a background detail – the coronation of the Virgin, for whom a young United Nations guide appears to have been the inspiration.


Readers of this blog ( are asked to refer to the post of Wednesday, Jan. 23 (the 30th anniversary of Dali’s death) to learn about Marie (nee Weizmann) Briefel. She was “discovered” by Dali in 1961 in New York to be the ideal look he was after for the Virgin at the top of the Battle of Tetuan picture.


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However, it now appears – thanks to the sharp eye of Dali scholar Elliott King, Ph.D. – that Marie’s face is that of a smaller background image of the Virgin, and not what we first reported in the Jan. 23 post. (See circled image, provided by Dr. King).


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King, who some months ago finally saw the masterwork in the flesh at the Morohashi Museum of Modern Art in Fukushima, Japan, was motivated after reading my blog (written exclusively for The Salvador Dali Society, Inc.©), to carefully scrutinize the upper details in this complex work. He detected that a comparatively small portrait of the Virgin, apparently done in black and white paint, is undoubtedly the face of Marie.


King reasons that it would be unlikely anyone during the period in Dali’s career when Battle of Tetuan was painted (1962) would command such a leading female role in a painting of his, other than Gala. I agree.


Said King: “I’ve heard personal stories of Gala insisting that Dali paint out other women from his paintings because ‘Dali only paints Gala.’ I really think she might have complained to have another woman as such a large central figure. But that’s just a hunch.”


It is now a virtual certainty that Marie Weizmann served as the inspiration for the figure of the Virgin.


The matter, for me, points up the impressive lengths to which Dali would go to achieve his artistic intentions. Even such a relatively small detail (small in size, not in significance) warranted his insistence on visiting New York City universities to scope out foreign students or staff who might yield the Moroccan features he was looking for.


“Truly I can’t say I was necessarily surprised by The Battle of Tetuan, but it was just as impressive as I expected – which is saying something, since I had travelled 6,645 miles one-way almost entirely for the sole reason of seeing it in person!,” King says.

“It took me a full 36 hours to get home, but it was absolutely worth the trip. The painting is very big, of course, so the main thing about viewing it first-hand is that you can see all the small figures and details that are far too tiny in a reproduction. It’s really spectacularly detailed, though because it’s wider than it is high, it’s not as difficult to see those details as it is in, say, Santiago El Grande or The Ecumenical Council. I certainly appreciate why Reynolds Morse included it as one the artist’s ‘masterworks.’”


Someday someone needs to do a book devoted expressly to nothing but the huge masterworks, of which there are some 20. Reynolds Morse did a small paperback in black and white in 1971 (Dali: The Masterworks), but I’m envisioning a colorful, elaborate coffee table tome – perhaps with my name as co-author, with Elliott King!

French woman believes she was inspiration for Dali's Virgin in Battle of Tetuan.

Was a French Woman, not Gala, the Model in this Dali Masterpiece?

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian-Writer

Copyright 2019


The face of the woman standing in the upper portion of Salvador Dali’s huge 1962 painting, Battle of Tetuan – presumed to be Dali’s wife Gala ever since it was painted 57 years ago – now appears to actually be that of a young former United Nations guide, whose look was the precise “type” for which Dali was searching.




At least that’s the view of Marie (nee Weizmann) Briefel, who says she thinks she was the inspiration behind the Virgin who appears ethereally above the battle between Spain and Morocco, surrealistically captured in Dali’s 10-ft. x 13-ft. canvas, which is owned by the Morohashi Museum of Modern Art in Fukushima, Japan.




If this is true, Dali scholars and aficionados aren’t the only ones who were in the dark about this all these years. Mrs. Briefel herself wasn’t aware of it until only a few months ago!


The surreal twist in this esoteric yet fascinating tale began in 1961, when Marie Weizmann – a French young lady whose family originated from Morocco – found herself working at the United Nations in New York City at age 19.


She was a young tour guide there, and was asked to be in charge of visitors such as Yul Brynner and Frank Sinatra, the latter with whom she co-hosted a U.N. Day.


One evening, while she happened to be at the St. Regis Hotel – Dali and Gala’s winter home for many years – the artist approached her, coming toward her “like a bull! I told him, ‘I know you, but you don’t know me,’” Marie recalls. “It was like he was looking for something and had finally found it!” she says in describing the intensity with which Dali greeted her.


Marie later learned Dali went to various New York universities for inspiration, since foreigners would likely be found there and he was looking for distinct facial features.


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He asked me, ‘Where can I reach you?’ I told him I worked at the United Nations,” Marie said.


She was understandably cautious, being a young woman alone in the big city. “I was safe at the U.N.,” she said. “Two days later Dali called me and said, ‘Please come, I need to talk to you.’ He was very firm and made arrangements to meet at the St. Regis.


“We sat at a table and I was wearing my uniform. It had my name on it.




I was the type he was looking for. He wanted to be authentic. He explained he needed the virgin’s face at the top of Battle of Tetuan. ‘I want you to be the face,’ Dali told me.”


Dali was with a female companion whose identity Marie doesn’t know, but he turned to the woman and said, “You see what I told you!” He was confident that what he was looking for was precisely what Marie represented – and was now seated across the table from him.


‘We’re going to Tetuan,” Dali told Marie, “and I would like you to come with us. I don’t want you to believe I bring bad luck to whomever I paint.”


Marie met with Dali several times, and each time “he kept on asking me why I do not want to be painted. I was alone in New York and did not want to be fooled. But I must say, the fact that he even asked my supervisor at the U.N. why I did not want to be painted says a lot.”


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Marie, left, and Gala


Dali and his entourage eventually returned to Europe after wintering in New York. Three years later, Marie moved to Paris, France. The issue was essentially dropped and, over the decades, forgotten.


That is, until Marie’s daughter, a professor at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, gave a lecture last November at a conference in Florida. While there, she visited the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. She had remembered her mother telling her the Battle of Tetuan story and decided to google the work.


“My daughter immediately called me and exclaimed, ‘Maman, it is you!’”, Marie recalls (Maman is the French for Mom). Of course, she was referring to the woman at the top of the painting. “My friends at the U.N., who remember me, say it is me. Even my young grandchildren, when they saw the picture, shouted, ‘It’s Mamie (French for grandma)!”


But the connection between Marie Weizmann and Salvador Dali didn’t end when he left for Tetuan that day in 1961. There was another brief encounter four years later in Paris. As coincidence would have it, she was dining one evening at the oldest restaurant in the city – L’Escargot Montorgueil – and Salvador Dali was there.


“He stood up and exclaimed, ‘You are here?!’” Marie recounts.


Nothing was mentioned of the finished Battle of Tetuan, but Marie reasons that Dali had her face fixed in his mind. “That figure of the woman is one-hundred percent me. My husband says it is me. I know my face. Dali went from memory,” Marie said. “We spent two hours together at the St. Regis. I was very natural, my eyes were dark, my hair fluffy.”


Marie, who currently works as a legal recruiter for law firms in New York, points out another interesting “wrinkle,” of sorts, in this unusual turn of events. If you look carefully at the blouse of the female figure in question, Marie believes you’ll discern the letter “W,” which she figures stands for Weizmann. Says Marie: “The painting is like a puzzle, where you put the pieces in place…The painting that I discovered very recently is very interesting and complicated, as must have been the thoughts of Dali.


“Before meeting him,” she continued, “what I saw of him was very original and odd. I always thought that his paintings did not show the real person, man or woman. I thought he was going to paint me as a clock or any other kind of animal. The painting is grandiose and I am glad I saw it finished and real.”


epa05537439 Visitors look at artwork by Spanish artist Salvador Dali during a press preview of the 'Salvador Dali' exhibition at the National Art Center in Tokyo, Japan, 13 September 2016. The exhibition presents more than 200 works from the famous Spanish artist and will be open to the public from 14 September to 12 December 2016. EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON

Told that most people have undoubtedly thought of the standing woman in the painting as Gala Dali (Gala does, in fact, appear in the painting, astride a horse next to a self-portrait of Dali), Marie replied, “If it is really Gala, may she rest in peace.”

And may Salvador Dali rest in peace, as today marks the 30th anniversary of his passing.




[Images used under Fair Use Doctrine for journalistic purposes only. Special permission granted by Marie Briefel for use of her photos]










Salvador Dali Gone 30 Years, but his Genius is Eternal

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian-Writer


It’s been 30 years. Thirty years since the world lost one of the most important, gifted, controversial and colorful artists of all time: Salvador Dali.



January 23, 1989. The day Dali died. It still makes me twitch a little with sadness, just writing those words.


People ask me all the time, “What is it about Salvador Dali that interests you so much?” I always respond with a three-part answer.


First, I loved Dali’s ideas. He always managed to put a new and special twist on things, no matter what the subject. He not only saw things differently than others – thanks to his Paranoiac-Critical creative method – but he set out to be different. He intentionally endeavored to zig when all the others chose to zag.


Dali’s ideas were extraordinary. And his ability to lend concrete execution to irrational thoughts resulted in some of the most bizarre and fascinating paintings, prints, drawings, watercolors, sculptures, and more.


Look, for example, at the great masterwork, Corpus Hypercubus. Not enough to simply paint an image of Jesus on the cross. Dali had this most iconic historical event revolve around a hypercube – nodding to his keen interest in the exactitude of mathematics, and lending a kind of transcendent spiritual dimension to this monumental canvas, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.


Corpus Hypercubus an example of the Dali difference.

Corpus Hypercubus an example of the Dali difference.


The perfection of the work’s execution brings me to my second reason for admiring Salvador Dali as I do. In a word, technique. Everyone acknowledges (I don’t think anyone could demur) that Dali’s technical skill was about as perfect as it gets.


His exceptional talent with a paint brush – a talent exhibited very early on in his youth – allowed Dali to make the unreal real. We see impossible images somehow come to life, thanks to a photographic realism of which Dali was inimitably capable.


Take, as just one example, Nature Morte Vivante (Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida). We see a mélange of objects floating around – “rumping and jumping about,” as Dali once described it – and it seems almost like a photograph, owing to Dali’s razor-sharp technique. Who could not admire such skill?


Hand-painted color photography: Nature Morte Vivante.

Hand-painted color photography: Nature Morte Vivante.


And the third reason Dali fascinates me is that he was such a great nonconformist. He did what he wanted, how and when he wanted to. When fellow students dutifully did what their professor asked them to do at the San Fernando Institute of Fine Arts in Madrid – paint an image of a particular statue – Salvador painted a pair of scales. I love a contrarian!


When artists in the 1960s were caught up in a new wave of abstraction, Dali never cut the creative chord between the Old Masters and himself. He “became classical,” and remained wedded to long-standing traditions of craftsmanship. He didn’t follow the others on the same road; he paved his own.


And, of course, all the colorful, humorous public antics and happenings and such – ingeniously calculated to make “people speak of Dali, even if they speak well of him!” as he jocularly proclaimed.


Dali was performance art before performance art was cool.


Thirty years ago, the master of surrealism left this earth. In the late 1940s he rediscovered and embraced his earlier Catholicism. It’s my hope he made it to heaven, because his God-given talent simply must persist – just as his most famous work of art, The Persistence of Memory, continues to persist in the world’s consciousness.


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“Geniuses never die!” Dali declared to the world, when he was brought out in a wheelchair from the hospital, following treatment for burns he suffered in a fire in his bedroom. Not long after, on January 23, 1989, Salvador Dali passed as a result of cardiac arrest.


His spirit and genius live on eternally, found in the paintings, drawings, prints and more that are acknowledged as some of the most sensational, beautiful and important art ever created.



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


Salvador Dali: Chairs in the Sky; Framing a Modern Classic

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian-Writer


Today’s post is going to be a kind of grab-bag of things, consistent with the intrinsic diversity of Salvador Dali’s art itself. The fact is that the man was so prolific and exhibited such a rich mixture of styles and subjects, it’s really rather difficult to label him as a surrealism master alone.


Dali did everything! He was a surrealist painter, of course. But his career spanned Cubism, Impressionism, Pointillism, Abstraction, Expressionism, Realism – and even areas beyond realism and beyond the surface of a canvas or print-making matrix, including holography and stereoscopy.


Anyway, as noted, today I want to just briefly touch on a few snippets of the ongoing, always exciting Dali mystique…



SUSPENDED SEATING… The word “strange” is often attached to most anything created by Salvador Dali.  And strange can surely characterize works like this one – Four Armchairs in the Sky. What the heck is this all about?  Painted in 1949 while Dali was in his classic-atomic period, we find four mundane, bourgeois arm chairs hanging above a road, with tree-dotted mountains in the background, and what appears to be a white button hovering just above the ground. Branches – some barren, some fecund with vegetation — sprout from the chairs, lending a living essence to the otherwise unremarkably banal furniture. Strange.


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HOLEY GOD … That’s “holey,” not “holy,” for a reason: there’s a hole right through the torso of the androgynous (hermaphroditic?) figure who hovers slightly above the pedestal in this 1944 painting, The God of the Bay of Roses (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, USA). Some internet-based information about Roses itself – a municipality on Spain’s Costa Brava – perhaps give us at least a little insight into how the past may have informed Dali’s more modern work of art:


“This part of the Costa Brava (Bay of Roses) contains other natural spaces, such as Aiguamolls de l’Emporda, with a large number of native species of flora and fauna; the Cap de Creus, in the northern part of the Costa Brava; and the La Albera Mountains, with an interesting collection of megalithic monuments.


“The monuments serve as a starting point for a historic journey along the bay. In the town of L’Escala we find other nearby ruins, those of the ancient Greek and Roman city of Ampurias, one of the most important archaeological sites on the peninsula. Equally outstanding is the Ciutadella de Roses, where you will find the ruins of the city of Rodhes (776 B.C.); the 11th-century monastery of Santa Maria, and Renaissance fortifications; the 7th-century Visigothic Castrum and Trinidad Castle, dating from the 16th century.”


It’s also interesting to note the remarkable similarity between The God of the Bay of Roses and a work Dali painted three years later: Untitled (Landscape), whose rock formation and its shadow, sky, and ground details are just marginally short of identical to the earlier work. It’s yet another example of “Dalinian continuity,” where Dali intentionally linked many of his paintings in a kind of cohesive thread.


THE PERSPECTIVE OF FRAMING…I really love to see Dali paintings not merely reproduced as a four-corner canvas, but shown in context with the frame that holds it. Framing completes a painting. And seeing the work hanging on a wall gives us a sense of scale and, well, a greater sense of realism, if you will. Here’s a nice example of it, courtesy of Getty Images: Dali’s fabulous 1945 painting, My Wife Nude Contemplating Her Own Flesh becoming Stairs, Three Vertebrae of a Column, Sky and Architecture, being admired by an onlooker.



FRANCE - DECEMBER 17: Salvador Dali at a press conference about the Salvador Dali exhibition at the Centre George Pompidou In Paris, France On December 17, 1979 - A visitor looking at "My Wife, Naked, Looking at her own Body". (Photo by Daniel SIMON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)




Oh, and I’d say the classic, ornate frame accords beautifully with this stunning work. The black & white image is nicely contrasted here with the color of this exceptionally cool work – one of my all-time favorite Salvador Dali paintings that brought multiple millions at auction some years back.