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The great thing about Surrealism was that, in theory – and often in practice – nothing was off limits. That included food, which played a significant role in Dali’s life, at and away from his easel and brushes.
In the studio, food’s symbolism took on multiple forms. There was the Eucharistic bread, of course, featured in a masterful painting like The Madonna of Port Lligat, and Nuclear Cross. Both paintings are so superbly painted as to be nearly photographic in their sharp realism.
Then there was the antithesis of religious meanings – the undeniably phallic representations of bread in works such as Anthropomorphic Bread and Catalonian Bread, both of 1932; and the provocatively titled canvas of the same year, Average French Bread with Two Fried Eggs without the Plate, on Horseback, Trying to Sodomize a Heel of Portugese Bread (one of the greatest titles ever, don’t you think?). Dali even romanticized and anthropomorphized bread in his charming oil, Two Pieces of Bread Expressing the Sentiment of Love (1940).
Weirdly contorted chop-like appendages and protuberances infiltrate the painting I briefly mentioned in an earlier column – Cannibalism of the Praying Mantis of Lautreamont (1934) – which continues to freak your Melting Times host out, as it somehow touches a raw and repressed nightmarish nerve in me!
And then, of course, there’s a rainbow of Dali works that feature some of the food items the artist loved best: the pomegranate in One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Cause by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate. The oranges in Southern California (1947). The grapefruit in the mixed-media lithograph, Flora Dali II. The sea urchins in a work such as Rhinocerotic Disintegration of Illissus of Phidias (1954). Cooked chickens in The Dream Places a Hand on a Man’s Shoulder (1936). Fish in Telephone in a Dish with Three Grilled Sardines at the End of September (1939).
Picture of Southern California (reproduced in the book, The Portable Dali; if you don’t have it, let Paul know and he’ll shoot a picture from his copy); Rhinocerotic Disintegration of Illissus of Phidias.
In two mediums other than painting – book publishing and limited edition graphics – food is what’s dramatically on the menu in Dali’s provocative book, The Dinners of Gala, and the mind-blowing 1977 lithographic suite of the same name (offered by The Salvador Dali Society, Inc., www.dalinet.com).
One or two lithographs from The Dinners of Gala suite; cover of The Dinners of Gala book
Dali at the dining table
Among Dali’s favorite foods were pink grapefruit, pomegranate, sea urchins (several photos show him picking out the sea creature’s meat with a knife), and this odd combination, mentioned by Russell Harty in the 1975 British Broadcasting Company’s documentary, Hello Dali: crayfish with chocolate sauce! While in New York City, where he spent the winters roughly from 1940 to 1978, Dali frequented various restaurants, but had a yen for Laurent’s and the tacky camp of Trader Vick’s.
Your Melting Times host recalls the time I visited Mr. Dali at the St. Regis Hotel in New York. It was 1973 (or was it the second time I saw him in 1974?). Doesn’t matter. What does matter is how just plain silly Dali got. At one point, from our position in the King Cole Lounge, we could see down the hotel lobby’s hallway to all the action on the street. Turns out some Con Edison workers were just outside the door, working on an electric, natural gas, or steam service problem of some sort.
Dali – hyper-aware that all eyes were on him (he always had a cadre of admirers around him) – suddenly looked toward the workers and loudly shrieked a most bizarre “Keek-eek-a-reeeeee! Keek-eek-a-reeeee!” I don’t know that anyone had any earthly clue what that meant, why he did it, or what he was trying to achieve. Except that, just maybe, Dali was simply in a mood to be silly. And undoubtedly to show off. In some ways, he was indeed a kid at heart. And certainly a bona fide Surrealist, through and through!
Though it hasn’t yet been published in English, a book by Louis Romero, published in Europe and titled All Dali in One Painting (that’s the English translation, anyway), set out to pay tribute to the great 1970 masterpiece, The Hallucinogenic Toreador. The title of the book pretty much said it all: it was to suggest that this remarkable work represented a confluence of Dalinian thought and imagery, all in a single picture. And in many ways it does.
But can you name a single painting in which you’ll find soft watches, lobsters, drawers, and burning giraffes? Just one canvas that contains all these famous Dali elements? Go ahead – try to think of one.
Ok, maybe the heading on this section of The Melting Times gave you a clue. If not, here’s your answer: The Dream of Venus, the huge canvas (done in four joined sections) that was unveiled in The Dream of Venus pavilion Dali created so magnificently for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It’s pretty cool to see the photo of Dali working on the large painting, too.
Picture of The Dream of Venus painting; photo of Dali working on it for World’s Fair pavilion.
Your Melting Times host recently stumbled upon an international award-winning surrealist photographer by the name of Edward Shmunes of Columbia, South Carolina, whose large color photograph, Dali Regis, was gifted to me by a friend. The work, pictured here, shows a poster festooned on a storefront window in New York City, promoting a Salvador Dali exhibition at the St. Regis Hotel from July 13 – Aug. 19, 1985. “What I found so surprisingly beautiful,” Shmunes told me about Dali, “was his softly interpretive landscapes that were not surreal, when I visited his museum in Spain.”
Surprises? Dali was full of them. Isn’t that one of the reasons we love him so?!
Until next time, Viva Dali!
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What’s so incredible about Salvador Dali’s genius as a painter is that there are many works of his where certain details could have actually made for brilliant and timeless paintings in their own right. Rather than being a relatively small part of a larger whole, they could easily have stood on their own as master paintings.
A great example is the awe-inspiring Crucifixion seen in the upper right of Dali’s tour d’ force of 1957, Santiago El Grande. Gaze upon that magnificent image of Christ on the cross – luminous rays of intense energy and spirituality streaming from his perfect, anatomically strong and beautiful body, with the palpable emotion of Jesus’ imploring fingers passionately curled in a kind of ecstasy – and you clearly see an image that could have rested on its own merits as a masterpiece.
Santiago El Grande
Crucifixion in Santiago El Grande
Another good example is Dali’s self-portrait in the lower left of The Ecumenical Council, 1962. This detail is so precise, so interesting, and so ideal as a kind of stand-alone image that it’s popularly seen on many book covers, calendar covers, and other items connected with Dali’s art. It’s simply one of the finest self-portraits ever painted by any artist, and – had it not been surrounded by all the magnificent details of The Ecumenical Council – would surely have come to be considered one of Dali’s best canvases.
The Ecumenical Council
A third and final example I’d like to cite for today’s Melting Times has an interesting twist to it. I’m referring to the heart-stopping beauty of Gala’s image in the iconic 1954 masterwork, Corpus Hypercubus. The handling of the gold satin robe is every bit as perfect as those painted by the Old Masters of the Renaissance. Just Gala, alone, with that look of heavenly adoration about her, would have made for a truly stunning painting.
But wait! Here’s something you may not actually have realized: Dali did, in fact, paint a very similar, but slightly different, view of this very image of Gala, becoming a separate and distinct canvas in its own right. The work is titled Gala Looking at Christ, painted the same year as Corpus Hypercubus, but far smaller at about 10 by 12 inches. It’s interesting to compare the two nearly identical works.
Corpus Hypercubus, alongside picture of Gala Looking at Christ
Dali’s Vision of Heaven?
Hmmm. How interesting that Salvador Dali painted his Vision of Hell (1962) but, to my knowledge, no vision of Heaven! What are we to make of that? He did, of course, paint a number of career-defining images of Jesus Christ, such as those in Christ of St. John of the Cross, Corpus Hypercubus, and The Sacrament of the Last Supper. They were all unconventional depictions of Jesus.
One, however, is quite dramatic in its close resemblance to a more traditional conception of Christ, though it still has that certain touch that makes it uniquely a Dali: The Sacred Heart of Jesus, 1962. It is remarkably similar in composition and approach to a painting he did a year earlier – Madonna with a Mystical Rose.
One work whose subject is consistent with our discussion, but whose look I confess to never being overly fond of, is Dali’s 1971 painting, The Second Coming of Christ. This work was commissioned by someone who suggested that Dali illustrate verse 19:11 of the Bible’s Book of Revelations, which included a horse’s rider dressed in a red robe dipped in blood. That important detail appears in Dali’s interpretation, as you can see here. And perhaps it’s all close enough to heaven, after all.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus
Madonna with a Mystical Rose
The Second Coming of Christ.
The beauty of writing a weekly column is that, if you don’t much care for something like my ability as a poet laureate in residence here at The Salvador Dali Society, Inc., there’s always next week’s column! So here goes – a poem I penned years back but which I’d never published. So you’re reading it here first. It was created several months before Dali died in 1989, observing a heroic figure in such a rather sad physical and emotional state..
Ode to Dali: The Fire Dimmed
By Paul Chimera
He retreats into a darkened world,
His body weak and drawn,
A once vital man of mystery,
The drama sadly gone.
Where’s the Dali we once knew,
Whose antics made us smile,
Painter of dreams and limpid clocks,
Horizons that stretch for miles?
We weep before your Glasgow Christ,
Whose beauty means compassion,
We praise the sureness of your brush,
Which you guided with such passion.
What your paintings say to me,
No poet can convey,
What words could ever match the grace,
Of your landscapes by the bay.
So cruel the persistence of time can be,
To finally dim the fire,
How dark the shades of night descend,
How sadly they conspire.
Sleep well, sweet prince of Surrealism.
Until next time, viva Dali!
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Are they kidding down in St. Petersburg, Florida? Last I knew, a proposed design for the new and improved Dali Museum there – a $35 million undertaking, with a 2010 grand re-opening scheduled – finds a blue glass blob slung over a boxy warehouse-like structure. Some are calling it a “blue turd.” Others are simply incredulous – your Melting Times host included – that such a non-Dali-like concept is apparently gaining traction. I hope someone gets to the right people and – politics, budgets, and hurricane-resistant details aside – impresses upon the key power brokers that a Dali Museum deserves to look not just different, but Dalinian!
Shame on the St. Regis, too!
Speaking of architecture, the uniquely opulent and historic St. Regis Hotel in New York City – home to Salvador and Gala Dali for decades when they would arrive by ship from Spain to winter in the Big Apple – has nary a mustache whisker of a reminder that this stately structure was the American home of the 20th century’s greatest artist.
There was a time when a room off the St. Regis’ main lobby featured a larger than life sculpture by Dali – the dramatically surrealistic bronze, Woman with a Head of Roses of 1981. But those days are long gone. So far as I know, there’s not a single photograph or any vestige of the great artist having brought a special prestige, glamour and undeniable intrigue to the Fifth Avenue landmark.
My wife Anne and I will be in Manhattan mid-July and, time permitting, I plan on snooping around the St. Regis a little to see if I can get some answers as to why Dali’s more than 30 years of living there has not been immortalized in some fashion. How great would it be to have preserved his and Gala’s sixteenth floor suite/studio! It could have become quite a tourist attraction – and profit center – for the St. Regis, it seems to me.
I still say someone or some group ought to look into erecting a permanent statue in honor of Dali, prominently situated in Manhattan. He deserves it!
Spellbinding mystery raises more questions than answers.
There’s a 50-something antiques dealer in Laguna Niguel, California, who says he owns the “missing Spellbound Dali collection.” Most Dali aficionados are familiar with the popular Dali-designed dream sequence in the Hitchcock film, Spellbound, starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. Among the images is a giant curtain of huge eyeballs being sliced with a grossly oversized pair of scissors. It was all part of Peck’s hauntingly surrealistic dream, and director Hitchcock chose Dali for his legendary imagination and vivid, sharp imagery.
But what most people don’t realize is that – according to both Fleur Cowles’ biography of Dali, The Case of Dali (sometimes subtitled The Biography of a Great Eccentric), 1959 – and Theatre Arts Magazine of 1944 – Dali reportedly produced “more than 100 works” for that movie project.
More than 100! So where are the 90-plus works (drawings? watercolors? paintings?) that were never used for the dream sequence, which was originally envisioned to span some 20 minutes, but ended up running just over two minutes in the final cut? The aforementioned California collector claims to own them all, kept partly in his home and also in some nearby storage locations.
I’ve seen photos of some of the alleged Dali’s, and can opine for now that, as the Gala-Dali Foundation is said to have noted (according to the collection’s owner), “some are right, some are wrong.” (But I’m not an appraiser or authenticator, so that’s strictly my personal opinion for now.)
The Melting Times will follow this saga and keep readers informed when new information becomes available.
Is Stan really the man?
Speaking of mysteries, just what are we going to be reading in July in Dali & I: The Surreal Story, a forthcoming new book by one Stan Lauryssens? Hollywood has contracted with him to film a movie of the same name, starring none other than the Academy Award-winning Al Pacino.
But your Melting Times host has had some e-mail correspondence with the author of Dali & I, who claims he saw the huge painting, Tuna Fishing, in the flesh several years ago in an exhibition in Barcelona. Yet I’m virtually 100 percent positive that Tuna Fishing has never been lent by its owners, The Paul Ricard Foundation of France, since it was stolen in the early 1970s (and later recovered). Did Mr. Lauryssens get his facts wrong? Make an honest mistake? Become confused? Something else? It leads me to wonder just what his tell-all book is going to tell us all. We’ll be keeping a sharp eye on this story, to be sure. Look for my review of the book later this summer.
Rodents were fair game, too.
I recently spotted what I thought was a dead rat on my driveway. Turned out it was a stray leaf, but from a distance it offered up a form resembling a deceased rodent. So naturally it got me thinking about Dali’s curiously disquieting Child Eating a Rat! And why not? I seem to find a Dali angle in almost everything!
So what about this work, subtitled The Perverse Polymorph of Freud, and created by Dali by converting a print with the use of ink and watercolor? Why would he paint something quite so, well, so disgusting: an adorable image of an infant, inside of whose mouth dangles a filthy, bloodied rat?
Child Eating a Rat
The answer, of course, is one worth remembering, should anyone ask you about other seemingly off-the-hook Dali works. Four simple words: He was a Surrealist!
And what was Surrealism but a grand playground in which one’s wildest ideas and most inexplicable juxtapositions of form and fantasy could run free, unrestrained, and uncensored! Thus, it was perfectly legitimate that, if Hitler happened to have appeared in a Dali dream – or nightmare – the Furor might make an appearance in a Dali canvas. In this case, a child eating a rat – with a row of “baby” teeth unlikely in a non-surrealist version of a child that young – was grist for the Dali mill.
Rauschenberg retires a life largely ‘unknown.’
On May 12, one day after Dali would have celebrated his 104th birthday, abstract artist Robert Rauschenberg died at age 82. He made a name for himself synthesizing abstract concepts and constructions with everyday three-dimensional found objects. But he was no household name like Dali. Why? At least two reasons: as good as he may have been in his genre, it is still a genre essentially lacking in identifiably intellectual content.
As such, it was simply off-center from what most people could relate to.
And the other reason 99 out of a 100 people you’d approach in a shopping mall wouldn’t know who Robert Rauschenberg was: he didn’t have Dali’s inimitable gift for self-promotion. This is not to take anything away from Rauschenberg. Rather, it’s to underscore the remarkable artistry of Dali as a self-merchandiser. It helped make him one of the most successful artists in history. That, and, oh yeah – an astonishing measure of old-fashioned talent.
Until next time, viva Dali!
* Salvador DalÃ (Spain 1904-1989). Freud’s Perverse Polymorph (Bulgarian Child Eating a Rat). 1939. Mixed Media 40 x 35 cm. Â© Salvador DalÃ, FundaciÃ³ Gala-Salvador DalÃ, Artists Rights Society, 2008.
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Just this last month of May, Hong Kong launched the region’s first international art fair in over a decade. This ten-year gap is actually rather ironic given that Hong Kong is essentially one of the most beneficial areas to hold such an event due to the fact that there are absolutely no taxes imposed on the import and export of art. In addition to this advantage, the entire Asia-Pacific region represents a huge base of wealth, representing “27.1% of global high net worth individual wealth (Asia Pacific Wealth Report 2006-Cap Gemini/Merrill Lynch). Such a prosperous region exemplifies the perfect place to launch new galleries and initiate resurgence in art collecting. Many living in Hong Kong have recently recognized this and have raised Hong Kong’s status to now being the third largest art market in the world. Thus, 2008 seems to have been the perfect year to launch an international art fair. An advisory group was formed that recognized the advantages of the region and created this year’s inaugural ART HK 08. Held May 14th to May 18th, the fair was the only fair in Asia to present the best of both Modern and Contemporary Art, not only from Asia but from all over the world.
The region of Hong Kong easily provided the perfect location for such an international event given that is situated in the center of Asia. This ease of access for Asian visitors was crucial to the fair because the Asia-Pacific territories represent a strong buying audience created by a new growth in commercial galleries. However, the fair did not appeal strictly to Asian art dealers and collectors, rather it attracted art lovers from all over the world. In total, the fair represented art from 102 top contemporary and modern art galleries across the globe. However, the fair also displayed work from lesser known and younger galleries representing emerging artists.
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Mountains of musings are swirling around in your Melting Times host’s head this week. It’s a condition brought on by the multitude of delights intrinsic to the endless artistic surprises of Salvador Dali.
Where to begin?
How about with Dali’s 1958 portrait of a man whose last name was nearly identical to his own: Mr. Chester Dale. I once had a phone conversation with his gracious wife . . .
Mr. Dale was a wealthy and important art collector and connoisseur, primarily fond of the French Impressionists, but famous in fact for donating two of the world’s most important Dali’s: Corpus Hypercubus to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and Sacrament of the Last Supper to the National Gallery of Art in our nation’s capital.
In the early 1980s, your Melting Times host was researching a proposed book on Dali’s portraiture (a project later abandoned), and I was successful in tracking down Chester Dale’s wife. She told me Mr. Dale (1883-1962) was extremely close to his beloved dog, Coco, and that Dali joked that what he was really creating was a portrait of the poodle! Its master was merely an adjunct to the primary portrait subject!
Dali’s portrait of Chester Dale and Coco
I was taken by surprise when Mrs. Dale revealed to me that she never much cared for Dali’s art, though she found him “a perfect gentleman.” And while Mrs. Dale said she wasn’t enamored of Dali’s works overall, she enthusiastically acknowledged that the portrait Dali did of Chester was, and I quote, “one corking good painting!”
I’m thinking that many of you probably didn’t know that Dali purposely “tore” one of his canvases. But don’t get nervous – it was only in a tromp l’ oil or fool-the-eye way. In the 1960s, some contemporaries of Dali were so bankrupt in the idea department that they were literally taking to ripping parts of their canvases. Dali – not to be outdone, and unable to resist the opportunity to demonstrate his untouchable technique – “tore” one of his canvases, too.
But merely through the illusion of a tear!
The result was the lovely The Servant of the Disciples of Emmaus (1960), in which Dali painted what looks like a flap hanging down from a rip in the canvas. He made appear what wasn’t there! Dali’s magic, hard at work. Brilliant!
The Maid of the Disciples of Emmaus
For the birds . . .
Everyone’s a critic.
When Dali unveiled his large Ecumenical Council oil painting of 1962 (Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida), some complained that the dove over the figure representing the Holy Spirit looked stuffed. It somehow didn’t look real or quite “alive” enough, they groused.
Dali had the most brilliant, the most, logical, the most truthful explanation for them: “The dove looks stuffed because Dali used, as a model, a stuffed bird!” And guess what? Dali used stuffed seagulls as models for details in his Tuna Fishing painting of 1967-1968, though I know of no complaints.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall . . .
Speaking of tears in Dali paintings – real or imagined – I’m reminded of three relevant incidents. First, Tuna Fishing – despite its immense size – was actually stolen in the early 1970s from its private collection off the coast of France. It was rolled like a rug and found some years later in an airport warehouse area.
A painting in the Reynolds Morse Collection – before the establishment of the Dali Museum – was once lent for an exhibition, then came back with a nail scratch in it, much to the horror of Morse and his wife, Eleanor, along with the couple’s vow to never again let their works travel from their Cleveland, Ohio home. All the Morse works, of course, have long since been in the permanent collection of the Dali Museum in Florida.
And it was only a few years ago that Dali’s huge masterpiece, Apotheosis of the Dollar, was found folded – FOLDED! – in a warehouse, reportedly so that it would take up less room! Unbelievable. That unthinkable move contributed to condition problems for the precious canvas, which required expert conservators to work on and successfully restore.
Apotheosis of the Dollar
Mix and match the Dali way . . .
Dali enjoyed interchanging certain images in his paintings, from one work to another. It served as a form of thematic linkage, connecting the dots, as it were, in the grand puzzle that was part of the genius of Master Dali. I believe it was A. Reynolds Morse who coined the term “Dalinian Continuity” to express this purposeful thread running through much of the artist’s work.
While many of you are no doubt familiar with some of this approach – the way, for example, the bust of Voltaire first appeared in Dali’s painting of the same name (1940), then reappeared in 1970′s Hallucinogenic Toreador – other examples of the approach may not be as immediately apparent.
For instance, take a look at the heart-stopping beauty of Dali’s Virgin of Guadalupe. Now look at those two kneeling, praying figures. If you think they look familiar, that’s because the same two disciplines appear identically in The Sacrament of the Last Supper (1955).
Virgin of Guadalupe
Santiago El Grande
Keeping your focus on the 1959 Virgin of Guadalupe, take a look at the billowy clouds toward the bottom of the canvas, and the lone jasmine in the glass vase. Now go to the monumental painting (and your Melting Times host’s favorite Dali masterwork) Santiago El Grande (1957). Look at the atomic cloud burst at the bottom. The same cloud pattern, the same centrally positioned jasmine flower, a symbol of purity.
Finally, at the top of Virgin of Guadalupe, against which Gala appears with a jeweled crown on her head, are the same sunflower florets that appear in Dali’s awe-inspiring Ascension of Christ (1958).
Do the genius, the surprises, the excitement ever stop when it comes to our dear Salvador? Friends, I’m so glad you know full well the answer to that.
Happy Birthday to our friend and hero!
May 11, 2008, would have been Dali’s 104th birthday. So Happy Birthday, sweet prince!
Until next time, viva Dali!
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The Dalinian dichotomy was as obvious as the mustache on his face! One minute he’d be hard at work, assiduously researching and preparing studies for a masterpiece. Then we’d read about some crazy Dali happening that deliciously fed the news media’s insatiable appetite for sensational headlines.
Or Dali would unveil the most awe-inspiring religious masterpiece – then wax candidly that he himself had not quite found true faith.
The double-sided Dali, if you will, was also evident in his desire to be Diego Velasquez and Charlie Chaplin, all rolled into one dynamic persona called Salvador Dali!
So today I thought we’d look at the serious and the, well, somewhat silly side of Dali. That serious side, of course, produced some of the most enduring images of the 20th century – images surely destined to be among the most vivid and trenchant depictions ever executed in oil paint. We’re talking about breathtaking tours d’ force like Christ of St. John of the Cross, The Sacrament of the Last Supper, and Santiago El Grande.
Homage to Those He Loved
Today, more specifically, I want to look at some Dali works where he made distinct references to other artists who had a profound influence on the Catalan surrealist. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as they say, and Dali – while not imitating other artists – in some cases made scrupulously precise recreations of parts of their works, as he nodded reverently to the masters who came before him.
Ceiling is Believing
One example – which your humble Melting Times host believes has never been reported in any book or publication of which I’m aware – is the ceiling panel Dali painted for the Alleusis Palace in Barcelona, Spain. Titled The Royal Hour, the 1969 work, 10-ft. in diameter, was clearly inspired by Andrea Mantegna’s Putti and Servants, the ceiling of the Palazzo Ducale in Italy.
Both Dali’s work and its precursor are shown here, and you can plainly see not only how the decorative pattern of the work’ circumference relate to each other, but even the wooden pole, which in Dali’s work has a dandy soft watch hanging over it!
Picture of Dali’s Royal Hour ceiling panel, which is reproduced in color on pgs. 88 & 89 in the book, Dali by Dali; also use image of the earlier painting by Mantegna, supplied by Paul from a magazine article.
Just as the decorative motif in Dali’s Barcelona ceiling painting was an exact transcription of the Italian artist’s work, so too did Dali wish to revitalize a 1513 masterwork by Raphael, who Dali consistently named among his three favorite artists of all time: Raphael, Vermeer, and Velasquez.
Thus, in Dali’s beautiful Virgin of Guadalupe of 1959, the infant Jesus held in the arms of Gala-turned-Madonna, is an exact replica of the same Christ child shown in the arms of Mary in Raphael’s Sistine Madonna. Dali didn’t attempt to make his baby Jesus figure look somewhat like Raphael’s – he endeavored to make it look exactly like Raphael’s! And he absolutely succeeded. Dali never wanted us to forget the Old Masters, who so inspired the modern genius.
Virgin of Guadalupe Raphael’s Sistine Madonna
Barking up the Renaissance Tree
Dali was first and foremost a Spaniard, and he constantly made connections in his work to his proud heritage and his link to the great artists Spain produced. Consequently, it was perfectly logical that, in Dali’s 1950 painting, Dali at the Age of Six Lifting the Skin of the Water to Observe a Dog Sleeping in the Shadow of the Sea, his realistically painted canine is borrowed directly from a 19th century oil, titled Martirio De San Cucufate by Anye Bru.
“Dali at the Age of Six, Lifting…”
Gala, the Divine
While there are many additional examples of Dali’s tributes to other artists, paying respect to them by resurrecting some of their older images in his modern works, let’s close the serious side of today’s discussion with Dali’s lovely 1952 masterwork, The Ecumenical Council. Focus for a moment on the image of Gala, superbly painted in flowing gown and bearing a clear resemblance to Michelangelo’s statue of Moses.
Moses by Michelangelo
All of which was Salvador Dali’s way of keeping alive the great painters of earlier eras, ingeniously weaving some of their classical imagery into Dali’s surrealist and Nuclear-Mystical way of looking at the world. Unlike most of his contemporaries, who shunned traditional concepts of great painting in favor of the ‘splash, drip & drool” school, Dali not only deeply respected and emulated the Renaissance masters, but actually borrowed some of their images to include as parts of his own inimitable compositions.
Surrealist Sense of Humor!
But Dali also had something else to bring a smile to our faces: a sense of humor that was not to be denied. In future issues of The Melting Times, we’ll be sure to look at additional examples of this. Today, I’ve focused on two, and I hope you find them as delightfully amusing as I do . . .
What’s on the Rhino-Tube Tonight?
You’ve got to be made of stone not to instantly smile – maybe even let out a hearty laugh – when looking at Celestial Ride (1957). Probably the most dramatic of the many portrayals of Dali’s paradoxical and infamous rhinoceros on skyscraper-tall flamingo legs – an amusing aspect in itself, of course – the animal also has a rather surprising left flank: it’s become a TV set, and on the tube is the fast action of a baseball game! It’s comical and fun and very much in keeping with Dali’s declaration that it made perfect sense that he should be a serious artist who creates masterpieces, yet does so in the context of having fun, too – of being Charlie Chaplin-like.
Celestial Ride by Dali
Let’s close today’s chapter of the Melting Times with a work that literally makes me laugh out loud every time I look at it. It’s Femmes Metamorphosees from Dali’s Seven Lively Arts series of paintings produced for Broadway impresario Billy Rose in 1957 – one of the replacement pictures Dali painted, after a fire destroyed the original set.
Here, Dali represents the ballet (in Rose’s production, Stravinsky wrote the score for the ballet), giving us human-like creatures shown in their tutus! Prancing lobsters and cavorting ants as only Dali could pull it off. Positively hilarious, endearingly charming, don’t you think?
Well, hope you had a good laugh, and an earlier look at how Dali never wanted us to forget the great traditions in the history of painting.
Until next time, viva Dali!