Is This Salvador Dali’s Earliest Surrealist Painting?
By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dali Historian
It seems that, depending on with whom you talk, a painting that is reportedly the earliest known surrealist work by Salvador Dali may be the real deal or subject to further research.
The news hit in 2014, when a collector came forward to reveal an oil painting he’d purchased in an antiques shop in northern Spain some 26 years earlier. His name is Tomeu L’Amo, and he suspected the canvas may have been an early Dali.
The man paid what would amount to slightly under $180 for the picture, according to news reports.
Then, in 2014, art experts proclaimed the work – which took on the title, “Salvador Dali’s Intrauterine Birth” – the real deal, describing it as the first surrealist painting ever created by the man who would come to define Surrealism itself.
It was estimated that Dali would have painted it at around age 17 – well in advance of when Surrealism as an art movement developed beyond its original literary incarnation. That has set some skeptics to wondering if this work is in fact by Dali.
On the other hand, Salvador Dali had an uncanny capacity for being ahead of his time. Could his style have anticipated Surrealism at this early age, even as Dali was to go through various other genres as he experimented with his craft as a fledgling teenage artist?
The color palette in this early painting certainly does seem to parallel that seen in such works as “Self-Portrait” of 1921; “Self-Portrait in the Studio” (c. 1919); and, indeed, in “Portrait of My Father” of 1921, the latter work’s sky color scheme and technique bearing a discernible resemblance to the “Intrauterine…” work.
Perhaps more significantly is how the work invites comparison with Dali’s 1921 watercolor, “Sardanas of the Witches” in the Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida.
Quoted in a British newspaper, the original owner, L’Amo, commented, “When I saw its colours I suspected it was a Dali. That was my opinion but I did not have proof. I investigated and little by little I became convinced that it was indeed an early work by Dali,” he said at an unveiling of the painting in Madrid’s Institute of Bellas Artes.
(Photo from Irish Times, used for journalistic fair use only)
It’s fascinating to encounter such discoveries and revelations when it comes to the art of Salvador Dali. It seems that, every year or so, something utterly new emerges about this man of many of guises and surprises – and indisputable genius.
One of the biggest mysteries, or at least yet unanswered questions, is the matter of just how many Dali paintings, or drawings, or watercolors, prints or sculpture, still remain in private hands and may never have been published in any book or catalog? Every time something heretofore unseen comes out of the woodwork, I for one feel positively jubilant, convinced yet again that the excitement of Salvador Dali will live on forever.
Dali once quipped, “Never a dully moment with Dali!” The man was spot-on.