Fundacio’s Dali Catalog Raisonne Features Rarely Seen Portraits & More
By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dali Historian
What an adrenaline rush to discover works by Salvador Dali you’ve never seen before! It’s like encountering this master painter for the first time. Or like a wide-eyed child opening a present under the Christmas tree and going flailing-arms-bonkers over what’s inside.
Thanks to the Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali in Figueres, Spain, Santa brought me – and the world – a special gift, as it has just announced completion of its wonderful on-line catalog raisonne of Dali paintings.
This important research tool had documented and published, online, original works through 1964 for some time. Now the years spanning 1965to 1983 have been completed, and they include a good number of paintings I’ve never seen before – most especially works of portraiture.
“The Catalog Raisonne of Paintings by Salvador Dali,” the Fundacio notes on its website, “is an online project for the definitive and scientific cataloging and attribution of the paintings made by Salvador Dali between 1910 and 1983. The project is conceived as a work in progress, modified and enriched with information compiled by the specialists of the Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali and other scholars and collaborating institutions.”
I alluded to portraiture a moment ago, and this fascinating segment of Dali’s diverse and prolific oeuvre warrants some attention. In fact, two Dali scholars I know have been hard at work for several years now on a proposed book on Dali’s portraiture, recognizing that this body of work represents a unique dimension of the artist’s talent, not to mention a key chapter in his life as a self-employed “businessman.”
And while few people would use the term “businessman” to characterize Salvador Dali, the fact is the man knew how to bring in business! And, oh yeah, how to make a fortune at a vocation from which very few ever reap significant financial gain.
Portraiture was found treasure for Dali. Not that he didn’t work diligently for it; he certainly did. But people practically stood in line – checkbook in hand – to enjoy the distinction of having their portrait painted by the unpredictably famous kingpin of surrealism. Society portraits helped make Dali rich. And they’re also examples of some of his most impressive work.
Most of the portrait reproductions shown here are of people few of us would know. Some are famous, including Helena Rubinstein, C.Z. Guest, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Jack Warner, and the great collector and benefactor, Chester Dale (along with his unwittingly famous poodle, Coco!). One portrait in particular still blows my mind – the Briggs Family portrait – because it’s so resoundingly atypical of what most of the world has come to associate with the “madman” of Surrealism!
Among other works pictured for the first time (to my eye, anyway) in the Fundacio’s Catalog Raisonne is a surprising picture called “Path in Pubol,” painted in a classic and Impressionist style that seems to defy the fact that it was created by Salvador Dali around the same time he painted his spectacular “Hallucinogenic Toreador.”
Such discoveries of “new” material really do keep Dali’s legacy and mystique alive. For me, they’re like wonderfully wrapped presents whose treasures that lie within definitely do not disappoint. Here are a few more portraits to enjoy: