Author Archives: Paul Chimera


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

27540375_10156284484066042_1282517539469219696_n 78950278 B7cg3WEIgAE51OM foto_966735O_6f38fde9749a3d008aa647beda9b5aaf


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.


66e517db71c151b1e3c7 8c22e7a077bf63a0141c56fb1840656a 154148044 922764_652150668133706_1026414064_n


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.


 12651161_10153257668210766_4779323026780830109_n 33403313_10156592763831042_7793153102722367488_n


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.


154148040 154148044 Dali5


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.


 a003609894194460dcbdaee38da39518 9475


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.


 16602820_10155104297600962_8738569421004244807_n article-2499255-1957100900000578-737_306x727


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.


 1618492_1458920777652952_921107957_n 7af7acee49094d7d79b80c0a467aebed


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.


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







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.


Bust_Voltaire salvador_dali_spain_art_print Salvador-Dali-Soft-Construction-with-Boiled-Beans-Premonition-of-Civil-War-1936


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!


11441448774_378f453aaa_b the-sacrament-of-the-last-supper dali_santiagoelgrande 065f052ea2527759207bd2f4f04c6027--dali-the-battle the-madonna-of-port-lligat_jpg!Large work_4965453_2_flat,550x550,075,f_assumpta-corpuscularia-lapislazulina-the-bodily-assumption-in-blue


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.


The_Hallucinogenic_Toreador dali_santiagoelgrande Ascension-1958tuna-fishing-1967


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.


the-virgin-of-guadalupe Nature-Morte-Vivante-504x405


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


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




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.


11796309_10205499758346417_2470921335592869310_n 11223845_10205499756106361_7649209993625273873_n 23766910_1_l


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.”


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










Dali's angel appeared to be painted on the sky!

Dali Pulls Off Illusion that He’d Painted the Sky!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


I remember,  many years back – sometime in the 1960s, I think it was – seeing a short Associated Press wire service story in my hometown newspaper. It announced a seemingly outrageous new declaration from Salvador Dali that the controversial Spanish artist was “planning to paint the sky.”
The brief story didn’t expand on such a stupefying promise from the Catalan master, but simply reported that this was the latest and most curious pronouncement from the unpredictable master of surrealism. The event was to take place some months in the future.


In my own way – strengthened by my convictions that, if anyone could achieve the impossible, Dali could – I believed that, somehow, some way, he meant what he said. He was, in fact, going to paint the sky! I believed him.


It sounded crazy then, and it still does. Yet, cleverly, amusingly, ingeniously – and very publicly – Dali did just that: he painted the blue, sun-suffused sky over beautiful Port Lligat, Spain.


Well, it looked like it, anyway.


Dali's angel appeared to be painted on the sky!

Dali’s angel appeared to be painted on the sky!


An undeniably supreme showman and pioneer of performance art, Salvador Dali had an enormous clear plastic bubble installed on the grounds of his and Gala’s sprawling villa at Port Lligat, on the northeast tip of Spain.

Inside the massive sphere, Dali was armed with buckets of paint and huge brushes taller than himself. With a crowd of onlookers assembled outside the clear plastic behemoth – including, of course, a phalanx of journalists – the Maestro proceeded to paint a towering angel on the inside of the sphere, splattering and splashing paint with wild abandon, while still managing to render a respectable likeness of an angel many times the size of mere mortals!


From both inside the immense clear dome and out, it really did look like Dali was making good on his promise. The towering angel against the transparent material appeared to be painted…..on the sky! For all intents and purposes, Dali achieved what he’d promised in that little newspaper blurb. Not to mention more self-promotion, at which he was an unparalleled master. Watch Dali painting the sky here:







While Dali’s sky-painting Happening was something of a mirage, his 1946 oil painting titled Mirage is solidly back in the news, after it became a popular hit with magazine readers in the 1940s, who saw the beautiful work – and two others in the trilogy – help advertise the then-new perfume, Desert Flower.


Recent news stories note that the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia had the picture there on loan. But now they’ve reportedly bought the painting and have launched an effort to have the public fund part of this important acquisition. It’s the first and only Salvador Dali painting in the country.


Mirage stays down under in Australia.

Mirage stays down under in Australia.



According to reports, the Gallery secured $4 million for the painting, and is now appealing to the public to contribute $1.5 million more.


I hope for the sake of Aussies and many others that the fund-raising effort is a success. I’ve personally always loved Mirage, which was sold at Christie’s auction house of London in 2006 for a price of which I’m unaware – though its estimate was $400,000 – $620,000. That was 12 years ago. Just how many millions it would bring on the auction block today is anyone’s guess.


Too bad Dali never visited Australia. Would have loved to see how he’d incorporate kangaroos and koalas in his work!

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


Salvador Dali: Adapter Extraordinaire!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To Salvador Dali, everything was a potential canvas. He was known to even paint pictures on paper coffee cup covers!


Some of Dali’s best work was when he adopted the role of adaptor or modifier, taking existing images and executing changes to them that were imaginatively transformative. There are practically countless examples of this creative approach. Let’s look at a few of them.


One of the most delightful works in this genre is The Sheep. Dali ingeniously transformed Karl Schenk’s wintry outdoor scene into a cozy yet stylish parlor. The work is in the Dali Museum in St. Pete, Florida.




In 1941, Dali – who disdained mechanical things – refurbished two cars – in Clothed Automobile (Two Cadillacs) – by dressing them up – literally!




Two years earlier, he took a print of a sweet-looking child and modified it for shock value in a most undignified manner by putting a bloody rat in the child’s mouth, and naming it Freud’s Perverse Polymorph (Bulgarian Child Eating a Rat).




No less twisted a stroke of surrealism was Dali’s 1977 adaptation of a nude by Bouguereau, giving her cherry-tipped male genitalia and converting her breasts and abdomen into open drawers.




Three-dimensional media were not to be left out of Dali’s modifying mode. In 1974, he executed a paranoiac-critical metamorphosis of Charles Schreyvogel’s 1899 bust of White Eagle, chief of the Pawnee Indians. The eyes were thus transformed into Renaissance-like figures, while the lips doubled as a basket of fruit.


Dali’s Debris Christ has become iconic. It is an assemblage of old boat, stones, roof tiles, branches and other found materials – stretched out in an olive grove at Port Lligat in 1969.


fnhum-09-00496-g005 Le_Christ


Of course, no discussion of Dali’s adaptive technique would be complete without looking at his famous African hut conversion, Paranoiac Visage – Postcard Transformed, in which he took a postcard, gave it a quarter turn, and discerned the face we see here. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Ship – Costume for Tristan Insane of 1943-’43 – a marvelous example of Dali at his retouching best.


CP2 Dali-Paranoiac-Face 4922c8eb4e73c91a381339b471de4f90-300x158 bbb4fc682d8f8125a40225f93e439ba3


Two lesser known examples of Dali the modifier are found in a series of cats that Dali cleverly turned into the standing figure of a woman; and in a body of water that the artist used to create the illusion of a woman’s flowing gown. Likewise, ladies’ stockings were turned into a Pegasus-like horse in one of the series of brilliant ads Dali created for Bryan Hosiery.

13293114_10207281777495782_520103755_n salvador-dali-museum-23


And there are so many additional examples of Dali the modifier: Baby Map of the World, a host of magazine cover conversions (such as the Antigues issue seen here) – the list is at least as long as Dali’s mustache!


Salvador+Dali+-+Baby+Map+of+the+World+1939+ fnhum-09-00496-g010


With America’s Independence Day not far off, perhaps it’s fitting to close with Dali’s simple yet truly victorious modification of the iconic State of Liberty – now standing in Cadaques, Spain, with both arms proudly held high in victory.




Bogus Dali ‘Wedding Photo’ & other news

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


By now, surely everyone’s heard of the dubious phenomenon known as “fake news.” But it doesn’t just affect politics; it can also rear its head in the world of art. In the case of Salvador Dali, it has – in several ways. One I’ve just come across, others have been annoying long-term misrepresentations.


Let’s take the long-standing issue first. This picture:


This is not a Dali!

This is not a Dali!


is NOT – repeat, NOT – by Salvador Dali! Pay no attention to the fact that it obstinately shows up on a ton of Internet sites displaying the art of Dali. It may look a bit surreal. It may approximate the style and technique of Dali.




The work is that of Vladimir Kush. It has no business being on all these Dali sites, and I wish someone would jettison the picture from its incorrect placement and misidentification.


Not saying anything bad about the painting or the artist. It’s nice. It’s just not Dali. And this was made clear by another Dali aficionado, who published some time ago a similar clarification of the matter. He’s Enrique E. Zepeda, attorney, collector and Dali expert who does art appraisals and opinions of authenticity, partnered with Bernard Ewell.


Enrique reminded me of another work by Mexican artist Octavio Ocampo, showing the profile of an elderly couple that creates this clever multi-pronged double-image effect.


This is not a Dali!

This is not a Dali!


Once again, it shows up on countless internet sites as being a Dali; it is not.


Let’s move on . . .


Here’s perhaps an even more outrageous bit of fake news. It came into my orbit by way of Pinterest, landing in my email and making me do a double-take.


This is neither Dali nor Gala.

This is neither Dali nor Gala.


It was presented as “Dali’s wedding photo.” The only problem is that the man is not Dali and the woman is not Gala. I admit to looking very, very closely at the fellow, who does bear a resemblance to Dali. But it’s not our man. The woman? Well, if that’s Gala Dali, I’ll eat a barbecued giraffe with a side of grilled grasshoppers.




Meanwhile, this blogger is more than a little frustrated over what seems to be an extraordinarily long delay in the release of a book that was supposed to be coming out about the wild, daffy surrealist ball Dali and Gala threw at the Del Monte Lodge in Pebble Beach, California, in 1941. The book, Dali’s 1941: Salvador Dali’s Surrealist Ball, Through the Lens of Julian P. Graham, is supposed to feature many photographs of the unique fund-raising event, at which a host of celebs were in attendance, including Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Ginger Rogers, among others.


Overdue book.

Overdue book.



Here’s a cool little link to some of the party action:



In other news, it was recently reported that a new movie about Dali is to begin shooting soon, starring Ben Kingsley in the role of maestro Dali in the 1970s, I believe. Let’s hope this actor gets it right, or close to right. Every actor I’ve seen who’s dared to take on the daunting role ends up looking foolish. They try much too hard to adopt the persona that helped make Dali such a colorful figure. The results have been clumsy, inauthentic, and embarrassing.


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


A Juicy Tale of Salvador Dali and Fresh Fruit!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


In some ways, painting is like writing. They’re both creative pursuits, and in either case you never quite know where, when and how the muse will strike.


Today’s blog post evolved from my eating a tangerine and contemplating what I’d write about. The juicy, delicious fruit reminded me how Dali would sometimes notice a completely irrelevant object while painting and decide to include it in whatever picture he was working on.


And thus today’s idea was born: the appearance of fruit in Dali’s paintings. Heck, there’s been plenty written about the eggs and bread that appear in the surrealist master’s work. Today, we’re all about fruit.


Let’s eat . . .


One work you’re likely not to be familiar with is Southern California (1947). Some of the oranges have been “Dalinized” to make them look a bit like a crumbling wall. Oranges also appear in the great Flor Dali/Les Fruits (Dalinean Fruits) print series, and in the beautiful miniaturist oil, Dionysus Spitting the Complete Image of Cadaques on the Tip of the Tongue of a Three-Storied Gaudinian Woman.


 15895262_10209058818400694_3006575058921029610_n untitled 2016-04-03-1459645766-2951523-2007_8_DionysusSpittings-1


Grapes have long symbolized revelry, celebration, and even a bit of debauchery. Gala seductively holds up a bunch in Suburbs of a Paranoiac-Critical Town, and grapes make an appearance in Couple with their Heads Full of Clouds. They also appear in the provocative painting, Family of Marsupial Centaurs and in the colorful Dali print, Portrait of Autumn.


suburbs-of-a-paranoiac-critical-town couple-with-their-heads-full-of-clouds_jpg!Large family-of-marsupial-centaurs por of autumn


The pomegranate symbolizes fertility, abundance, prosperity and more, and we find this unique fruit in Dali’s One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate and in Dematerialization Near the Nose of Nero.


 dream-caused-by-the-flight-of-a-bee-around-a-pomegranate-a-second-before-awakening-c1944 S4-Dali-373-DematerializationNearTheNoseOfNero-1947


One of the earliest stories about young Dali was his painting a still life with cherries. He would reminisce about these early days when he was a fledgling young artist dreaming of one day becoming a famous one.


An enormously important and tragic event occurred before Salvador was even born – the death of his brother at 22 months. Astonishingly, he was named Salvador, and the persistent memory of the dead brother would haunt Salvador the artist throughout his life.


Cherries appear in the molecular motif of Dali’s haunting Portrait of My Dead Brother – the fruit no doubt a throwback to the artist’s childhood memories. Cherries likewise appear in the aforementioned Dionysus Spitting the Complete Image of Cadaques…and a lone cherry dangles from a string in Madonna of the Ear (a.k.a., The Sistine Madonna).


portrait-of-my-dead-brother 229481170_cdd8bd1113_z


The warmer weather turns our thoughts to watermelon, which Dali depicted with wonderful realism in Feather Equilibrium, and also in Gradiva Becoming Fruits, Vegetables, Pork, Bread and Grilled Sardine. And again in Allegory of Sunset Air (Allegory of the Evening).


Salvador_Dali_DAS005 08e3254f60c415f7568efffe380f2bda 59be4250-f5c1-45b3-9c50-84d716dc2ebe


While there are many other works bearing fruit, as it were, we might conclude our discussion with Dali’s iconic Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach, which – depending on the beholder’s eye – may feature apples, or pears, just as an apple for certain whizzes airborne in Nature Morte Vivante, and a piece of peeled fruit (exact type unclear) graces one of Dali’s best surrealist pictures, Autumn Cannibalism.


Salvador+Dali+-+Apparition+Of+Face+And+Vase+On+The+Beach+ LivingStillLife salvador_dali007


And then there’s a lemon and apple in Untitled (Still Life with Lilies)…a pear in Song of Songs of Solomon print series…more pears in Invisible Afghan…. And apple heads in set designs for Sentimental Colliquy. The list goes on.


untitled-still-life-with-lilies K 1 Dali21


So, a bit of fruity fun here today. I mean, Salvador Dali wasn’t always about over-ripe watches and undercooked giraffes! Oh, as for the fruit Dali enjoyed eating most: pink grapefruit.



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