Salvador Dali 1961-On[Singles]
Medium: India Ink
THE BATTLE - Peter Lucas
In his masterful 1947 pen and ink drawing titled the battle the great draftsman Dali juxtaposes the classical calm of a temple that he creates with the wild vitality of horsemen engaged in battle.
The scene is of ancient Spain in the time when the Romans, glorious successors of the Greeks, were civilizing that then raw land. Dali loved both ancient civilization and that of his native land Spain. Many of his great paintings such as Espana concern Spanish history. In this drawing he makes a telling point about modern as well as ancient
Dali's inspiration for his temple here is the Parthenon of Athens. The temple was the most famous one of ancient Greece. It was an inspiration of Renaissance as well as ancient Roman architecture. In the battle the Partheno is Dali''s jumping off place, so to speak, for a visual symbol of eternity and peacefulness. Behind this temple he places the seemingly crowned towers of a later Roman fortress. We see stately Roman villas off to the sided of the temple and fortress.
All these solid looking structures are meant to stress the political stability that the Romans wished and did to limited extent bring to Spain in the 2nd to 3rd Centuries AD.
The rest of the drawing, however, with its wild lines writing with energy as they create fiercely battling horsemen driving their lances into one another, is the very opposite of such structured stability.
It is in this contrast between the stable and the fiercely wild that we discover Dali''s point or message of his drawing. It is that history whether Roman or Spanish, ancient or modern is a never ending struggle between anarchy and order, structure and disintegration.
The battle being fought here is most likely one in Roman Spain's struggle to check in the inroads of the barbaric Moorish pirates from northwest Africa.
Does this master artist give us any answer as to which of these opposites will prevail? He does indeed with the smallish image that is in the work's very center. It is that of a mother and child. They walk through the fray unafraid and unharmed, standing tall in spite of the mayhem all around them. They are the messengers of order, hope and peace, declaring that in Dali''s view of Spain will rise to a time of peaceful glory.
This work is reminiscent of the marvelous sketches Dali chose to illustrate is seminal autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali and his manual for fine art Fifty Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship. It comes up to the magnificence of countless works depicting warring horsemen. But it is unique in giving us his view of stately, eternally lasting great temple architecture in line with the glory of the Greeks in that form of art.