Dali’s ‘Perpignan Railway Station’ Exudes Palpable Energy!
By Paul Chimera
Dali Historian & Writer
Certain Dali works speak to me. In fact, I can almost feel them – feel their grip – psychically and even physically. Sounds crazy, I know.
It’s impossible to explain. But maybe you’ve experienced it, too. There’s a consuming, compelling energy that certain works of art radiate. It’s a known phenomenon that some people get dizzy, even pass out, when they find themselves standing before immensely powerful, profoundly meaningful works of art.
Dali’s “Perpignan Railway Station” (a radically shortened version of its full title) has that effect on me. Ironically, its origins had the same kind of effect on Salvador Dali.
Dali had claimed he gained tremendous inspiration from sitting in the lobby of the train station at Perpignan, France. In 1963, he remarked, in a proclaimed ecstasy: “It all became clear in a flash. There, right before me, was the center of the universe.”
It also ignited his long-standing desire to achieve the illusion of three-dimensionality on a flat surface.
Now toss in Dali’s preoccupation with his own immortality (and mortality); his obsession with the painting, “The Angelus” by Millet; and his growing devotion to Christian themes, and you have the remarkable and immense oil painting, fully titled: “Gala Looking at Dali in a State of Anti-Gravitation in His Work of Art ‘Pop-Op-Yes-Yes-Pompier’ in which One can Contemplate the Two Anguishing Characters from Millet’s ‘Angelus’ in a State of Atavistic Hibernation Standing Out of a Sky Which Can Suddenly Burst into a Gigantic Maltese Cross Right in the Heart of the Perpignan Railway Station Where the Whole Universe Must Begin to Converge.”
A jaw-breaking 64-word-title that, I believe, is the longest of many bizarre if not amusing titles Dali assigned to some of his paintings.
But let me return to the visceral reaction this Dali work stirs in me. Certainly its size is a factor – a large space in which we’re drawn perhaps most powerfully by the Maltese-like cross, painted in a glowing gold hue. The impressive illusion of tremendous depth – indeed, of the three-dimensionality Dali sought – is effectively achieved, especially as we contemplate one of the two levitating Dali self-portraits at the center of the canvas.
What’s more, that image of Dali seems to be receding farther into distant space, furthering the illusion of great depth. And a feeling of ascension (anti-gravitation) is echoed in the other self-portrait at the top.
Speaking of 3-D, Dali had virtually achieved it in the small but wonderful detail of the wooden clog, which actually looks like it’s floating in front of the canvas! And the train car itself, which looks like a photograph.
Dali’s religious reference is seen in the radiant cross in the center of an image of Christ crucified, his head wreathed in thorns, his side bleeding from lancing. The male and female figures from Millet’s “The Angelus” – a painting with which Dali was forever obsessed– appear on either side of the tableau.
The glowing, three-dimensional effect of the Maltese cross; the tranquil body of water at the bottom, on which a boat restfully sits; the ethereal image of Jesus and the evocative view of Gala watching everything unfold, adds up to pop art and surrealism only Salvador Dali could have imagined.
Do you feel it, too?