Author Archives: Paul Chimera

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Dali & Gala were many things….but ‘co-creators?’ We think not.

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

There are probably as many myths and mysteries surrounding the life and work of Salvador Dali as there are ants, flies, and crutches that invaded his surrealist paintings, prints, drawings and other works over his long and remarkable surrealist career.

 

Just what is completely, verifiably true and what is not is often up for debate. I recall once receiving a photo of an alleged clean-shaven Dali; his iconic mustache was nowhere to be seen. And this was well into the years when his mustache was at its sartorial best.

 

Turns out the photo was altered by a clever retouch artist (this was before the days of Photoshop), giving a rather convincing appearance that Dali’s upper lip was as smooth as a Port Lligat rock softened and smoothed by the Mediterranean sea and the ferocious Tramontana winds of the Costa Brava.

 

Now a more credible and highly visible bit of confusion seems to be rearing its head. It’s the following comment made in a promotional brochure put out by the Museu Nacional D’Art De Catalunya on behalf of the Gala Salvador Dali exhibition: “She was also the co-artist and co-creator of Dali’s creative oeuvre. The artist himself acknowledged this fact in his writing and in the double signature he used over the years: Gala Salvador Dali.”

 

I know of no reference by Dali to his wife being viewed – by him or anyone else – as his “co-artist” or “co-creator.” And the fact that many of his works were signed Gala Salvador Dali was simply one of his ways of expressing and immortalizing his extraordinary love and the exceedingly high regard in which he held his leading model and muse.

 

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It’s my solid understanding that Gala maintained a tight grip on her husband’s image, his deals with collectors, galleries, art dealers and others, and the couple’s finances. And she spent a great deal of time enjoying the company of hot younger men (most of whom probably cared more about eventually getting closer to Dali through her, though that is more my speculation than documented fact).

 

But what I’m far more confident is factual is that Gala did not “co-create” the works attributed to Salvador Dali. I know of no evidence that she painted, etched, sculpted, drew, or did anything else artistic beyond posing countless times for portraits Dali painted of her. And, of course, she was an inspiration for his work and a motivator behind her husband. If she didn’t like something, she’d let it be known — and Dali would listen.

 

The aforementioned brochure states that Gala was “the creator of many surrealist objects.” Really? I’ve been studying the life and work of this Surrealist titan for decades and never once encountered anything written or pictured that indicates Gala created surrealist objects – let alone “many” of them.

 

I consulted one of Dali’s leading protégé/collaborators about the notion of Gala being a co-creator of Dali’s works. His terse response: “Completely absurd.”

 

If I’m wrong about this, my brethren in the Dali world – other writers, authors, scholars, professors, collectors – will no doubt be quick to insist I stand corrected. And I will.

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Dali Created ‘Fossilized Automobile’ from ‘Scratch’

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

I’ve had countless discussions with fellow “Dalinists” about works brought to our attention that are alleged to be by Dali, but feature characteristics that raise doubts. Sometimes we’re surprised to learn that many are indeed genuine, even when certain peculiarities raise some red flags.

 

A widely reproduced oil on panel from 1936 is, in my view, one of those Dali works that – had we not known better – could be placed under suspicion, mainly due to technique.

 

I’m talking about The Fossilized Automobile of Cape Creus. Dali always decried mechanical things (pocket watches come to mind), and that goes for automobiles (he never drove one).

 

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So he shows a car essentially entombed within the background cliffs of Cape Creus, which were a career-long inspiration for him.

 

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Meanwhile, fishermen lift a boat while several others seem oblivious to everything as they nap, their heads propped up by their hands.

 

But it’s the technique that, for the most part, is pretty atypical of and inconsistent with the tight, polished painting style we normally associate with Salvador Dali. In fact, not only is most of the work done in a rough and somewhat crude style, but it appears Dali cut into the paint with the back end of his brush, achieving a kind of skeletal, dried, almost atrophied, or, rather, fossilized look – hence the title of the picture.

 

But by now we know that Salvador Dali was always full of surprises, and he returned to a sharper, more meticulous handling of his brushwork in the figure seen through the hole in the rocks, and where we see luminescent color beyond the earth tones of the vast majority of the canvas.

 

The Fossilized Automobile of Cape Creus may not exactly leap to mind when we think of Salvador Dali, but it becomes more and more interesting as we give it greater attention.

 

And this relegation of an automobile to an inferior or improbable position – bogged down by a passenger side door fashioned from a brick wall; depicted as “debris” giving birth to a blind horse; made immobile as it melds with the terrain – can be seen in a number of other Dali paintings, such as these:

 

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

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No matter how you look at it, Dali’s ‘Santiago’ is Spellbinding

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

I return now and again to my favorite Salvador Dali painting, Santiago El Grande, and today I do so after seeing a recent news story about the painting’s permanent home – the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

 

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The story focused – as most stories about the Beaverbrook invariably do – on its undisputed star of the show: Dali’s immense and majestic Santiago El Grande, or St. James the Great.

 

Specifically, the writer noted something that’s been pointed out many times before: the work is best viewed, as Dali intended things, from a very low angle. In fact, from the point of view of positioning oneself lying flat on one’s back, directly under the painting, feet flat to the floor!

 

It’s said that the horse appears to be jumping right off the canvas when such a peculiar vantage point is taken.

 

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Many have done this, and yet I myself – who has been in love with this painting for so many years – missed my opportunity when I saw Santiago for my first, and only time, in the Dali: The Late Work exhibition at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. in 2010.

 

It’s my understanding that Santiago El Grande was originally envisioned as an altarpiece, and that it therefore was intended to be hung high and viewed from a low angle (though certainly not from one lying beneath it).

 

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While I haven’t yet experienced the illusion of the horse riding out of the canvas, there is another bit of three-dimensionality inherent in this remarkable picture: the foot of St. James himself. The more you stare at it, the greater sense you get that it’s coming right out at you! A stark reminder of the walks the apostles made with Jesus during his earthly ministry.

 

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Here are some disparate facts about this masterpiece that you may not have known:

 

  • St. James was the patron saint of Spain and of pilgrims.

 

  • His remains are said to be buried in Santiago de Compostela
  • One internet site notes that “during the celebrated battle of Clavijo, St. James suddenly appeared on a milk-white charger, waving aloft a white standard, and leading the Christians to victory.”
  • St. James is widely recognized as the first apostle to be martyred.
  • The scallop shell is the recognized symbol of all pilgrims on the Camino, as it’s found on the shores of Galicia170px-Spain_Leon_-_Santiago_Shell
  • When returning to their own countries, pilgrims displayed the scallop shell in their hats to show they had carried out their pious intentions.
  • St. James is believed to have helped the Christians defeat the Moors in Spain – yet another reason he’s their patron saint.
  • St. James is often depicted riding a white horse into battle.
  • The Feast Day of St. James the Greater is July 25 and is widely celebrated in Spain, especially in Santiago de Compostela, where they hold a fireworks display at the end of a two-week celebration.
  • During the middle ages, two million people a year came to Santiago de Compostela to worship at what was believed to be the burial place of St. James. As a holy place, Santiago was almost the equal of Rome and Jerusalem.
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Dali and Enigma were Lifelong Companions

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

“Enigma” might as well have been Salvador Dali’s middle name. So much of his mind-bending surrealism was wrapped in a cloak of enigma, with the unraveling left up to us. That’s always been the ultimate fun of it all: trying to understand what Dali might have been telling us in his diverse and often confounding images, be they paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, or some other mixed-media expression of “Dalinian” creativity.

 

Even the titles alone of some of Dali’s paintings added to the enigmatic nature of them – if, that is, we can even be certain of just what the titles are!

 

In today’s post, there seems to be some discrepancy in the title of the work I want to briefly put under the microscope. Some sources call it Continuum of Four Buttocks. Others – such as the Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation in Figueres, Spain – list it this way: Goddess Leaning on Her Elbow; Virgin Formed by Five Rhinoceros Horns.

 

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What we know without equivocation is that the 1960 oil on canvas (approx. 30 in. x 60 in.) hangs in the Museu Nacional D’Art De Catalunya in Spain. And that Dali seemed fascinated by the human buttocks. Countless portraits of women by him show them from the rear, including several of his first model, his sister Anna Maria. Later, of course, Gala posed for a large number of works in which she was seen from behind.

 

In “Goddess Leaning on Her Elbow,” the elongated forms converging on a nail are clearly meant to be phallic in nature. The upper right one features trompe l’oeil tears, one of which is loosely sown.

 

These forms were also intended to be rhinoceros horns, with which Dali was obsessed at the time. He was taken by the fact that a rhino horn is a naturally occurring logarithmic curve, which underpinned the mathematical structure of classically painted works.

 

Rhino horns, in addition to being phallic, have also been held to be an aphrodisiac, a fact surely not lost on Dali when he was painting this picture. And in legend, it’s said that a unicorn can be tamed only by virgins, allowing, then, an obvious association of rhino horns with chastity.

 

Indeed, chastity is part of the title of a highly suggestive painting Salvador Dali executed in 1954: Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized by Her Own Chastity. The similarity between the converging rhino horns in Goddess Leaning on Her Elbow and Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized is exquisitely clear.

 

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At least one observer has suggested that Dali might have been inspired here by a 1928 Rene Magritte painting called The Voice of the Winds (seen here), though I find any such association weak at best.

 

Magritte's Voice of the Winds

Magritte’s Voice of the Winds

 

Meanwhile, the nails in the present work might imply Christ’s Crucifixion, but could also carry over a then-current technique of Dali’s of firing nails at a canvas, using a rifle, to form random images he would ingeniously use as a jumping off point in creating riveting – and enigmatic – works of art.

 

 

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

 

 

 

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Untimely Death of Dali’s Mother Inspired Him to Become World Famous

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

Much has been written about the rocky relationship between Salvador Dali and his father. The senior Dali disowned his son – and the feeling was mutual – when Salvador brought Gala into the picture. It also didn’t help that the young artist’s irreverent personal and artistic tendencies further drove a wedge between him and his strident notary father (happily, there was an eventual reconciliation).

 

Nevertheless, Dali painted a number of portraits of his father. They depicted an imposing figure, inseparable from his smoking pipe and, in Dali’s view, from a harsh reputation that preceded him.

 

Photo of Dali's parents.

Photo of Dali’s parents.

 

By contrast – though he adored his mother, who greatly doted on her future artist son – there are only two significant portraits of her of which I’m aware. Of course, fate intervened when Dali was just 17, taking away his beloved 47-year-old mother on February 6, 1921, after she was struck with uterine cancer. There wasn’t much of a window of opportunity for Dali to paint her.

 

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Biographer Ian Gibson wrote, “Dali himself recalled that every morning, when he woke up, his mother would look lovingly into his eyes and recite the traditional formula: “Cor que vols? Cor que destiges” (‘Sweetheart, what do you want? Sweetheart, what do you desire?’).”

 

Importantly, Dali wrote in his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, that the death of his mother was the greatest blow in his young life: “With my teeth clenched with weeping, I swore to myself that I would snatch my mother from death and destiny with the swords of light that someday would savagely gleam around my glorious name!” (A great example, here, of Dali’s extraordinary artistry with words as well as with a paint brush.)

 

Gibson noted, “Dali’s ten-page diary entry for October 1921 confirms that, once he assimilated the shock of his mother’s death, he did indeed get to work with renewed vigor on the construction of his public image and of his fame.”

 

The two portraits here of the artist’s mother are solemn depictions of her. No background distractions, no sense of joy. Just honest likenesses of an enormously important woman in young Dali’s life, whose untimely death motivated him to fulfill a promise he made to her that he would become a world-famous artist. A promise he made good on.

 

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Both Dali and his mother are surely proud to this day.

 

 

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

 

 

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Salvador Dali: Go *Small* or Go Home!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

Like it or not, size matters. At least when it comes to the art of Salvador Dali. We’re talking paintings, of course, not prints or drawings or sculpture, albeit some of those offer surprising revelations, too.

 

But size inevitably enters into the Dali picture, and probably first reared its head when we consider his most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory.

 

Much smaller than most realize.

Much smaller than most realize.

University students have had, and continue to have, reproductions of this iconic Dali canvas displayed on their dorm room doors or walls. And, with rare exception, the reproductions were quite large – understandably implying that the original was at least as big, and probably bigger.

 

Not true, of course. The Persistence of Memory is roughly the size of your average laptop computer screen – a fact fairly astonishing to the unsuspecting admirer of the work, who invariably has assumed it’s a quite large painting. It clearly is not.

 

Of course, Dali painted quite a few very large canvases, and a substantial number that could only be described as enormous. But he also created some very, very small paintings that, in themselves, are unique enough to have given birth to an important exhibition that opened September 9 and runs through December 9 at the Meadows Museum in Dallas, Texas, USA.

 

Titled Dali: Poetics of the Small, 1929 – 1936, the exhibition showcases small-format paintings Dali created during this fertile period of his artistic creativity and genius. The museum’s website notes that this period was probably Dali at the apex of his career, though I’ve long been a vigorous debunker of that tired assertion. I believe firmly that Dali reached exciting and important new and innovative levels of great art long after the 1930s surrealist period.

 

At any rate, size matters – and the surprisingly tiny nature of some of Dali’s works was recently driven home to me, thanks to Nigel Simmins, Britain’s most ardent Dali enthusiast. Having recently returned from Barcelona after seeing the Gala Dali exhibition there, Nigel pointed out that Dali’s frequently reproduced oil on panel, Portrait of Gala with Two Lamb Chops Balanced on Her Shoulder (1933) is an astonishing 2.36 in. x 3.14 in.

 

Very, very tiny.

Very, very tiny.

 

I must admit that, as many times as I’ve seen this work in books – and despite my general awareness that it was a small work – I had no idea it was that small!

 

And in keeping with the diminutive nature of the work, Salvador Dali painted many other quite tiny paintings, among the notable ones being: Specter of Sex Appeal; Untitled (Dreams on the Beach); First Portrait of Gala; and Portrait of Gala – none with a dimension more than 5 inches, and virtually all considerably shorter than that.

 

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Interestingly enough, while we stand in awe of the giant Dali masterworks – paintings such as Santiago El Grande, Apotheosis of the Dollar, The Perpignan Railway Station, and Battle of Tetuan – we’re also enormously impressed by the stunning detail Dali was able to achieve in such a miniscule matrix.

It’s just another example of how Salvador Dali’s art continues to make us sit up and take notice – in a big way.

 

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

 

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Dali and the ‘Stendahl Syndrome’: a Heady Surrealist Experience

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

I was recently reminded of an intriguing phenomenon – invariably related to the appreciation of art – known as the Stendhal Syndrome.

 

It’s a condition named after 19th-century French author, Stendhal (pseudonym of Marie-Henri Beyle), who, during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy, was overcome with emotion. Wikipedia notes that Stendhal Syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art (italics mine).

 

Stendahl got emotional!

Stendahl got emotional!

 

Stendahl described his Florence experience this way:

“I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty … I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations … Everything spoke so vividly to my soul. Ah, if I could only forget. I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call ‘nerves’. Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling.”

And so I’m transported back to 1972, when I drove from my home in Buffalo, New York to the world’s first Dali Museum in Beachwood, Ohio, an eastern suburb of Cleveland (a year later I’d become publicity director there).

I think I experienced at least some of the powerful pull of Stendhal Syndrome. For years I had enjoyed these amazing original Dali paintings only through reproductions of them in books. It seemed most every great Dali painting was pictured together with the statement, “Private collection: Reynolds & Eleanor Morse, Cleveland, Ohio.” Which is to say, a collection to which the public had no access. And that was true for many years.

Until the Morse’s decided to exhibit most of their unparalleled collection of Dali art in a wing of their office building. And that’s where I ended up one unforgettable day. A day I’m pretty sure Stendhal put a hand on me.

It was especially evident in what was called the Salon of the Masterworks. This was a corner and main focal point of the one-room museum that contained three wall-sized Dali masterworks: The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, The Ecumenical Council, and The Hallucinogenic Toreador.

 

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I’ll never forget walking down the corridor and first seeing Toreador from a distance. I was convinced the collar button of the toreador was an actual plastic button – until I walked up to the gigantic canvas and realized it was painted so realistically that it gave the illusion of three-dimensionality.

I literally knelt down on the floor, positioning myself in the corner between The Hallucinogenic Toreador on my right and Ecumenical Council on my left. My normal inhibitions had disappeared. I raised my arms above my head in a kind of Crucifixion-like pose, my fingers curled in the intense manner of Jesus in Dali’s Ascension of Christ. And my then-wife took a photo of me, though over the years it sadly has disappeared.

The experience of seeing in person for the first time these monumental Dali masterpieces almost forced me to my knees! I remember an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. The kind that almost makes you feel faint with joy. I might liken it to an intense orgasm – that moment when you feel like you’re going to pass out from the climax of extreme pleasure.

For some, this admission may seem pretty silly. For others, it’s definitely a Dali thing! They’ll get it. They’ll understand. Stendahl did. So did I.

 

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

 

 

 

 

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London’s Freud Museum is Honoring Freud-Dali Connection

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

Dali jokingly proclaimed, “There’s never a dully moment with Dali!” The man had a great sense of humor, even if that particular one-liner could have benefited from some support from his iconic crutches.

 

There’s also never a moment when Dali isn’t in the news. Or so it seems. People often ask me, “How are you able to write regularly about an artist who’s been dead for nearly 30 years now?” The answer is simple: Dali is more popular than ever before!

 

He’s certainly more collectible than ever. His prices at auction have steadily risen over the years since his passing on January 23, 1989 at age 84. His prints are in high demand.

 

Exhibitions of his work continue to be held all across the globe, invariably shattering attendance records. And while some of them are retrospectives that take a broad measure of Dali’s enormous contributions to the history of art, others home in on quite specific aspects of the man’s life and work, permitting a careful examination of fascinating details.

 

One such exhibition is on now at the Freud Museum in London: Freud, Dali and the Metamorphosis of Narcissus (October 3, 2018 – February 24, 2019). Curated by Dawn Ades, it explores the connection between Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis; and Salvador Dali, the kingpin of Surrealism. As the museum’s website notes, these men were two of the most influential figures of the 20th century. And this year marks the 80th anniversary of their famed meeting on July 19, 1938 in London.

 

Dali brought with him his truly incredible oil on canvas, The Metamorphosis of Narcissus, which is of course the core image on which the Freud Museum special exhibition is based. The painting’s on loan from London’s Tate Museum. And visiting Freud inspired Dali to execute several interesting sketches of him — whose cranium Dali likened to that of a snail’s shell! Freud declared that Dali was a “complete example of a Spaniard — what a fanatic!” But added that he, Freud, was now reevaluating his view of the Surrrealists after meeting and appreciating his special mustachioed guest, and greatly admiring the double-image painting about narcissism he brought along with him.

 

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I was fortunate to have seen this remarkable work some years back at, as I recall, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, to which it was on loan. It is quite simply one of the greatest paintings – ever!

 

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And one of the most important pieces of writing ever was Freud’s seminal book, Interpretation of Dreams, which Dali read voraciously and which went a long way in propelling Dali’s surrealistic symbolism.

 

Not only did Dali’s Metamorphosis of Narcissus painting inspire the present exhibition at the Freud, but it gave rise to the eponymous book, seen here, which featured a poem written by Dali.

 

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SPEAKING OF BOOKS . . .

 

You could take so many individual Dali paintings alone – such as Metamorphosis of Narcissus and certainly The Persistence of Memory – and be confident it would have ensured him a place in art history. But even if Dali had never picked up a paint brush, his prodigious writing would have etched his name in the halls of history’s geniuses.

 

It suddenly occurs to me just how prolific a writer Dali was. In addition to his many essays and articles and even manifestos, consider this astounding list (still only partial) of books he penned:

 

Babaouo

The Conquest of the Irrational

The Tragic Myth of Millet’s Angelus

Hidden Faces (novel)

Metamorphosis of Narcissus

The Secret Life of Salvador Dali

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Dali on Modern Art

Fifty Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship

Dali’s Mustache

Manifest Mystique

Open Letter to Salvador Dali

Diary of a Genius

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Dali by Dali

The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dali

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Les Diners de Gala

Le Wines of Gala

 

If that’s not genius, my friends, I don’t know what is.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dali and Nudity: A Match Made in Surrealist Heaven!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

The issue of nudity in art recently hit home with me in connection with my own amateur art career, but I won’t bore my readers here with details. It raises an important issue, though: that of the naked human form in art. How much, if any, is too much? What is in “good taste” and what is not? And how did it factor into Salvador Dali’s art?

 

It amazes me that, even in our ostensibly less-puritanical, more enlightened era, many people – often, though not always, women – still find the naked male and female body offensive when captured by an artist’s brush or sculptor’s chisel.

 

I’m not going to pontificate on the matter, however. Beauty – and disgust – are in the eye of the beholder, the height of subjectivity. The same would have to be said for what is acceptable and what goes too far. I also speak from an American perspective; it appears the European lens through which the matter is viewed seems a bit less judgmental or – dare I say it – prudish. At least that’s the impression I get.

 

For instance, while some were (and are) repulsed by Gustave Courbet’s controversial painting, The Origin of the World, seen below, others recognize it as art, pure and simple. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

Courbet's Origin of the World oil on canvas

Courbet’s Origin of the World oil on canvas

 

That said, Salvador Dali’s art ran the gamut – from traditional standards of good taste (however that is defined) to what some would term marginal, and to what others would call pornographic, if not conscience-shocking.

 

It seems clear that Salvador Dali always did what he felt he needed or wanted to, and damn the torpedoes. It wasn’t necessarily only with the issue of nudity. Scatological references weren’t off limits, either, as witnessed in works like The Hand – Remorse and The Lugubrious Game, in which, like it or not, viewers are not spared the formidable presence of feces.

 

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Unabashed depictions of male and female genitalia appear in a wide range of Dali’s works. And simple yet total nudity showed up even in very early works, such as The Picnic of 1921 and Nude in a Landscape of 1922-1923, when Salvador was a teenager.

 

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Of all art genres, perhaps Surrealism was the most conducive to embracing nudity – and certain forms of perversion. Certainly many Dali works – paintings, prints and others – delved into masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, incest, and sadomasochism.

 

Now, in terms of the nude as subject matter in Salvador Dali’s works, examples abound. I’m going to look at just a small sampling from a large reservoir of Dalinian immodesty . . .

 

Many of Dali’s nudes would fall into what most would likely call “traditionally artistic,” if I can coin a phrase here. I would include, for example, Gala’s Back, which is a beautiful work painted along classic lines. Even Galarina – where Gala’s left breast is uninhibitedly revealed – invites a classic and, I think, more respectful appreciation.

 

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But then there’s nudity in Dali’s art – full-body or partial – that for some begins to cross the line of decency. These might include William Tell (the voyeuristic treatment of the exhibitionistic penis is undeniable, not to mention a suggestion of castration, thanks to the scissors); Two Adolescents; and Female Seated Nude.

 

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And Dali’s creative world was well-stocked with many additional references to nudity, erotic and otherwise . . .

 

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

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‘World Exclusive’: Did Salmon Steaks Inspire Dali’s Best-Known Painting?

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian

 

It’s curious how dots sometimes get connected in the world of Salvador Dali. Often when you least expect them to. Often in most arcane and peculiar ways.

 

A friend of mine, who’s an avid reader of this blog, as well as of The Salvador Dali Society, Inc.©’s Facebook Salvador Dali page – Alicja Sieroslawska of Konstancin-Jeziorna, Poland – recently visited the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain for the first time.

 

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Alicja Sieroslawska of Poland at Dali’s tomb.

 

Alicja said she was very excited to visit “the place where one of my idols is…Officially there was no guide for our group,” Alicja shared, “but in fact I was a guide…I saw many of Dali’s works I hadn’t seen before, so I expanded my knowledge very much.”

 

She tells me among her favorites was the alteration Dali did of an anonymous Flemish still life – a work few Dali aficionados know about or seldom consider.

 

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It’s really quite an extraordinary work, measuring about 6 feet x 10 feet, and titled When It Falls, It Falls – the literal quotation, according to the Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation, of a tautological aphorism. “Dali seems to be illustrating the very process of the decomposition of matter,” the Foundation writes, “not without a tragic sense of humor: the soft (and edible) matter that transforms the figure of the pictures and converts the culinary elements of the picture into a lucid and foreboding nightmare of the physical disasters of death.”

 

It reminds us that Salvador Dali did a number of truly remarkable works in which he used someone else’s finished picture as his own starting point – then worked his transformative magic. Among other examples are his magnificent The Sheep

 

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And The Ship

 

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His Portrait of Mae West, Which Can be Used as an Apartment (gouache with graphite on a commercially printed magazine page)…

 

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The cover of an old Antiques magazine…

 

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And his popular suite of limited-edition prints called Changes in Great Masterpieces

 

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AND NOW TO A

‘WORLD EXCLUSIVE’!

 

But back to those dots. And how they got connected in a manner some may find quite provocative – because it just might be another clue to the ultimate inspiration that led to Salvador Dali’s most iconic, most famous painting subject of his career: those irrepressible soft watches.

 

While looking up references pertaining to Flemish still life’s Dali may have studied (in addition to the large, altered painting discussed above), look what I came across: another Flemish painting, whose title I do not know, but whose central images of salmon steaks absolutely look like soft Dali clocks!

 

Did the salmon steaks in this old Flemish still life inspire Dali's "soft watches"?

Did the salmon steaks in this old Flemish still life inspire Dali’s “soft watches”?

 

Indeed, the top salmon steak actually looks like it has on it the hour and minute hands of a clock, as well as that overall limpid look that made Dali and watches an inseparable pair. The bottom one similarly resembles a Dalinian watch.

 

Could this early Flemish painting be one Dali saw, admired, studied, and appropriated in his 1931 The Persistence of Memory in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City? Granted, it might be a wild and random association, completely and utterly arbitrary and coincidental.

 

Or it might just be another heretofore undiscovered link in the endless chain of mystery that so defined the life and work of Salvador Dali.

 

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