Posted by: PaulChimera
Salvador Dali’s 1939 The Dream of Venus – painted for his mind-bending pavilion at the World’s Fair in New York that year, eight years after his iconic Persistence of Memory masterpiece – is a huge canvas seldom reproduced in the many coffee table books on the Master. I’m not sure why.
But I’m choosing to focus on it in today’s Interpretations of Dali blog because I really love this rarely considered work. In fact, when mentioning Dali’s so-called “Masterworks” – the wall-sized paintings he produced between 1951 and 1970 – The Dream of Venus is never mentioned. Again, I’m not sure why.
In any case, I saw the original, done in four adjoining panels, at the 1990 Dali retrospective in Montreal. It’s quite something to see in the flesh, as it takes Dali’s most widely-known image – that of those iconic melting clocks – and presents it in grand scale, some 9 feet high, 16 feet wide! It makes for a dramatic contrast to his Persistence of Memory, which – many people are surprised to discover – is about the size of the average lap top computer screen!
In The Dream of Venus, Dali recreates in virtually identical fashion the melting time pieces, foreground self-image, and landscape from Persistence, though the amorphous-looking “self-portrait” (inspired by a large rock formation at Cape Creus, Spain, that looks like a human head with its nose pressed to the ground) is much meatier in its strangely bloated morphology. Dali then adds three important surrealist elements from his fantastic iconography: giraffes with their necks ablaze, and a man with drawers emerging from his forehead and chest, while a lobster sits paradoxically upon his head. Quintessential Dali – and part of the pure shock and awe visitors experienced when they went through the bizarre and very adult Dream of Venus pavilion Dali created for that most memorable of World Fairs.