Salvador Dali 1930-1960[Singles]
Medium: Original Plate
Salvador Dali did nothing in a normal fashion - a fact for which we can be eternally grateful! It was the way he saw the world so differently that made his art infinitely compelling, provocative, and valuable.
When it came to the medium of printmaking or graphics, Dali instinctively turned to the unnatural and unconventional. L'Apocalypse is a supreme example.
Rather than merely working on a copper plate by employing the engraver's normal tools, the Surrealist Master came up with an idea as mind-blowing and impractical as it ultimately was brilliant: the production of a set of bombs loaded with nails, to be exploded upon copper plates!
It was, literally and figuratively, an explosive experience. Dali asked foundry owner Andre Susse to make him a set of bombs or grenades, stuffed with nails. Dali's surrealist bombing raid, which took place on May 11, 1959 in the environs of Port Lligat, unleashed a flurry of nails that artfully embedded themselves in the plates, symbolic of the nails used to crucify Christ, and fulfilling Dali's desire to be quintessentially avant garde. The plates, pierced and riddled with nails, were given to Dali's publisher, from where they were turned over to a Parisian copper-engraving firm.
The engravers who were asked to make proofs from such an unholy configuration were surely a bit dumfounded, yet they pulled it off despite the inherent challenges of the twisted matrix. The result was a series of stunning proofs, which Dali worked on in ink to achieve a remarkable effect that is both surrealistic and spiritual.
Dali's own sometimes confounding musing on his technique adds insight from the mind of the surrealist inventor: Engraving simultaneously, through the explosion of an apocalyptic grenade, four copper plates forming a box (the machine-gun spray of nails left the walls in a pitiful state). Thus obtaining direct proofs immediately, which precisely because of this maximum of violence produced a paroxysm of softness never obtained in copper-plate engraving.
Dali is said to have originally gotten the idea after watching his wife Gala tending to pomegranates in her garden. The seeds of the fruit became the nails that hammered out this most stunning of graphic creations. Dali further said of this explosively unconventional printmaking approach: I was to see my Pieta of pity produced by the apocalypse of the explosion. If the idea of pity was once invented hierarchically, it was precisely at the time when Saint John wrote the Apocalypse.
Dali often seemed at his best when interpreting religious themes. That's perhaps a bit ironic, since it was never clear just how religious Dali actually was. He certainly wasn't a church-goer, yet he began to discern the deeper meaning of life - and how it is informed by Christianity - after the explosion of the Atomic bomb that ended World War II - and opened a new door for Dali's creative mind. Dali and Gala even were re-married in a Catholic ceremony.
Dali's vision and inspiration were almost instantly transformed from a surrealist foundation to one more firmly aligned with grander, more eternal themes of Catholicism and the inexorable, mystical link between science and religion. The crutches and soft watches were now supplanted by Gala as the Madonna; visions of Christ in important masterpieces like Christ of St. John of the Cross, Corpus Hypercubus, The Sacrament of the Last Supper; and Nuclear Cross; and his famous illustrations for the Bible and Dante's Divine Comedy.
This new classic phase for Dali - which he termed Nuclear-Mysticism - saw his canvases come alive with a wide range of religious themes, from the ascension of Christ to the Ecumenical Council of Pope John XXIII, and, indeed, L'Apocalypse.
Not only did Dali produce the Christ trial proofs from the copper plate discussed here, but he also executed another print from the bomb-created plates, called Pieta, which he embellished in watercolor. And the extraordinary book of The Apocalypse, which reputedly numbered only one copy, weighed nearly 500 lbs. and was estimated at over $1 million at the time! Produced in 1961 for publisher Joseph Foret, it was fashioned in bronze and encrusted with precious stones - and forks!
Dali explored religious themes in many additional individual prints and print suites, including, among others, The Twelve Apostles, the Twelve Tribes of Irsrael, and Song of Songs of Solomon.
Some of Salvador Dali's most spectacular works were those, such as L'Apocalypse, that melded the spontaneity of technique with the studied precision of the finishing patina.