Dali’s ‘Soft Construction…’ is Always in Demand


By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian/Writer


Salvador Dali’s Soft-Construction with Boiled Beans; Premonition of Civil War just keeps popping up on the Daliscope – the Dalinian radar, if you will. And every time it does – such as its latest encampment in Baltimore – I’m immediately transported back to my freshman year of college.


That’s how I got forever hooked on everything Dali, when the professor in my art appreciation course put a slide of Soft-Construction up on the screen.




Baam! Hooked forever! The fluid, precise technique…the scintillating color hues…the bizarre and alluring nature of the imagery. The work is so emblematic of Dali’s Surrealism: a bit of sex, a dash of the grotesque, a hint of genius – all knitted together by technical skill rivaling the Renaissance masters.




TIME magazine art critic and author Robert Hughes would go on to opine that Salvador Dali’s Soft-Construction with Boiled Beans; Premonition of Civil War was the single most important “war picture” of the 20th century. Yes, out-gunning even Pablo Picasso’s iconic canvas, Guernica.


Picasso's Guernica takes back seat to Dali.

Picasso’s Guernica takes back seat to Dali.


Now Soft-Construction finds itself as one of the gems in an exhibition called “Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s” at the Baltimore Museum of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. The show opened February 24 and runs through May 26. It includes works by Magritte, Ernst, Masson, Picasso and others, including, of course, what for me will always be the show-stopper: Dali’s Soft-Construction (which must upset a lot of people who travel to its permanent home, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, only to find it’s so often out on loan). Also in the show is Dali’s wonderful double-image oil, Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach.




Dali’s Soft Construction with Boiled Beans; Premonition of Civil War is such a compelling metaphor for the Spanish Civil War, depicting the self-strangulation and annihilation that defines what civil war is. The work’s riveting color palette and flashes of eroticism serve to make it even more exciting and hard to resist. Among the many things that have been said and written about Salvador Dali – past, present, and yet to come – one thing seems certain: his work is always exciting!


That’s enough to keep me coming back for more.




[Images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only]

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