Posted by: PaulChimera
The Dream of 1931 couldn’t be more suitably titled. After all, it was the dream that was to Surrealist painting what the Moulin Rouge was to Toulouse Lautrec; what ballerinas were to Degas; what landscapes were to Turner.
The dream was the gateway to so many of the mysteries and bizarre, disjointed, compellingly haunting images that arose in the surrealists’ paintings in general and Salvador Dali’s masterful works in particular.
Still, I must say, as author of this blog and a long-time Dali historian, that The Dream had never been a favorite of mine. It’s hard to explain such things, except that you know as well as I that some Dali’s speak to you, while others leave you pleased but not blown away.
But all that changed – and this is a phenomenon I’ve written about before – when I saw The Dream in person several years ago at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. That museum, which has long owned Dali’s St. George and the Dragon etching but had never had a Dali painting in all its history, made quite a splash in the news media when it acquired this important surrealist classic (copyright Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali, Figueres, Spain). And I must say, I was blown away!
What you really don’t detect in a flat book reproduction is the richness and depth of such a work, in this case most notably in the eyelids of the female dreamer. They are painted in a rich, dramatic impasto that really pops when you see the work in the flesh. I was immediately drawn to this 3-D feature of the canvas. And, of course, the brilliant detail – the precise, photographic technique of what she’s dreaming about in the left background – just adds to the appeal of such a painting.
Images of sexuality and shame seem to be represented by the shadowy background figures, while the dreamer’s mouth has vanished, supplanted by the creepy notion of a swarm of ants where her lips should be – reminiscent of a scene from Dali’s important surrealist film, Un Chien Andalou, and of the painting, The Great Masturbator. Rendered unable to speak, doesn’t it remind you of dreams you’ve had where you not only wish to speak, but need to speak, but you can’t? It’s a nightmarish feeling.
Her Medusa-inspired hair and overall appearance really do seem to capture a woman deep in sleep, but Dali goes well beyond that to give us visual entry into the thoughts that preoccupy her private, personal dream world. The Dream is, to be sure, one of the most important paintings in Salvador Dali’s all-important surrealist period of the 1930s.