Salvador Dali’s ‘Gigantic’ Surrealism!
By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dali Historian
Today’s generously illustrated blog post is gigantic. I mean literally huge, because I want to talk about Dali paintings in which a towering presence looms large. There are lots of them.
Why is this important?
Well, Salvador Dali was a master on many levels. One of them was his uncanny use of space and perspective to evoke different perceptions of space and time. Sometimes simply the sheer size of the predominant figure in a Dali painting or print lent enormous impact to the work, serving to grab our attention as well as convey various emotions.
A good example is “Corpus Hypercubus.” Look at the size of the body of Christ compared to Mary Magdalene’s.
To say it is a towering and transcendent figure is an understatement. And the size of Christ really adds a greater sense of awe to this stunning 1954 masterpiece, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
While “Corpus Hypercubus” stands some 7 feet tall, a small canvas – “Collosus of Rhodes” (about 2 ft. 3 in. x 1 foot 3 in.), painted the same year – nevertheless manages to give us the impression that it’s much larger than it is, thanks to proportion – pitting the enormity of the statue, depicting the Greek island of Rhodes’ patron god Helios (the god of the sun) – against the dwarfed figures below.
The similarly named “El Coloso” (“The Giant”) is dominated by precisely what its title suggests, representing Spain and the various icons to which the imposing behemoth is metaphorically giving birth.
Speaking of Spain, Dali employed a huge, contorted self-destructing figure in “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans; Premonition of Civil War” (1936) to symbolize the Spanish Civil War as a country devouring itself. This work is often compared with the giant featured in an important painting by the Spanish master Francisco Goya: “Colossus” of 1808 -1812.
Grandeur characterizes the huge and majestic rearing steed in “Santiago El Grande” (1957), in comparison with which the cloaked figured of Gala Dali at lower right, and a man lolling on the middle ground below, are diminutive.
Likewise, the horse, elephants and other elements in “The Temptation of St. Anthony” serve to create a kind of soaring space in which St. Anthony vows to resist the seduction of sin.
One of the great prints in Dali’s famed illustrations for Dante’s “Divine Comedy” is “A Logician devil – Lucifer,” whose huge presence is both human and mountain-like in form.
And there are many other Dali works that feature giant-like figures evoking a sense of ascension, infinity and endless depth. An additional short list would include “The Hallucinogenic Toreador,” “Celestial Ride,” “The Specter of Sex Appeal” “The Elephants,” design for the set of “Labyrinth,” “Cosmic Athlete,” “Palace of the Winds” and “Architectural Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus.”
Large or small, Salvador Dali paintings, prints, drawings, watercolors, and sculpture remain huge in the minds and hearts of Dali art collectors worldwide. Indeed, we’re witnessing continuing growth in Salvador Dali’s popularity as more people discover the enormity of his genius.