Underexplored, Dali’s Watercolors are Drop-Dead Stunning!
By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dali Historian/Writer
Possibly the most underexplored puzzle piece in the Dali enigma – and in the overall constellation of his creative genius – is that of the artist’s watercolors. But by no means should we downplay them, because – are you kidding me! – they represent some of Dali’s most spectacular work.
If you have any doubt about this, just feast your eyes on the three gorgeous watercolor paintings (they also involve various touches of gouache and pen & ink) I’m featuring in today’s blog post for The Salvador Dali Society, Inc.©
Dali was commissioned to create them – during his several visits to Italy – by Albert and Mary Laser. They were wealthy American collectors, and the Albert Lasker Award is given annually to a leading medical researcher. (One of the recipients was Dr. Edmund Klein, who developed a cure for a form of skin cancer and was Dali’s personal dermatologist for 10 years.)
No matter what medium Salvador Dali worked in, his genius leaped to the fore like nobody’s business. Even if we had zero information about these works, we would be dazzled by their beauty and the inimitable line, form, color, and interpretation of concept that are unmistakably Dalinian.
All three works were painted in 1949, the year Dali had an audience with Pope Pious XII (and, incidentally, the year this blogger was born).
Lake Garda in northern Italy is that country’s largest and known as a quite popular tourist destination, primarily due to its crystal clear water. One author suggests that the tower and mountain are intended to be phallic and breast-like, respectively. Whether Dali indeed had those intentions in mind is speculative at best, though of course it’s certainly plausible, given the sexual overtones of so much of Dali’s work.
The blotting of the colorful flowers creates a truly stunning effect, while the woman sporting a parasol on her head lends a whimsical and charming surreal feel to the tableau.
In Venice, created for the Laskers, Dali focused on the landmark Church of Santa Maria della Salute. His freer handling of the sun-suffused sky is contrasted with the more distinct and controlled treatment of the lute-playing angel at lower right. All while obligatory gondoliers make an appearance in Dali’s representation of this most unique of Italian cities.
In Roma, Salvador Dali chose to represent the eternal city by depicting the Castel Sant Angelo. According to a source, this was “a fortress and refuge for the Pope in dangerous times that contains the mausoleum of the great Roman emperor Hadrian. The little jester seen at lower right is generally a detail symbolizing the figure of Salvador himself, especially given that he’s wearing a red berretina.
[Images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes]