Salvador Dali 1961-On[Singles]
Homage to Newton EA
Homage to Newton EA
Salvador Dali did it all: sculpture, painting, lithography, etching, engraving, book illustration, filmmaking, theatre backdrop design, writing, advertising, society portraiture, and the list could probably go on for miles. Dali was the leading figure of Surrealism, which set out to take the wild, perplexing phenomena of dream images and portray them on canvas.
And while Dali was the best known and most successful of the Surrealists, he went on to blaze a trail of monumental paintings during the 1950s, '60s' and early 1970s, under the banner of Nuclear-Mysticism. They melded science, religion, and history in fascinating new ways, on a grand scale, and always with the technical precision of a Renaissance master - a draftsmanship everyone revered about Dali, no matter what else they may have thought of the Catalan painter.
Sculptures by Salvador Dali have a truly special quality about them. In part it's because everything Dali did exuded his unique style, especially when the subject took on human, or quasi-human form. There was almost always a fluid, lyrical quality about them. A good example might be the stunning 1946 oil on canvas, Mirage, whose central female figure bears a striking resemblance to the Newton physique captured here in the medium of sculpture.
Dali sculptures are also distinctive because Dali didn't do very many of them. Unlike his creative counterparts of other eras - Michelangelo, for example - Dali was not especially well known as a sculptor; he was, of course, a consummate painter and a protean figure, adept in virtually every medium known to the modern artist.
So when he took off his painter's cap and donned the sculptor's hat, so to speak, it was always interesting to see how his extraordinary visions would manifest themselves.
In Homage to Newton, one of the eight originals produced in 1968, Dali has based his three-dimensional rendition on one of his oil paintings from 1932 - Phosphene of Laporte, which pays homage to the Italian physicist, Gianbattista della Porta (1541-1615), who invented the darkroom, experimented with optical phenomena, and wrote the book Natural Magic. In this volume, della Porta covered the occult, philosophy, astrology, mathematics, and alchemy - all areas in which Salvador Dali had a keen interest.
Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was of course the well known English mathematician who discovered the law of gravity when an apple fell on his head - and in this dashing sculptural representation of that important discovery, Dali brings the descent of that piece of fruit to life with the sphere suspended and "falling," courtesy of a thin chain.
Some have suggested that the open area of Newton's head and torso was Dali's way of symbolizing Newton's open-mindedness and openheartedness. It is always most fascinating, instructive - and sometimes confounding - to consider Dali's own comments about his works, and in his book, 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship (notice the word "magic" in both his book and that of della Porta), the surrealist wrote: "Now remember that the gravity of the Earth was already in the apple that was held in the hand of Eve, like a veritable Damocles sword suspended over the human species. Don't doubt that this apple of Eve is the same one that, by falling on Newton's forehead, permitted him to discover the physical law of force of the same gravity."
The Homage to Newton sculptural form is virtually identical to the small detail in paint that Dali included in the aforementioned Phosphene of Laporte. It is entirely consistent with Dali, in 1968, that in this sensually crafted sculpture he would pay tribute to two men of science - and especially to della Porte's work with optical investigations. Dali himself was increasingly intrigued during this period in his career with optics, double-imagery, and the phenomenon of phosphene images formed on the human retina.
Examples of paintings at this time that reflected such interests include Tuna Fishing and The Hallucinogenic Toreador, both of which feature references to optical phenomena and, in Toreador, to the iridescent,
phosphene-like depictions of the Venus de Milo and Bust of Voltaire.
Those who study Salvador Dali's art seriously are familiar with the concept of "Dalinian Continuity," where elements from one picture carry over to others, creating a thread or link among them. It's therefore of some interest to look at a canvas like Fried Eggs on the Plate without the Plate, also painted in 1932, where an egg is suspended above the scene from a long cord, perhaps Newtonian in its symbolism. And a male figure not unlike that of the Newton sculpture appears with a virtually identical string and sphere in a picture Dali executed two years earlier: Premature Ossification of a Railway Station.
Among the countless qualities of Salvador Dali's art - sculpture, painting and everything else - it's intriguing to see how each work often relates to many others. In the case of Homage to Newton, we see the fluid lines reminiscent of the previously noted Mirage painting (and similar to numerous other male and female figures he painted and drew), as well as the clear connection to the Phosphene of Laporte work.
Some might even make a connection between Dali's subject here and the controversial, hugely popular book by Dan Brown, The DaVinci Code. It is held that the Priory of Sion - a European secret society founded in 1099 and a central part of Brown's novel - is a real organization. In 1975, Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris reportedly discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, which identified many members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton. Other well known names said to be members included Victor Hugo, and the great artists Leonardo DaVinci and Botticelli.
Dali did several varieties of Newton in sculpture, one of which graces the foyer of his Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueras, Spain.