Author Archives: Paul Chimera


Dali’s Preoccupation with Death borne of Early Tragedies

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Was Dali too focused on death? And if so, why? Intriguing questions. Of course, “too” is a relative term. How overboard Dali may have gone in his preoccupation with death-related images is a matter of perspective. But there’s little debate that it most certainly sprang from some very early influences in his life – two in particular.


We know Salvador Dali the artist was the second Salvador Dali. His birth was predated by the birth and, only 21 months later, the tragic death of his brother – the first child, the first son, the first Salvador. Dali’s grieving parents kept a picture of their lost son on the wall, next to the image of the dead Christ on the cross.


Dali the artist – born exactly nine months after the demise of the brother he never knew – never quite got over feeling like he was the first Dali, reborn. So he fought aggressively to establish his own unique identity in an attempt to free himself from the memory of the first child, which hung like a thick, dark cloud over Dali’s grieving parents.


And then – like a MOAB bomb on top of an already decimated scene – Dali’s mother dies of cancer when Dali was a vulnerable 16 years old.


Any wonder Dali and death were never far apart?


Hence, Dali’s lifelong preoccupation with “the great tragedy of death,” as he put it. Indeed, Dali insisted he would defeat death by one day having himself frozen. He reportedly was offering a substantial sum of money to any researcher who could effectively advance the science of cryogenics, such that Dali could be assured his frozen body would one day be brought back to life.


That never happened. But what did was a remarkable body of provocative, thought-provoking works – paintings, drawings, prints and more – that focused in some fashion on the grand conundrum facing the human condition: the issue of death. Some of the many include…


Dali’s and Luis Bunuel’s surrealist cinema classic, Un Chien Andalou, which included this scene of a dead donkey…




The Enigma of Desire, which featured the repeated phrase “ma mere” (my mother), in a young artist’s pain brought to canvas.


Salvador Dali - The Enigma of Desire


Woman Sleeping in a Landscape, which makes us wonder if the woman is sleeping or deceased.


Asleep or deceased?

Asleep or deceased?


Geological Destiny, whose skulls are a traditional symbol of death.




Atavism of Twilight, in which the male figure quoted from Millet’s Angelus – a painting with which Dali was obsessed, and which itself Dali believed originally included not a basket on the ground but a child’s coffin – has become a skeleton, suggesting that the woman – whom Dali saw resembling a praying mantis – has devoured her mate, as a female mantis does after copulation.




Specter of Sex Appeal, where little Salvador looks up in horror at a huge, gruesome figure that looks like death personified.




Morning Ossification of the Cypress, where the flying horse is reduced to dead-cold stone.




Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano. This is a quintessential example of the appearance of the two great themes that permeated so much of Dali’s surrealism: death and sex.




The Horseman of Death is an extraordinary painting, aptly named and inspired by Arnold Bocklin’s haunting painting, The Isle of the Dead, on which Dali based a number of his paintings of the 1930s.




The Face of War – skulls again – express poignantly the endless futility and savagery of war.




And, alas, Portrait of My Dead Brother. While the boy depicted is clearly much older than the first Salvador, I depart from most other scholars/experts/specialists – call us what you will – in that I actually see a more than passing resemblance to Salvador # 1. Here’s a photo of the ill-fated boy. What a beautiful child he was.


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Sometimes Salvador Dali was Just Plain Shocking!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Where is it written that a professional Dali blogger has to like everything Salvador Dali created?




So today I’m focusing on a peculiar work from 1929: The Sacred Heart of Christ, which features this outrageous statement by Dali: Sometimes I spit on the portrait of my mother for the fun of it.




It’s never been a favorite of mine. And it is most decidedly not to be confused with Dali’s The Sacred Heart of Jesus of 1962.


Nothing shocking in this one by Dali.

Nothing shocking in this one by Dali.


The work was done entirely in black, though the medium and dimensions are unknown. The image is blasphemous, what with the contour of Christ with halo and blessing hand, along with the sacred heart and Crucifix – inside of which is the scandalizing statement that further solidified the estrangement between Dali and his father. And it surely didn’t win Salvador (which means “savior”) any points with the Christian community.


Of course, about nine years earlier, Dali’s mother died of ovarian cancer; it was an unimaginable blow to the master of imagination in the making. And, of course, it made Dali’s statement on canvas all the more shocking.


Therein lies the main point, I think: to shock.


To make it clear from early on that Salvador Dali was not afraid to wear his nonconformity, his iconoclasm on his sleeve. It’s further testament to Dali being a true surrealist, a man who not only painted surrealistically, but lived surrealistically.


The aim of Surrealism, in part, was just that – to shock. To tip societal norms on their collective ear. To shake things up. Zero restraints. Dali’s sacrilegious work here sure accomplished that!


Why did Dali do it?


One theory is that he wanted to piss off his father and his sister, Ana Maria. This was a time when neither his father nor his sibling were exactly enamored of Gala. That’s an understatement. This work, then, was surely something of a retaliatory salvo. It worked, because it generated a seismic uproar in the family.

Happier times


But we must not overlook another possible phenomenon. There may in fact have been times when Dali actually felt what he expressed in the painting! That, in itself, may sound shocking. Yet at times most all of us have inexplicable, confessional feelings that leave us nonplussed and conflicted. And not a little guilt-ridden, to boot.


What could be more repulsive and shocking to the conscience than asserting you want to spit on a portrait of the person who gave you birth – and just for the fun of it!


When people say the world of Salvador Dali was not exactly a tidy place, this picture is one example of just what they meant.


Fortunately, Salvador Dali was a man of myriad faces and moods. For every icky bit of spine tingling and eye-rolling his art may have caused, there were other works that were inarguably beautiful.


I believe The Sacred Heart of Christ hangs in the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris. Somewhat untypical of Dali’s style, highly consistent with his individuality. No, it’s not a favorite of mine. But I’ll never stop admiring how Dali remained true to himself, no matter what he took on.



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Dali’s Wife Immortalized in More than 80 of his Paintings

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


It’s Gala’s turn.


At least that’s how most are viewing the newly opened Gala Salvador Dali exhibition at the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, which runs through the rest of the summer and into the fall until the 14th of October. After all, the show – featuring upwards of 300 paintings and a spate of related memorabilia, including letters, photos, apparel, and other “Galinian” artifacts and ephemera – is all about Elena Diakonova, better known as Gala.




She was the power behind the throne. A Russian muse who influenced several early 20th century artists, most especially, of course, Salvador Dali.


So it seems fitting that, 36 years after Gala’s death, the world is drawn to the first-ever exhibition dedicated entirely to her influence and importance as a powerful force in the direction of some of the unique creative minds of the last century.


But Gala’s turn to shine actually occurred for some 50 years – throughout the long arc of Salvador Dali’s prodigious and prolific career. It’s an extraordinary phenomenon, in a sense: Gala appeared in more than 80 major works by the Master. Sometimes as the singular subject of the canvas, sometimes as a small detail, and sometimes twice in the same painting.


Of the multitude of Dali’s depictions of his wife, here are a few that are especially notable . . .


The first appearance of Gala in a Dali painting, so far as I’m aware, was titled, appropriately enough, First Portrait of Gala (1931), which actually was a photocollage.




Then, ironically, a year later Dali painted Automatic Beginning of a Portrait of Gala – albeit the highly realistic portrait went unfinished.


Never finished, forever remembered.

Never finished, forever remembered.


Speaking of realism, Dali executed a near-photographic likeness of his wife in an otherwise more ethereal masterpiece when, in 1952, the awe-inspiring Nuclear-Mystical masterwork, Assumpta Corpuscularia Lapislazulina emerged from his easel.


Detail of "Assumpta" is scrupulously realistic.

Detail of “Assumpta” is scrupulously realistic.


One of Dali’s smallest paintings, if not the smallest, is his Portrait of Gala of 1933, in the Dali Museum in Florida. It may be diminutive in size, but its impact on museum visitors is huge, due to the wonderful detail Dali achieved on such a tiny panel.


Not much more than 2" x 3" of Gala-inspired magic!

Not much more than 2″ x 3″ of Gala-inspired magic.


If ever there were an unusual pairing of Gala’s portrait and something else, it would be hard to top his Portrait of Gala with Two Lamb Chops Balanced on her Shoulder (1933). “I love my wife,” Dali reasoned, “and I love chops. Why not paint them together?” Then again, maybe this one tops it: Portrait of Gala with a Lobster (Portrait of Gala with Aeroplane Nose), 1934.


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Of the few paintings Dali did that included not one but two portraits of his wife, one of the most realistic is The Angelus of Gala (1935), correlating the double portrait with Dali’s obsession over Millet’s The Angelus, a version of which appears as a framed picture on the wall. The other is The Battle of Tetuan, in which we see Gala both at top center and turbaned on a horse next to Dali in the middle foreground.


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Perhaps the piece d’ resistance when it comes to the portraits Dali painted of Gala is Galarina of 1944-’45, his Mona Lisa of the modern era.


Dali's "Mona Lisa" -- Gala!

Dali’s “Mona Lisa” — Gala!


And one of his highest priced works at auction showed Gala nude from behind in My Wife, Nude, Contemplating her own Flesh Becoming Stairs, Three Vertebra of a Column, Sky and Architecture (1945).




Gala appeared straight out of a Murillo painting in Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1959); sullen looking in Hallucinogenic Toreador (1970) (she didn’t care for the bullfights); flirty and barefoot in the stereoscopic work, Gala’s Foot (1974); unabashedly and classically naked in Leda Atomica (1949); spiritually revered in The Madonna of Port Lligat (1950); atomically composed in Galatea of the Spheres; reflected in a mirror in Dali from the Back Painting Gala from the Back Eternalized by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected in Six Real Mirrors (1973); and Raphalesque in The Virgin of Guadalupe (1958).


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I know of no other artist who made the love of his life more ubiquitous in his work than how Salvador Dali immortalized Gala, now the subject of her own internationally important exhibition.


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



Dali’s Tiger; Gala’s Time to Command the Spotlight

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Are there some paintings by Dali – or prints, drawings, or sculptures for that matter – that just keep speaking to you? Calling your name? Inserting themselves in your mind’s eyes?


And are you sometimes puzzled by just what it is about a particular Dali work that beckons you? That won’t let you go?


This is exactly what occurs when I consider Dali’s large 1962 canvas, often shortened to the title, The Royal Tiger, but is known in full as Fifty Abstract Paintings Which as Seen from Two Yards Change into Three Lenin’s Masquerading as Chinese and as Seen from Six Yards Appear as the Head of a Royal Bengal Tiger.


One of the great works in the Teatro-Museo Dali.

One of the great works in the Teatro-Museo Dali.


This may sound strange, but every time I look at the work, it takes me back to an earlier period in my life. It reminds me of something from my childhood, but I can’t put my finger on it. Was it a board game of some sort? The back of a cereal box? A hidden-image page in an early scholastic magazine?


In more recent times, am I thinking of Rubik’s Cube? Does Dali’s Skull of Zurbaran painting enter the mental mix? I’ll probably never know the answers.


Rubiks_Cube sklffff


What’s more, The Royal Tiger has always struck me as rather untypical of Salvador Dali’s work. It has an almost pattern-like look to it, as if it could have been a design for a woman’s scarf. Or a flashy necktie. Or a jig-saw puzzle.


In short, it’s a work that’s always puzzled me, while at the same time intrigued me by some of its peculiar and impressive details.


One such particularity involves the apparent rips or tears in the canvas, seen in the eyes of the two Chinese faces in the triangle shapes under the eyes of the tiger. This trompe l’ oeil technique of fooling the eye was demonstrated in a similar fashion by Dali three years earlier in his 1960 religious painting, The Maid of the Disciples of Emmaus.


As in 'Tiger,' the canvas tears aren't real!

As in ‘Tiger,’ the canvas tears aren’t real!


At a time when his modern art contemporaries were literally ripping holes in their canvases, Salvador Dali chose to create the illusion of such damage, thanks to his razor-sharp technical skill.


There’s certainly far more in The Royal Tiger painting, especially given Dali’s allusion to Lenin. Dali specialist Dr. Elliott King writes that the work “…playfully engages its audience with optical trickery whilst concurrently suggesting the seriously tenuous relations among the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and the United States, all at the brink of nuclear war.”


Geopolitical matters aside, it’s interesting that a tiger has appeared not only here, but in Dali’s popular work, One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate.


Detail from "One Second Before Awakening..."

Detail from “One Second Before Awakening…”


We know a lion has long symbolized the predatory and aggressive nature of paternalism; i.e., Dali’s father, from whom he was estranged. Could this apply to the tiger as well? More to ponder. And that’s what makes Salvador Dali so fascinating.



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Speaking of fascinating, it’s just been announced that Dali’s intriguing and enigmatic wife will be the center of attention this time, when the exhibition, Gala Salvador Dali, opens Friday, July 6, at the Museu Nacional d’Arte de Catalunya in Barcelona, running through October 14.


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The show purportedly will try to answer the question, “Who was the real Gala?” In addition to works by Dali, there’ll also be pictures and photos by Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Brassai, and Cecil Beaton.


Little by little, I believe Gala – more enigmatic than her husband – will be more fully revealed, since she was a powerful force behind the kingpin of surrealism.




Several recent media reports that came across my radar note that a pair of lamps made in Britain, which Dali designed in collaboration with Dali patron Edward James, have been temporarily stopped from being exported.


According to an internet blog, “The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports say that the pair of lamps, which feature champagne glasses (see photo) are the finest examples of British modern lighting and have banned them from export. It wants a buyer to pay 440,000 (British pounds) for them, otherwise the export ban will be lifted….Richard Calvocoressi of the Reviewing Committee of the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Significance said:


“The lamps are everything one would expect of Dali. Witty, erotic – the champagne cups can be read as female breasts – the lamps are also strikingly sculptural, standing about the height of a person, with the line of vertical cups resembling a spinal column; a brilliant example of fantasy lighting.”


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





Mother Nature Can’t Take Wind Out of Dali’s Sails!

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


BREAKING NEWS (St. Petersburg, Florida)… What meteorologists are calling a freak hurricane, packing far more punch than would be expected this time of year, has destroyed virtually all of the permanent collection of priceless art in the Salvador Dali Museum here, sources say.


Major paintings by the Spanish Surrealist master – including enormous canvases such as The Hallucinogenic Toreador, Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, and Lincoln in Dalivision – have been reduced to sagging, worthless sheets of former greatness…




But could it happen? In theory, it could. In reality, the likelihood is very, very remote.


The thought of the world’s largest and, in my view, best collection of original masterpieces by Salvador Dali being destroyed by such a massive display of Mother Nature’s fury is unimaginable. Obviously, human and pet life comes first, but coming to terms with the loss of such a priceless and extraordinary collection of artistic genius would really never find closure.


There was the fear of this very thing happening, most especially back before the Dali Museum moved to its present, virtually hurricane-proof building. No one is naïve enough to believe it would be impossible for the museum’s treasures to be devastated by a hurricane, but from all indications such a disaster appears to be virtually impossible.




That’s because the museum at 1 Dali Boulevard, designed by architect Yann Weymouth, was built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.




Wikipedia tells us a total of 33 recorded tropical cyclones have reached Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale in the Atlantic Ocean north of the equator, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes of such intensity occur once every three years in this region, on average.

On the wisdom of aiming for higher ground, the Dali Museum houses the nearly 100 paintings and other works on its third floor, reportedly 40 feet above the 100-year flood plain. The building’s walls were designed to withstand a Category 5 storm, with winds of 165 miles per hour, while the glass of the building is said to be capable of withstanding the 135-mph winds of a Category 3.






The walls are 18 inches thick with, according to the architect, a greater than normal amount of steel reinforcing beams inside.

We’ll leave the niggling details at that. The overarching point, of course, is that anyone staying up at night worrying that the incomparable collection of Dali originals in St. Petersburg is in any danger of being dunked into oblivion needs to rest easy.

And for those prone to nightmares, the image of Dali’s paintings, sculpture, holograms, prints, watercolors, drawings and more washing out to sea is far more frightening than any bit of stormy phantasmagoria Dali himself may have whipped up on canvas.


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







Some Believe Dali was an Even Greater Writer than Artist

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Salvador Dali, one of history’s great writers.


What? Writer? I thought Dali was an artist? You know, the Spanish surrealist who was a press agent’s dream, with his penchant for publicity and ability to make headlines with every twitch of his mustache.


All true. But Salvador Dali was also a prolific and deft writer. And more than a few critics and scholars have opined he was actually a better writer than artist. There was a time when I found that notion unsupportable, but no longer.


A non-typist, Dali wrote his books in long-hand!

A non-typist, Dali wrote his books in long-hand!


Dali had extraordinary facility with words. While it was not uncommon to find much of his writing verbose and inscrutable, there are plenty of examples that prove he was an undeniable artist when he took pen rather than brush in hand.


And just as Dali was a precocious child when it came to painting – his first landscape at age six is remarkable by any measure – he began his writing career early on, too.


Landscape painted by a 6-year-old Salvador Dali.

Landscape painted by a 6-year-old Salvador Dali.


While attending L’Institut de Segon Ensenyament de Figueres at age 15, young Salvador began working on the student publication, Studium. He contributed artwork to it, but also wrote extensive articles on such topics as the great masters of painting for each of the publication’s six issues, extoling the virtues of Leonardo, Goya, Durer, Michelangelo, El Greco, and his favorite, Velazquez.


A more mature Dali, age 31, penned Conquest of the Irrational, an important little book – now a collector’s item – that offers insights into how Dali’s work was informed by Freudian theories. It was published by Julien Levy, who had a New York gallery in which Dali exhibited, including the showing of The Persistence of Memory.




In 1937, after having painted one of his best pictures – The Metamorphosis of Narcissus, which he brought with him to his meeting with Sigmund Freud – Dali wrote a poem of the same name, published in book form. It helped make it clear that his eponymous painting was one he himself held in especially high regard.



dali_narcissus1 Metamorphosis_of_Narcissus-Salvador_Dali


The Secret Life of Salvador Dali came along in 1942.


The Secret Life of Salvador Dali_ 91724


It was the first of two autobiographical books he would write, and is recommended to anyone who truly wants to explore the various influences that made the limp watchman of Surrealism tick. Its opening three sentences are legendary:


At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.


Two years later, Dali – not merely content with developing as one of the great artists of his time – actually penned a novel, Hidden Faces. It’s a difficult read, laden with symbolism, but it’s a novel nonetheless, written at a time when Dali was producing some of his best oil paintings.




In 1948, Dali set pen to paper to create the instructive book, 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, in which he spoke to budding artists about various secrets that made his special brand of craftsmanship sing.


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I noted earlier that Dali’s Secret Life was one of two autobiographies (has anyone else ever written more than one autobiography?!). The other came along in 1963 and remains my favorite book by Dali – Diary of a Genius. You have to love the immodesty of the title alone!


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Many of his Diary entries were wonderfully detailed and expressive. On June 30, 1952, for example, Dali wrote:


A day again destined chiefly to slavering and salivating. I finished my breakfast at six in the morning, and as I was rather impatient to start the great sky of my Assumption, I first assigned myself the task of painting meticulously one single scale, though the most brilliant and silvery one possible, of a flying fish that was caught yesterday. I did not stop till I really saw the scale shimmer as if inhabited by the very light of my brush tip, in the same way Gustave Moreau wanted to see gold come out of his.


There are many other things Salvador Dali wrote – including additional books, such as Dali on Modern Art and his extraordinary cookbook, Les Diners de Gala, plus numerous articles, reviews and much more.


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My purpose in today’s blog post was mainly to broadly sketch the breadth of Dali’s work in this genre, underscoring that the man who did everything in art was also a man whose prowess with the written word was, once again, genius.


Artist. Writer. Genius.

Artist. Writer. Genius.



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








Salvador Dali http:/

Dali’s Simulation of Paranoia Secret to his Magic

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


Can you name one of the most important keys to Salvador Dali’s genius? Something the average Dali aficionado probably doesn’t know about? Something intangible yet widely considered among scholars to be of enormous consequence in the ability of Salvador Dali to create so many extraordinary paintings, prints, drawings and works in other media?


What I’m talking about is exceptional. Exclusive to Salvador Dali. And a major secret to his magic.


I’m referring to Dali’s unique Paranoiac-Critical Method. It was a creative technique that enabled the artist to see in ways few others could.


The way Dali himself described his Paranoiac-Critical Method was typically inscrutable and confounding: “a spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on the critical and systematic objectivity of the associations and interpretations of delirious phenomena.”


Now that’s a mouthful! Fortunately, Dali experts Dawn Ades and Fiona Bradley, in their book, Dali – A Mythology (SDM Editions, 1998) boiled it down into terms easily understood. They noted that Salvador Dali had an interest in the clinical condition of paranoia “as a means of destabilizing the interpretation of visual clues.”


But it’s these five words they wrote that may be most helpful in understanding Dali’s Paranoiac-Critical Method: Dali’s “controlled simulation of paranoid vision.”


This is one of the best – and briefest – explanations of this very special creative technique I’ve ever come across. Dali was able to simulate paranoid visions, but in a controlled, deliberate manner – then take those paranoid visions, which often involved the appearance of double-images, and transfer them methodically and carefully to canvas. That was the “critical” element of the Paranoaic-Critical Method.


The one painting I find the most impressive, of the many Dali did that were the result of this unprecedented method of seeing in new ways, was his huge Hallucinogenic Toreador of 1970 (Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida). The story has been told many times of how Dali happened into a store to buy a box of Venus de Milo-brand drawing pencils.


On the cover of the pencil box was the image of the famous Greek statute of Venus de Milo – ordinary to everyone else, extraordinary to Dali. Because his ability to simulate the state of paranoia led to a vision others would simply be incapable of having. In this case, he saw in the breast and abdomen of the Venus figure what appeared to be the image of a nose and lips.

three venus the-hallucinogenic-toreador-1



This very sighting was the genesis of what some consider Dali’s single greatest work. This is one of those phenomena where now it’s virtually impossible to look at that pencil box cover and not see what Dali saw.


Salvador Dali http:/

A simple pencil box inspired a legendary masterpiece, thanks to Salvador Dali’s Paranoiac-Critical Method. No wonder that, years back, a local St. Petersburg TV station produced a documentary titled “You, Sir, Are a Genius.” You’ll get no argument from me.


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


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

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


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


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


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


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


Dali and Chanel

Dali and Chanel


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


Dali lighting up??

Dali lighting up??


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


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


portrait-of-colonel-jack-warner portrait-of-mrs-jack-warner


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



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


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


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


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


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


Chaplain was Dali's hero.

Chaplain was Dali’s hero.


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


Salvador Dali painting Laurence Olivier, 1955


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


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


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


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


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


Dali and B.B.

Dali and B.B.


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



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


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

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


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


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


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




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


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


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




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


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




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


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


Just further evidence of the man’s genius.


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







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)