Posted by: PaulChimera
Salvador Dali set out to have a lot of fun in his career – and he wanted us to have fun, too, as we navigated the artistic highway he set down for us. One fun picture, as it were, is his remarkable 1935 “Paranoiac Face.”
This oil on panel is the only Dali painting I’m aware of that was actually meant to be turned 90 degrees in order to appreciate its clever double-image.
Viewing it straight on, horizontally, what do you see? A clutch of natives sitting and lying before a primitive hut, right? Some trees appear behind it. Nothing to see here, folks.
Or is there?
Turn the picture 90 degrees clockwise…and suddenly you’ll see, well, the very title of this painting! The belly of the reclining figure becomes the right eye of the face; the same reclining man, together with the space behind him and the pot near him, become the nose. The figure dressed in red doubles as the lips. And the trees now serve as his bushy hair!
Just plain cool!
The genesis of this Dali double-image is rather charming. Reportedly Dali spotted an African hut scene on a postcard (see image below). But viewing it from a vertical angle first, he thought it was a reproduction of a new Picasso work. Through the uncanny phenomenon Dali called his Paranoiac-Critical Method, he was able to modify the original scene so that it did this wonderfully inventive and revealing double-duty!
Dali’s so-called Paranoiac-Critical creative method involved his unique ability to view the world around him the way a true paranoid would: seeing exaggeration of figures and shapes, and often double-visions of things in a kind of controlled delirium. That’s where the critical part of the Paranoiac-Critical method comes in: Dali could take these “crazy” visions and carefully, critically express them in paint (and other mediums) so that we, too, could see them.
Dali’s “drug” was no drug at all; it was his inimitable way of seeing beyond the obvious.
Often, the result was a work like “Paranoiac Face,” which is deftly executed, visually stunning, and simply a bit of artistic fun – both for the man who created it, and for those of us who enjoy viewing it!
Sadly, according to Dali writer and confidant Robert Descharnes, the whereabouts of “Paranoiac Face” are unknown, and, tragically, he believes it’s probably destroyed.