Dali, Roosevelt and Lincoln on this President’s Day!
By Paul Chimera
Dali Writer & Historian
On this President’s Day in the U.S.A., I thought we’d take a look at a little-known and rather unusual Dali mixed-media piece that spotlights the U.S. president at the time the work was created, 1942 – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, better known as FDR.
Salvador Dali and his wife Gala were in exile in the United States during the 1940s, due to the war, spending time at Pebble Beach, California, as well as New York City and, for a period, Hampton Manor in Virginia.
Dali has depicted FDR in the upper right, below which several less distinct images are seen, including a kind of murky recreation of the Roosevelt image directly below the clear one, and a portrait of Abraham Lincoln to FDR’s right.
Framing these central images are what appear to be flying lobsters, and a fire-spewing dragon-like creature, while parachutists populate other areas of this bizarre work. Roosevelt’s and Lincoln’s hair doubles as sensuous angels in flight. Indeed, the entire composition has a sense of movement to it – perhaps symbolizing the notion of America’s influence and imminent victory wafting over the world at the time.
It is unclear why this picture – issued in print form by The New York Graphic Society – was undertaken by the surrealist master, although his own handwriting on the work may give us a prophetic clue. Part of it reportedly reads “…future victories of the sky.”
Was this a statement by Dali about the war in general, and America’s eventual victory in particular, thanks to formidable U.S. air power?
Of course, the far better known presidential work by Salvador Dali is his large “Lincoln” oil painting, of which he painted two versions – one in the Teatru-Museu Dali in Figueres, Spain, the other in the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. They are among the most popular and loved of all Salvador Dali works.
Dali’s affinity for painting images of important world leaders, Spanish and American, perhaps stems from his love of pageantry, ceremony and monarchy. He also painted regal portraits of Francisco Franco’s granddaughter and son.
It’s significant to note that, while we focus heavily on the Catalan artist’s paintings, there are also a tremendous volume of remarkable Dali prints, Dali drawings, Dali watercolors, sculptures, and a host of mixed-media works as well.