Dali gave us ‘Sex on the Beach’ in 1926 Picasso-inspired Work
By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dali Historian
Salvador Dali called Pablo Picasso his “artistic father,” and the elder Spaniard’s influence on some of Dali’s early work is undeniable – such as in the subject of today’s blog post: the small, approx. 8 inch by 11 inch “Figures Lying on the Sand” of 1926.
Not only did Picasso paint “The Bathers” and several similar works that invite comparison to the Dali painting, but clearly Picasso’s Cubism is readily seen in the style in which Dali has formed the robust reclining female figures.
“This work must have been inspired by Dali’s visit to Picasso’s Paris studio, the impact the visit had on him along with his expulsion the same year from the Fine Art School of San Fernando in Madrid, representing a change in Dalinian work and the beginning of innovative aesthetic paths,” notes the painting’s owner – the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres, Spain.
But something it seems no one has acknowledged is the fairly overt sexual nature of this work. At age 22, it’s pretty safe to say Salvador had normal, healthy urges. That his libido was amped up as one would expect.
Dali’s erotic mind communicated directly with the guidance of his brush strokes, and there is no doubt that the hands of the two reclining women at left are quite purposely placed as they are. These are not merely figures lying on a beach, seeking a sun tan, dear reader. These are women in the act of self-pleasuring, their heads tilted back in obvious ecstasy, their inhibitions checked at the door, both seeking something in addition to a good tan!
While Salvador Dali unapologetically tossed the normally very private act of masturbation onto canvases like his well-known “The Great Masturbator” of 1929, obviously a focus on this form of human sexuality appeared well before that in Dali’s oeuvre, as the present work attests.
And while self-stimulation was almost exclusively centered on Dali’s own desires and conduct, we now see, in “Figures Lying on the Sand,” that what’s good for the goose is indeed also good for the gander!
If we were to cite four major influences or themes in the art of Salvador Dali, they would undoubtedly be these: the landscape of his native Spanish countryside; his wife Gala; the inevitability and tragedy of death; and, to be sure, the sexual instinct.
All four themes pervaded virtually all of Dali’s works throughout his remarkable career.