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I believe one of Dali’s greatest works is not an obvious surrealist painting per se. Rather it is only after analysis doesn’t this work enter the surreal, thus, what appear very real turns unreal through interpretation. This exercise in itself is another subtle mind game which exist throughout the works of Salvador Dali. Perception is never just perception, and what appears to be something is almost always something else. Let’s take a closer look at a perfect example of this in Dali’s paintings.
This work, Dali From The Back Painting Gala From The Back Eternalized by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected in Six Real Mirrors (1972), is a brilliant example of Dali’s mastery of technical painting. Yet, this painting is an attempt to reveal psychological insight taking place at the moment of the painting, which is the subject of the painting itself. The title to the work is typical in Dali’s paintings, long, descriptive, and slightly surreal. The title is supposed to reflect the phenomena, in other words an objective description of what is happening, but of course it is not objective. It is a subjective description made to look like an objective one, meaning, “What I’m seeing right now is how I want YOU to see it.”
What does the title mean by “Six Virtual Corneas” and “Six Real Mirrors? Well, let’s break down what is going on. We see the painter, and his canvas, which for all we can see is empty. We see Dali and Gala’s reflection in the mirror, though something is off, they are both missing their right eye. We see their left eye, 2 eyes. We can infer, that the viewers of the mirror, Dali and Gala, also have two eyes each (which we don’t see), that makes four, plus two equals six. These are eyes are the corneas, they are also the mirrors. The eyes are reflections, but what are they reflecting, apparently an immortalized Gala. How is Gala immortalized, through Dali’s eyes and through his work. What Dali sees is an incomplete “Dali” and incomplete “Gala”, they will be complete through his painting. In fact, the mirror in the painting is the painting, it is what Dali sees, and what he sees is Gala-Dali unfinished, that is, in the process of becoming, not done, but, immortal.
The important point here is that Dali cannot see this eternalized couple himself, he needs something else to “look through”, the mirror is symbol for this, but it is not the looking through apparatus. What Dali needs to look through is see himself reflecting back on himself. He needs Gala to do this, to project his thoughts on her and through her, so he can see them both. In other words, imagine sitting next to some while you are painting. They can’t see what your painting. For a moment you make eye contact, in that moment you not only see them, but you also infer what they might be thinking of you. So through that look you get an idea of yourself. For Dali this means, starring at himself to get to himself, and what he is doing is immortalizing Gala. In that intimate moment he is living through his creation of Gala, a creation that we see as “unfinished”, he can never finish it, cause she is eternal.
You can see this work throughout many of Dali’s paintings, and in Dali prints and graphics. What do you think?
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The last days of spring are upon us and just around the corner is the summer. So today we’ll look at one of Dali’s earliest works as a surrealist, The First Days of Spring.
What makes this work so interesting is that in it are some of the very first and famous examples the “Dalinian Landscape”. The “Dalinian Landscape” is one of Dali’s trademarks. Most noticeably it is an expansive bland terrain, the setting for Dali’s dreams to unravel. It is Dali’s unconscious. Like many of Dali’s works there is always a pair somewhere in the distance, this represents Dali and his father, or past memories.
The plane here is used repeated in Dali’s work. In Dali’s prints and graphic works we see it over and over again. It acts as his canvas within the canvas. The spring is a representation of new beginnings, a blossoming of the soul. For Dali, during this time of his life, his artistic perspective was being reborn.
As we move into summer think about your recent spring and how you have been reborn.
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If you are a Dali lover then you quickly realize how Dali used themes and symbols almost obsessively throughout his art work. For example, melting clocks appear all over Dali’s paintings. You will also see what is considered the typical “Dalinean Landscape” a desolate infinite plane. These aren’t just random objects, these are important symbols which Dali used to convey deep insights about the world. He repeatedly went back to these themes because he thought they best exemplify the message he was trying to tell. We are going to take a briefly look at one of these themes….ANTS!!!
In Dali’s work ants represent decay, decomposition, change. Dali discovered ants as a child. He would see colonies of ants devour entire large animals. He was fascinated by how these tiny insects where able to produce such large changes. Ants are present in Dali’s most famous work, The Persistence of Memory. They are devouring a pocket watch, that is destroying time. They are also present in Dali’s famous film; Un Chien Andalou. Here the ants are devouring the palm of a hand. So ants destroy things, what does this mean. It means it ceases its permanence.
Dali uses ants as a metaphor for our perception of reality. Our perception of reality changes reality. Nothing is permanent, things erode, all things change, even time. What Dali is trying to state is that we are completely tied to our perception. We and our perception are the same, we change, the things in our world change. There is no constant. All things will end. Dali knows that, it is a fear of his too. Dali wishes to be immortal. How can he do this if he too will decay one day, if his legacy will decay? He tries to embrace it. With his ants Dali discovers a universal truth…everything ends.
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Time is reality and reality is time. All things change. I recently had the opportunity to re-watch Dali Dimension, which can be purchased here, and got to think about Dali’s melting clocks. I wanted to see if I could simplify some of the science and try to reach some basic understanding of the philosophy behind one of the most famous paintings of all time, The Persistence of Memory.
The influence of Einstein on Dali cannot be underestimated. Though it is thought that The Persistence of Memory is fully inspired by Einstein’s theory of relativity, to this Dali once answered….no, it’s not. As the story goes Dali was inspired by watching a piece of camembert cheese melt in the sun. He then envisioned melting clocks. Relativity theory is addressed in this painting. What Dali was inspired by with the piece of cheese was its changing ability. That is, the cheese had a form and then some time passed, and now has a new form. Form and time are interdependent, reality is time. Everything changes.
Time is simply change. For Dali “time is illusion” time in the sense of being an entity out there doesn’t exist, what does exist is the “changing of things”. The fact that things change gives us our reality. All things change, and because of this we can create a world we want to. For Dali this was the ultimate expression of art, art isn’t paintings, it is creating your life. This all starts from the very simple premise, all things change.
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Perhaps my favorite work of Dali is The Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1936). Dali once remarked that the work was concerned with death and petrifaction of Narcissus (narcissism), and his transformation into a flower. Because Narcissus was so in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, because he could not touch the reflection he suffered, thus the gods “punished” him by transforming him into a flower. Let us use some psychology to attempt to understand what Dali’s goal was when painting this masterpiece.
Narcissism is the idea that one projects a “self” and broadcast this self out into the world. One wants everyone to believe what he or she believes himself to be. Let us be clear that this doesn’t necessarily mean egotistical, that just means believing you are best. One can have self beliefs that are negative, perhaps “I’m an unhappy and lonely, and I suffer for my art”, or positive “I deserve everyone’s respect and my emotions are important.” Whether or not the statesmen reflect something that is actually true in that person’s life is not important, it is the relationship we have with those statements. It is the idea that we want others to believe this about us, it isn’t good enough to just be those things, but have others know we are those things. In doing so we tend to objectify others (and ourselves) and because of this objectification we are unable to connect with others completely thus we suffer. In the painting Narcissus cannot actually connect or embrace his reflection, though he tries. This is akin to making others believe in what we want them to believe. While we might believe to convince maybe people we are a person, that person is ultimately an illusion. There is no “self” out there. Narcissus suffers because he wants so badly to have this self. Think about your fantasy life, the one you usually think about throughout the day; what my perfect significant other should be like, if only I had more money, if only I had a better this, lost some weight, it goes on and on. We want this things, but we don’t want to work for them, and usually we want this things so other’s notice them.
Dali beautifully portrays this struggle. Solidified is Narcissus, he is stuck viewing only his “reflective” self. We see his future life as a flower; he is transformed into an image of beauty. The flower though is less of a rebirth than a human, Narcissus had digressed in his life, he turned into just an image of beauty and nothing else. The flower, while beautiful, cannot really do anything else. This painting is Dali’s attempt to bring fourth powerful ideas set by Freud. His message here is that we transform into what we meditate on, going out and doing the actual things we want will makes us greater than we imagined. To be Narcissus is simple to contemplate on what we want, to evolve beyond that, we must actually go out there and do it.
What’s your favorite Dali???
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Happy Holidays to all from the Salvador Dalí Society! We are all excited to celebrate the holidays. If you are at a lost as to what to get your beloved ones, we suggest Dalí Dimension. It is the perfect gift for Dalí lovers. Dalí Dimension is a documentary about the passions of Salvador Dalí. It investigates the surrealist’s obsession with science, psychology, and math. It explores the influence that Freud and Einstein had over the Spaniard. Click here for more info.
Dalí fancied using multimedia. For a twenty year stretch from the 1950s – 1970s Dalí extend his talents to a different medium. Greeting Cards. During those year he produced dozens of greeting cards for Hoechst, a German pharmaceutical company. Particularly Dalí created Christmas Cards. These cards were distributed to different doctors and pharmaceutical representatives in Spain. They were well known for displaying Christmas tree roots and brilliant designed, with witty messages written by Dalí himself.
In 1946 Dalí painted Noel, a celebration of Christmas through a surrealist’s expression.
The work is a beautiful winter scene adorned with the traditional Christmas trees. One of the things most interesting about this work is the space in the middle. Much hasn’t been said of Dalí’s use of space, more particularly, negative space. But here we presented with this gapping column flanked by two arched structures. It almost feels as if there is a face that should be placed there. Could it be a gateway? But where does it lead to? It opens to nothing, just vast empty land. What do you think?
I wanted to share these Dalí tidbits with you. We’ll be back with more insightful Dalí post soon. Enjoy!
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We’re going to start a series of blog post about Salvador Dalí’s lithograph suite, Changes In Great Masterpieces. This series is an exploration through recent masterpieces in the history of art. Through Dalí’s eyes we are invited to a modernization of these works by such masters as Rembrandt, Vermeer, & Velasquez. Each of these works is not only a brilliant technical achievement in the art of painting but also a highly intriguing and fascinating commentary on psychology and philosophy. Great works of art make statements. These works represent statements about our inner most being. Ultimately Dalí, through his works, portrays himself as a psychologist. He sees himself as a student of Freud. That means everything that goes through his brush is first filtered through his surreal-psycho analysis. We’re going to see if we can take a peek at what Dalí felt when he looked at these paintings.
We’ll start our conversation with Dalí’s print, Velasquez: Maids of Honor (Las Meninas). In each work from the series Dalí takes the original painting and adds some small but important detail. Think of Dalí’s addition as a highlighter, he wants you to see the real and original work but focus on something particular. Simply put, he’s presenting you a classic work with modern highlights.
Las Meninas is often regarded as one of most complex and intriguing works of art ever. The work is layered with composition and juxtaposition. There are many places one can go to to read about this work from an art history standpoint. We don’t want to dissect the entire work, just simple elements that point to psychological suggestions. We want to examine it through Dalí’s lens.
Here are the two works below
This work has been described as a “snapshot”, in that the characters of the piece aren’t “posing” in the traditional sense. It is attempting to show life in the middle of activity, or life as it is. At the left of the piece we see the artist, Velasquez, working. He pokes his head out to take a look at his subject. But what is he looking at? It has been suggested that the mirror in the back of the room holds the reflection of a king and queen, and that it is this pair that Velasquez is painting. But they too are also looking “outside” of the painting and into our reality. The artist is gazing back at us.
As viewers we gaze at the work of art. At the same time we interpret it, we are in a sense its creators, and its meaning comes from our interpretation of it. What Velasquez, in the painting, is painting our gaze of the art, that is, our interpretation. You and the artist and the subject is the art. The art does not stand alone; it needs a viewer to bring it to life in order to “mean something”. We started off with this work in the series because it is exactly what Dalí presents in the series, his interpretation.
What Dalí is emphasizing through Velasquez is that; art isn’t anything unless it is viewed, the viewer is necessary for the painting to be art. Only in that moment when the viewer and the work are present and when one sees one’s self as the viewer of art does art begin it life as a work of art. More importantly, this is how we live our life. A pen is only a pen when it is used as a pen, when it is “penning”, a hammer is only a hammer when you are “hammering” with it. Our lives are moments of mini-environments we create with our interaction with things, art is solely there to interact be interacted with, it has no other use other than as a subject to be reflected on. I believe what Dalí is suggesting is that art is best medium to present truths about the world because its only purposeful function is as an arrow pointing to truth, because it is simply a mirror of our interpretation of the world.
When we create a piece of art it will automatically be infused with our world view. It is like a fossil, it will be able to tell you something about the world it comes from.
In the original work the doorway is occupied by a shadowy figure. We are unsure if this figure is gazing at us, leaving or entering the room? It is in between our realization. Dalí has replaced this figure with what appears to be a servant in the room behind the studio. The message is clear; there is definitely someone in the other room. The doorway is clear, you can enter. Dalí felt that this work represented a transition in the history of art, a transition that would eventually lead to psychology. Dalí addition simply asserts that we are no longer in transition; we are firmly entrenched in a new world, a Freudian world.
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“One can chose not to eat, one cannot accept to eat poorly” – Salvador Dalí
In 1973 Les Diners de Gala (Gala’s Dinners) was published and instantly became a Dalí collectable. This beautiful book is a collaboration between Dalí and a “secret” chef. Their goal was to produce magnificent meals fit for a royal feast. Dalí was not only a brilliant artist but also had extremely refine taste for food and wine. This book is an exotic surrealist invitation meant to solicit your taste buds into a realm of enormous flavors and extravagant colors. As the book points out “Les Diners De Gala with its precepts and its illustrations, is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of TASTE. Don’t look for dietetic formulas here.” Today this book is extremely scarce. Those that are found fetch up words of hundreds of dollars. In the spirit of Thanksgiving we are going to share with you a recipe from the book so that you can add a little surrealism to your holidays.
In conjunction with the release of the book Dalí also produced a suite called Les Diners De Gala (Released in 1977). The 12 lithograph suite is a surrealist twist on some of Dalí’s favorite meals. These works are a result of Dalí experimenting with mixed media and they are often regarded as some of Dalí’s most unique prints.
So straight from Les Diners de Gala here is a recipe for Young Turkey with Roquefort. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!
1 Young turkey
1 White Blood Sausage
7 Ounces of Roquefort cheese
3 “petits-suisses” cheeses-nutmeg (swiss knight wedges)
1 Tablespoon of oil
1 Tablespoon fo flour
3 Cups of Water
2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes
10 Ounces of roquefort cheese
6 Ounces of breadcrumbs
3 ½ Ounces of corn flower
1 Egg Yolk
1 Quart of water
2 Tablespoons of breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon of butter
Pick a tender and well-fleshed young turkey. Clean it and pass it through a flame; we are going to stuff it. In a salad bowl, combine the white blood sausage, roquefort cheese, “petits-suisses”. Add salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg. Stuff the young turkey; sew up the bird.
In a saucepan, put the tablespoon of oil and in it brown the tablespoon of flour. When it turns light brown, add water, sliced carrots, chicken bouillon and sliced onions. At boiling point, add the bird. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. At the same time, mash the 10 ounces of roquefort cheese with the breadcrumbs, corn flour, egg yolk, 2 eggs, salt. Blend into a smooth paste.
Bring the quart of water to a boil, add salt. Using a spoon put the paste into the water (each spoonful should hold about the size of an egg). When the puffs start floating, remove them and drain them on a dish towel. Then roll them in breadcrumbs.
Remove the turkey, strain the gravy, skim the fat off and keep it warm to serve in a gravy-boat.
Place the turkey in a baking dish surrounded with the puffs. At the bottom of the dish put the tablespoon of butter. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Watch it: the puffs turn golden very quickly; you will have to turn them several times.
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Since we’re all in the spirit of the Fall I thought we’d briefly discuss Dalí’s brilliant masterpiece Autumn Cannibalism (1936). Painted during what some considered the height of Dalí’s surrealism Autumn Cannibalism is a meditation on the Spanish Civil War. The piece celebrated not only because of its impeccable execution but also because of its unique political commentary.
The work shows a Spanish couple entwined and embraced with each other. They are feasting upon each other’s flesh. The metaphor is obviously about how Spain is literally destroying itself. Dalí once expressed: “These Iberian beings devouring each other in the autumn express the pathos of civil war considered as a phenomenon of natural history, as distinct from Picasso, who considered it a political phenomenon.” What Dalí mean was that he believed this war was inevitable, it is part of our human nature and would have come to fruition regardless of the political frustration that Spain was experiencing. In a way you can say it was a predecessor to Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, painted a year later. Was Dalí right? It is hard to say, it is also hard to pinpoint what Dalí’s political alliance was. At various times he praised the tyrannical expressions of Franco’s regime, while at others thought Maoism was an interesting experiment. I believe it is safe to assume Dalí was apolitical.
Dalí was a Spaniard, and a proud one. We can probably assert that what he saw unfold in not only Spain but Europe during the 1930s and 40s was a catastrophe. What do you think?
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In the last decade there have occurred a number of events which have celebrated the legacy of the great Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí. In 2005 the Dali Exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art commemorated Dalí’s centennial birthday, through 2008 – 2009 we saw a Dalí & Film exhibit cross the U.S. from New York to Los Angeles, and recently in 2010 – 2011 the great Dalí exhibit at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. All of these exhibitions broke attendance records. We also the long awaited release of Destino, a collaboration between Dalí and Disney. Recently we have witnessed the grand remolding of the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Dalí fans have also be subjegated to news surrounding a possible Dalí biopic, with some of Hollywood’s best talents attached to play Dalí, such as, Al Pacino, Jonny Depp, and Antonio Banderas. This in addition to the 2008 film Little Ashes starring in the Robert Pattinson portraying as Dali. Also recently is the Woody Allen Film, Midnight In Paris which features a remarkable job by Adrien Brody as he wonderfully portrayed the mad genius of Dali.
Combined all this “Dalí” excitement has helped firmly entrench Dalí into the popular culture of the 21st century. This is evidence of Dalí’s work persisting and become relevant to new generations, becoming timeless. What does this mean though? What does it mean for something to be “timeless”, more importantly, for Dalí to be timeless? It means that his works can be repeatedly reinterpreted each generation into something meaningful to those generations. It means that in the 1960s Dalí was a symbol of the counterculture while in the 1930s he was branded as “Surrealists”. At different times he meant different things, to different generations. But why Dalí? What does it say about his works that they endure years and centuries only to appear fresh and innovative to each new pair of eyes that sets on them.
Perhaps we can answer this by asking; What does Dalí mean to us today?
To answer this we have to look at how people talk about him. In light of the recent events celebrating his works we can draw some assumptions. One being, he is regarded as historically important, worthy of enormous exhibits. This leads us to believe that our generation believes he is firmly established as a major link in the history of art. What link does he represent? In the march of art’s history Dalí stands out amongst those who came before him and those after. He is not only an artist to us, but a symbol. Imagine when you first saw Dalí. One thinks of power imagination, the familiar images in unfamiliar settings, and the genius that must be behind the images. He symbolizes a creativity we’ve seen, an extreme in thinking, our own dreams. For the first time in the history of art someone has gone into our personal psychology and painted a picture of it. He has always represented this, but today, more than before, he also represents the historical importance of this phase in the history of the world. We view him now in juxtaposition to all the other artists we renown.
Those who are creating the films, exhibits, and news stories are middle aged, which means they’ve had at least a quarter of a century to marinade in the influence drawn from Dalí. They understand that the generational understanding of Dalí is constantly evolving, or, revolting. This latest Dalí revolution is about the timelessness of his timelessness.
It has been two decades since Dalí past. The morning and grieving process is gone, now we are reflecting, our generation is looking at Dalí as a whole.