Posted by: PaulChimera
Salvador Dali had written that Gala was eating grapes when he first met her, so why shouldn’t the most important person and influence in Dali’s life occupy the exact foreground center of Suburbs of the Paranoiac-Critical City; Afternoon on the Outskirts of European History – a colorful and exquisitely painted canvas from 1936. And there she is — holding up grapes!
Dali, ever the master of the double-image, employs the technique in several instances in this bizarrely–titled work. It’s not so much double-imagery here as it is the transformation of one image’s shape into a separate object of the same basic shape. Let’s take a closer look.
Look at the grapes Gala holds; they are the same basic shape of the horse to her right, which in turn resembles, morphologically, the skull just below it. Likewise, the mirror on the nightstand echoes the classic architecture of the palace at the extreme left. Then, moving your gaze to the right, you’ll notice a distant tower, which is essentially identical to the form of the girl skipping rope in the courtyard below it (i.e., her body and the bell are virtually identical in form).
Of course, the distant bell tower is a smaller version of the large stone portal, part of which is supported by a crutch – an oft-seen prop in numerous surrealist works by Dali. Note that this exact image shows up in Dali’s lovely Eternity of Love lithograph of 1976, part of his Trilogy of Love print series.
Finally, the cabinet in the right foreground finds an echo in the gold arched space in the far distance, part of a typical Catalonian town.
This surrealist canvas is somewhat unusual, in that it melds quintessential surrealist elements with a sense of a more classical style. The beautiful sky and clouds and the tight, smooth technique to which Dali was always faithful lend a fluidity and yet controlled structure to this at once both curious and charming oil on board (private collection).
Dali’s invention of his so-called “Paranoiac-Critical” technique allowed for “delirious interpretations” of the world as he saw it – awake, and through his dreams. His “paranoiac-critical city” here is thus a strange annexing of different vistas, yet all flowing together in a manner pleasing to the eye. That’s part of the “critical” aspect of Dali’s paranoiac-critical technique – taking “crazy” ideas, at times, yet depicting them with such exactitude that we, too, get to enjoy the unusual associations he made between everyday objects and scenes. Dali aimed to please, and did he ever!
Posted by: PaulChimera
You can’t look at Dali’s Oeufs sur le Plat sans le Plat (Eggs on a Plate without the Plate) of 1932 without being amused and captivated! Put aside any ambivalent meanings, hidden images, or Freudian overtones. The composition is simply eye-popping, because it’s a realistic depiction of the unreal. It makes you think, “I’m not sure what I’m seeing, but I think I like it!”
That’s what Salvador Dali was so great at: taking imaginary and impossible elements and portraying them with such precision that we do a double-take: is this a photograph of what I’m looking at? And just exactly what am I seeing – or think I’m seeing?
There’s enough documentation, including many of Dali’s own comments about the central imagine in this picture – fried eggs – to explain that the primary reference is to his reported intrauterine memories. Dali spoke often, and seriously, of that blissful time inside the womb! He’d even had a naked photo of himself taken in the fetal position within the image of an egg – an idea hatched by Dali and executed by photographic collaborator Philippe Halsman.
In Dali’s autobiography, he wrote of his intrauterine memories: “Already at that time all pleasure, all enchantment for me was in my eyes, and the most splendid, the most striking vision was that of a pair of eggs fried in a pan, without the pan; to this is probably due that perturbation and that emotion which I have since felt, the whole rest of my life, in the presence of this ever-hallucinatory image.”
While this blogger has heard it said that fried eggs have also been cited as symbolic of Gala’s eyes and female breasts, two less-popular theories have also emerged. One is that the brilliant yoke of fried eggs is reminiscent of the sun – so important to life in general and inspirational in Dali’s work in particular.
Another theory, noted by author Robert S. Lubar – one I’d never heard of until recently – is that Dali’s fried eggs may be associated with the male sexual anatomy. If there’s a testicular reference here, perhaps it makes even more sense, then, that we might view as phallic the long ear of red corn affixed to the tower, in which tiny mother and child figures are seen through a small window. Could they in themselves be symbolic of an intrauterine existence, here protected by the “maternal” foreground structure?
Paralleling the egg dangling from a string is a dripping pocket watch, evoking Dali’s soft timepieces in another painting of the same year – his most famous: The Persistence of Memory. Oeufs sur le Plat sans le Plat is one of the favorites in the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Posted by: PaulChimera
I’ve dug Salvador Dali’s Autumn Cannibalism (1936) for decades, before I finally got to see it in the super Centennial retrospective exhibition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., in 2005. What an extraordinary, surrealistic, provocative and compelling approach to Dali’s thoughts about how a country on the verge of unspeakable conflict – the bloody Spanish Civil War – is literally devouring itself!
Everything is contorted – not just the two seemingly melting figures, brandishing fork, spoon and knife as they feast generously on each other’s flesh, but in the way Dali has integrated the land itself and even a sense of domicile, represented by the dresser-like foreground revealing an ominously dark and empty drawer – perhaps suggesting that no one quite knew what the future held. Notice, as well, a drawer emerging from the chest of the torso at right, yielding additional cutlery, which may be a metaphor for guns and other weaponry.
Flat book reproductions are to seeing paintings in person what a poor-quality audiotape is to seeing a favorite band in concert. What surprisingly drew my attention when I saw Autumn Cannibalism in the flesh was the vivid, almost glowing butter knife shown in the right foreground. It includes under-glazing and a slight impasto (raised paint), giving it a shimmering effect that really pops from this remarkable canvas – one of Dali’s most important of his purely surrealist period of the 1930s. You just don’t notice such a detail when viewing a simple reproduction.
Strangely enough, while the concept is intended to express a torn country literally and figuratively devouring itself, Autumn Cannibalism has a kind of tame if not nearly whimsical nature about it, such as the spoon scooping out a part of the figure’s doughy form. It’s clearly one of Dali’s great triumphs as a surrealist painter and a special jewel in the collection of the Tate Gallery in London.
Posted by: PaulChimera
Broadway impresario Billy Rose purchased the Ziegfeld Theatre in the 1950s and commissioned Salvador Dali to paint seven works for the theatre’s lobby – works that would illustrate the opening production in Rose’s Seven Lively Arts series. One of those arts was what at that time was called Boogie-Woogie, and that became the title of Dali’s painting, interpreting the then-current frenetic dance craze.
When a fire destroyed the works in 1956, Dali repainted them that same year. But, of course, no artist could duplicate previous works exactly. So Dali re-imagined them and, some say, did an even more brilliant job the second time around.
Here, then, we see the formerly titled Boogie-Woogie in its second life, as Rock ‘n’ Roll, where two dancers are insanely lost in the beat and bedlam of contemporary, popular dance – so passionate that the man almost seems to be strangling his partner, while both bodies are twisted and contorted literally in naked passion! The exaggerated elongation of the man’s left leg recalls the way the figure was treated in Dali’s 1930s jewel of an oil, The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft, Which Can be Used as a Table. And the hand grasping the wrist above recalls the way Dali handled his Five Continents (United Nations Commemorative) of 1966. One is reminded of Soft Construction with Boiled Beans as well.
While Rock ‘n’ Roll is just plain cool (Dali came out later that year with a perfume of the same name), I personally liked the original version (Boogie-Woogie) better. It’s pictured here, in black & white, complete with one dancer’s head replaced by an exposed brain, and, in the background, a flaming tuba – a direct nod to Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte.
It’s all, of course, a matter of taste – just like music itself. One of the real tragedies in Dali’s career was the loss of the original Seven Lively Arts series of canvases. LIFE magazine reproduced the complete set in the 1950s.
Posted by: PaulChimera
How extraordinary that Dali could paint perhaps a hundred spheres that, while showing a sense of very deep perspective, manage wonderfully to offer us a lovely portrait of his Russian-born wife and muse, Gala.
This pretty canvas, Galatea of the Spheres — a treasured jewel of the collection of the Teatru-Museu Dali in Figueres, Spain – was executed during Dali’s Nuclear-Mystical period, emphasizing the notion of atomic particles, which new discoveries in nuclear physics were bringing to light, and which positively intrigued Dali and literally changed the way he viewed the world and his artistic place in it.
Like all “matter,” even the immortal visage of Madame Dali is composed of atoms, around whose nuclei swirl electrons and protons – thus eliciting the “moving” or “flying” elements seen in the area of Gala’s hair in this dazzling and wildly unconventional portrait. And yet, it’s a remarkably faithful likeness of her, given its unusual structure – more evidence that Dali was a genius without parallel.
The overall style of Galatea of the Spheres also nods to Dali’s enduring fascination with mathematics and divine proportions. According to one author, Dali said that painting Gala as the sea nymph, Galatea, “embodied the ‘unity of the universe’ and the ‘music of the spheres, to which the sirens are dancing.’”
The feminine beauty and delicate nature of this picture points up just how far beyond merely a “painter of soft watches” Salvador Dali really was!
Posted by: PaulChimera
The titles of Dali’s paintings are often, in themselves, something to behold! In the case of One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate, Dali is quite literal in titling this delightful painting to convey the essence of what’s going on in the scene he’s so deftly portrayed.
This relatively small but enormously powerful and perfectly painted canvas (collection: Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid) is one of the best in all of Surrealism when it comes to demonstrating what that artistic movement was about – namely, painting one’s dreams! Here we see a naked Gala reposed in a dream state, hovering just above a rocky slab that itself is suspended somewhere in space and time – a murky environment that captures the way most dreams play out.
We see a bee indeed buzzing about one of two pomegranates, which according to one source is a Christian symbol of fertility and resurrection. Notice how the smaller pomegranate casts a shadow in the shape of a heart. What a great touch!
Just what Gala’s dream is about is not quite clear – are dreams ever anything but puzzling journeys into strange spaces? – but it would not be a huge leap to suggest that the rifle and bayonet may be seen as phallic symbols, just as it’s been shown definitively in various drawings by Dali that he equated a fish with the male sex organ!
Surrealism also set out to shock viewers with bizarre subject matter and ideas mined from the depths of the subconscious – and Dali does a great job of startling us with a fish emerging from a burst pomegranate, disgorging a tiger (part of his stripes apparently sucked off by the fish) – which in turn disgorges a second tiger. The parallel between the yellow and black coloration of the tigers and the bee (yellow jacket) is surely not accidental.
Could it all suggest a rape fantasy? Or just a woman dreaming of sexual intercourse? It’s left to you and me to decide.
In the background, a link to many other Dali paintings can be found in the ascending elephant with ridiculous flamingo legs – an obsessive element Dali included in many paintings, drawings, watercolors and prints. The stony obelisk on the beast’s back derives clearly from Dali and Gala’s visits to Rome, Italy, where Dali frequently saw and was intrigued by Bernini’s statue of a similarly posed elephant supporting a tall obelisk on its back, located in the Piazza Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
How fascinating to see Dali show us a moment in time – literally “one second” of time – before the sharp bayonet blade pricks a sleeping Gala to cause her awakening from her dream. Gala and dreams: two of the most important factors in the life and work of Salvador Dali.
Posted by: PaulChimera
Look very, very closely at Dali’s great work, Velasquez Painting the Infanta Margarita with the Lights and Shadows of His Own Glory (1958, Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA). What you think you see may not be what you see, I think!
Let’s look close.
Dali is paying tribute to his all-time favorite Spanish Master, Diego de la Silva Velasquez, by recreating – in a most unusual and dazzlingly innovative way – Velasquez’ Infanta masterpiece. On the left side of the canvas, nearly half way up, you can actually see a small dark image of Velasquez working on his canvas, the basic figure of the Infanta displayed.
But the Infanta of Dali’, presented in the same basic manner, is very large – taking up virtually the entire height and width of the canvas. Her head is composed of rhinoceros horns – Dali’s nod to his obsession with the logarithmic curve or spiral, which is found naturally in a rhino horn’s unique shape. The rest of the Infanta’s form is comprised of a kind of confetti of abstract-expressionistic brushstrokes – Dali’s way of showing how abstraction can be “acceptable” when it’s part of something more meaningful.
You can even see a kind of splattering of the red carnation in the girls’ left hand – all inspired by tracks of atomic particles caught on photographic film, which intrigued Dali immeasurably when scientists were revealing these observations during then-new discoveries in intra-atomic physics.
Dali painted this large work as the 300th anniversary of the death of Velasquez was approaching, and to pay homage both to his Spanish hero and the institution where the original Infanta hangs, Dali has painted a detail of Madrid’s Prado Museum in the upper left corner of his modern work, which happened to be the single favorite Dali painting of the late Dali Museum benefactor, Eleanor R. Morse.
Posted by: PaulChimera
Actually, Dali greatly admired Picasso, calling him his “artistic father.” By the same token, the two Spaniards’ politics differed substantially. And their relationship – once pretty good – gradually went as limp as a droopy Dali watch.
Indeed, Dali went on to claim that Picasso was a “destroyer” of art, concerned with ugliness, while Dali embraced beauty. After all, the elder artist produced all those crude and coarse canvases with facile distortions of people’s faces and forms in his numerous canvases.
I recall a Q. & A. in the national press years ago, where a reader wondered, “Who was it who said that Picasso painted too much? Everywhere you go you see a Picasso?” The answer, not surprisingly, was Salvador Dali, who remarked that, by contrast, he was “content in painting a single masterpiece a year!”
In Portrait of Picasso, in the collection of the great Teatru-Museu Dali in Figueres, Spain, Dali respectfully places his hapless subject on a pedestal, though the carnation might be what one places on a tombstone! The ambivalence and paradox continue: the lute in the elongated spoon, which extends from Picasso’s brain, is said to be “the symbol of the lover,” according to one authority, yet the rock on Picasso’s head, his drooping tongue and chest, and the overall deformity of his facial characteristics seem anything but flattering.
It is undoubtedly one of the most sardonic yet amusing creations to come from the wildly imaginative, sometimes iconoclastic mind of the Master of Surrealism!
Posted by: PaulChimera
Leave it to Dali to believe that he and Christopher Columbus shared Catalan ancestry, despite Columbus having been born in Italy! But Dali’s conviction must have given him an even greater creative spark when Huntington Hartford commissioned him to paint The Discover of America by Christopher Columbus (1958-’59). Where to begin with this immense, richly-detailed masterwork?
Once again, Dali has put both he and his wife in the picture. Gala may be more easily noticed on the banner that a young Columbus holds as he steps onto the new world. She’s painted in the style of Murillo’s Madonna figures, and the handling of her white robe is positively Renaissance-like.
Have you found Dali’s self-portrait yet? In the foreground, just to the right of the sailing ship, you’ll see him with head bowed, holding a Crucifix – a small recreation of his iconic Christ of St. John of the Cross of 1951 (a theme I’ll come back to in a moment).
Dali paid homage to his great Spanish precursor Velasquez with the tall lances at right, clearly quoted from Surrender at Breda, while it has been said that Dali’s studio assistant, Senor Bea, posed for the Catholic Bishop in the lower left of the 14-foot-tall canvas.
Along the bottom is a dark, curious stretch of the “new world,” in the center of which is a sea urchin shell with orbiting bands. In fact, as Dali told Reynolds and Eleanor Morse – who went on to purchase the painting for the Salvador Dali Museum, now in St. Petersburg, Florida – Dali was predicting that an American would be the first to set foot on the moon!
Columbus’s raised foot casts a kind of lunar shadow, then, as he claims America – and, about 10 years after the painting was finished, Armstrong set foot on the moon.
Dali’s penchant for hidden imagery again finds an outlet in Discovery of American by Christopher Columbus. Follow those tall lances at right, upwards, and you’ll see how the thin vertical lines morph into another, larger view of Christ of St. John of the Cross. And the mirror image of that same figure also appears as dots upon the flags. Look closely!
This work must be seen in person to be fully appreciated, in part for its enormous scale, and also due to the unique melding of a classic Renaissance look with Dali’s modern photorealistic technique.
Posted by: PaulChimera
How perfectly fitting that Salvador Dali would take his most famous Surrealist painting and reinterpret its iconic image some twenty years later, when his artistic approach shifted from Freudian theories of the subconscious to new discoveries in nuclear physics. Dali’s 1931 Persistence of Memory now became The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory – though even Dali knew the image was not so much “disintegrating” as it was simply being shown as it might look at the atomic particle level.
Just as scientists were realizing that matter could be broken down to minutely small particles, Dali decided to show us what actually could have been titled The Discontinuity of the Persistence of Memory.
The addition of the fish in the later work aside, the two paintings – separated by about two decades – are virtually identical in composition and size, but of course the second work now shows no two objects, or even parts of objects, touching one another.
It’s a brilliant pictorial expression of Dali’s absorbed interest in nuclear science, demonstrating how seriously and intently he observed the world around him and, in this case, how he penetrated deep inside matter itself to discover a whole new world.
It became a world that inspired Dali’s Nuclear-Mystical period, and while many critics insists that Dali’s best works were created in the 1930s, there’s an increasing realization – profoundly buttressed by last summer’s remarkable Dali: The Late Work exhibition at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. – that many of Dali’s best paintings came out of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.
The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory is one of the most important paintings of Dali’s career and one of the premier canvases in the permanent collection of The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.