Caring for a Surrealist Watch


Salvador Dali’s…

Caring for a Surrealist Watch from Memories of Surrealism


Year: 1971
Medium: Etching on lithograph (hand-signed)
Publishers: Transworld Art, New York
Printer: Rigal, Fontenay-aux-Roses, France Jobin
Dimensions: Image size: 53 x 42 cm
Paper size: 76.2 x 55 cm

(signature in border not shown)

w/ certificate of authenticity.

For more information and pricing, email

Self-Portrait Sun Dial, 1966– Salvador Dali

Self-Portrait Sun Dial

Self- Portrait Sundial, Salvador Dali, 1966

Self- Portrait Sundial, Salvador Dali, 1966

By Paul Chimera
Dali Historian
(Mr. Chimera worked directly with Dali Museum founder Reynolds Morse, as the publicity director of the original Dali Museum when it was located in Beachwood, Ohio)

It was completely natural and understandable that Salvador Dali would be interested in the subject of the ancient phenomenon of the sun dial. Ok, it’s coincidence (right?) that “dial” is an anagram of “Dali!” But, of course, time pieces of a more modern incarnation – watches and clocks – were as integral and central to Dali’s symbolic work as his mustache was to his public persona! In Dali’s case, those time pieces generally oozed with the gooiness of Camembert cheese left to run in the Mediterranean sun.

In his unique print, “Self-Portrait Sun Dial,” Dali puts himself squarely on the dial of the device, not so much in a manner meant to capture a literal likeness, but more as a metaphor for how Dali was so well known for his interpretation of time’s meaning within his surrealist world. It may be significant to note that, just as Dali’s soft watches could not properly function in so wilted a state, so too is his sun dial wall sculpture in Paris said to not actually be constructed to tell accurate time!

The same year Dali created this striking print, he designed a very similar image, intended as a sun dial and cast in cement, which hangs over the street, like a shop sign, in Paris. It appears on the outside wall above a bakery that used to be known as PainsDelices, and today is the Bagel Place café on Rue Saint Jacques.

In 1966, while a brass band from the Beaux-Arts played, Dali unveiled this gift to the city of Paris. He drew upon it during the ceremony, after being hoisted up by an industrial “bucket” lift, accompanied by his manager, Peter Moore, and Dali’s pet ocelot.

It was not mere happenstance that Dali’s sun-dial was ensconced above Rue Saint Jacques. The sun dial’s scallop-shaped face – just as in this print – symbolizes the throngs of pilgrims who in ancient times traveled Rue Saint Jacques on their journey to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The flames Dali shows us above the eyebrows symbolize the intense sun endured by those who made the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage.

Though the image in “Self-Portrait Sun Dial” may not truly resemble Dali’s face, it could be noted that at least the suggestion of Dali’s famous mustache is implied by the top part of the “D” in Dali’s signature, and the dot over the “I”. What is clear, however, is that this print is among the rare few that claim self-portrait status, and strikes at the core of Dali’s irrepressibly Spanish heritage.


Leda Atomica

Leda Atomica


Etching, 1947




Salvador Dali’s talents as a master draftsman were abundantly evident, no matter what medium he chose to work in. Best known as a Surrealist painter – in addition to his fame as a flamboyant showman – Dali was also wonderfully prolific and articulate as a writer and, among other creative outlets, an etcher and lithographer as well. Some of his finest work was done in these graphic mediums, and the present work – Leda Atomica – is a great example of both his creative energy and his technical accomplishment.


In this instance, Dali has chosen to work with a theme he had also explored with astonishing articulation in his oil on canvas of the same name. In the etching, we see a somewhat less detailed but still beautifully handled depiction of this classic theme, done in the style of the Old Masters. It has a classical, traditional look to it – yet Dali also brings it into a contemporary focus by linking his reverence for classicism with his then emerging excitement over new discoveries in atomic science.


Nuclear physics at the time was revealing a revolutionary, almost spellbinding fact: solid materials are actually made of particles, in a constant state of flux that Dali once described as “everything rumping and jumping about!”


Thus, in taking on the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan – Leda being the wife of the King of Sparta, who is ravaged by Zeus, the supreme ruler of the gods, but now appearing disguised as a swan – Dali gives us a contemporary, atomic view of things. Even the sea is detached and suspended above the ground. Since Dali’s relationship with Gala was almost mythical in some respects – he in fact often compared it to the relationship between gods and mortals – portraying Gala as Leda in this finely executed etching is right in keeping with the unique way Salvador Dali viewed his wife, model and muse.


The same year, 1947, saw several very important paintings emerge from Dali’s easel, clearly reflecting his interest in classical themes and their nexus with new scientific discoveries, most particularly in intra-atomic physics. Examples include Dematerialization near the Nose of Nero; Feather Equilibrium; and The Three Sphinxes of Bikini.

The Crucible of the Philosopher, 1977

The Crucible of the Philosopher




From The Alchemy of the Philosophers suite of mixed-media prints on parchment


By Paul Chimera

Dali Historian

(Mr. Chimera worked directly with Dali Museum founder Reynolds Morse, as the publicity director of the original Dali Museum when it was located in Beachwood, Ohio)


As if often the case with an artist as complex and mysterious as Dali, we are sometimes left with more questions than answers. “The Crucible of the Philosopher” is one of 10 prints from the extraordinary “Alchemy of the Philosophers” suite, on which Dali worked for four years, and which synthesizes multiple creative techniques and mediums.


Alchemy was an ideal phenomenon from which Dali would draw inspiration, and to which Dali’s vivid imagination and quest for creative expression would be drawn. Since antiquity, alchemy’s early practitioners claimed profound powers, most notably aligned with their objective of turning base metals into silver and gold. No serious study of mythology, religion and spirituality could ensue without consideration of the influential philosophical tradition of alchemy.


In “The Crucible of the Philosopher,” the bold red structure, seemingly ablaze, may well represent the furnace for heating substances – metals, in this case, in an effort to transform them into gold. In fact, is that what Dali was showing us here? The elongated form in white at the top, and then green in the middle distance, may have been transmuted, in the lower left foreground, now appearing in gold.


Along the bottom and in the middle distance, a mélange of images appear: frolicking people and winged angels; a horse and rider; a unicorn; even an iconic Dali soft watch. It all suggests a powerfully positive mood, perhaps a metaphor for what alchemists hoped to achieve: unraveling mysteries to attain a greater level of human comprehension.


The concept of alchemy seems to accord more logically with Salvador Dali’s intentions than one might first imagine. Consider, after all, that the alchemists were about experimentation. That is precisely what Dali was about. He endeavored to in effect transform the world around him, lending his creativity and surrealist twists to just about everything: a common time piece becomes a soft iconic symbol; a series of unrelated objects – scissors, trombone, drum – comprise a bizarre surrealist sculpture; the structure of atomic particles represent the blueprint for an entire artistic period Dali called Nuclear-Mysticism.


Perhaps what sums up the appeal of “The Crucible of the Philosopher” is that Salvador Dali was – for all intents and purposes – a modern-day alchemist himself! He synthesized, transformed, re-imagined and created a new way of thinking and seeing – a world through the lens of a true surrealist, in thought as well as in deed.


Perhaps. After all, with a genius as formidable as Dali, the questions outnumber the answers. And maybe this is how it should be. After all, even Dali asked, “How do you expect the public to understand the meaning of the mages I transcribe when I myself, who am the one who makes them happen, I don’t understand them, either?”


La Maison sans Fenetres
(“The House Without Windows”)
Book by Maurice Sandoz, Illustrations by Salvador Dalí
Original watercolor, 1949

by Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali. A Spanish genius who took the art world – and the world in general – by storm, practically from the moment of his birth on May 11, 1904. Throughout his 84-year life, Dali had a Midas touch. He was the leading figure in the art movement known as Surrealism, which took its main page from the psychoanalytical theories of Freud. No one explored the subconscious dream world as effectively as Dali. Among his most enduring images are his signature “soft watches” from his iconic painting, The Persistence of Memory of 1931.

His post-surrealist period, after about 1940, was marked by a turn to religious and historical themes, intermingled with science, and inspired primarily after the explosion of the atomic bomb and the ushering in of new discoveries about the discontinuity of matter. He went on to paint major works such as Tuna Fishing, The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, Christ of St. John of the Cross, the Sacrament of the Last Supper, and Hallucinogenic Toreador.

Museums honoring Dali’s legacy and genius can be found in Figueras, Spain – his birthplace – and St. Petersburg, Florida. Less extensive museums and/or permanent exhibitions have been established in London, Paris, and Tokyo as well.

In addition to being the most successful surrealist painter of the last century, Dali also blazed trails in filmmaking, lithography, etching and engraving, theatre design, the literary arts – he wrote two autobiographies and the novel, Hidden Faces – and book illustration.

* * * *

La Maison sans Fenetres is a colorful example of Salvador Dali at his book illustrating best – loaded with imagination yet “staying on message,” in this case depicting a sensational, surreal scene, after we learn in author Sandoz’s story that a pianist has set foot in the mysterious Villa Niervana.

Dali thus paints several grand pianos on a plain, one of them ascending skyward – a perfectly logical detail when you’re a surrealist painter illustrating a sort of surrealist author’s book! Dali’s pianos, however, are just a few notes shy of conventional. His are partly made of bricks, overgrown with vegetation and featuring water pouring from beneath their lids.

Serpents tickle the ivories, as it were, with their forked tongues. Typical Daliesque images – a figure in the background holding a crutch; a crutch propping up background landscape; several lush cypress trees – also populate this interesting tableau.

Pianos, it turns out, figured with considerable frequency in Dali’s world of “hand-painted color photography,” as he once described his technique. Countless Dali works find the instrument in all manner of contortions and poses, from the provocative Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano to Six Apparitions of Lenin on a Grand Piano.

One early work that has never been reproduced in any significant study of Dali’s vast catalog is titled Piano Descending by Parachute (1941), shown being hung on a wall by Dali and his wife, Gala, in a snap shot in the book, Salvador Dali: An Illustrated Life. We can even go back to the 1920s and the medium of film and find a piano as a major prop in the bizarre, surrealist film – now a cinema classic – titled Un Chien Andalou.

The 1940s was a remarkable period in Dali’s career. Self-exiled to the United States during World War II, Dali paid the bills not merely through inspired easel paintings, but, indeed, through book illustrations, society portraiture, and a vast array of commercial endeavors – designing everything from dinner plates to neckties, chess sets to hosiery ads. Indeed, the present watercolor illustration for the Sandoz volume bears a striking resemblance to the sort of busy and colorful look of the wonderful series Dali painted to advertise Bryan Hosiery, and which were published in such magazines as Vogue and Harpar’s Bazaar.

Dali was commissioned not only to illustrate Sandoz’s House Without Windows, but also the Swiss author’s The Maze, On The Verge, and Fantastic Memories. His dust jacket designs and inside illustrations represent some of his finest work.

Finally, it’s rather fun to note that, when Dali and Gala were staying at the home of Caresse Crosby at Virginia’s Hampton Manor during the 1940s, Dali orchestrated a sort of surrealist happening by, among other things, hoisting a grand piano up into the trees!

He took the world by storm, indeed.

Celestial Elephant- Salvador Dali, 1979

Celestial Elephant

Celestial Elephant, Salvador Dali



Salvador Dali featured animals with great frequency in his works. Surrealism explored the human subconscious, the world of dreams, and it was fertile ground for portraying recurring images in one’s nocturnal cinema of the mind – which frequently includes animals. Who among us, after all, hasn’t had at least one dream about a man-eating octopus or a bloodthirsty shark, or some giant, menacing swarm of insects!


Of the many animals that make an appearance in Dali’s oeuvre, large and small, the elephant was an oft-seen favorite, such as in the present lithograph, Celestial Elephant of 1979. It’s a little known fact that Salvador Dali actually owned an elephant, which he named Susurus, and which was housed at the Barcelona zoo.


Except for Dali’s 1970 Hannibal Crossing the Alps watercolor, it’s rare if not impossible to find a “normal” elephant in Dali’s works; i.e., one where the large beast doesn’t stand impossibly heavy and tall on stilt-like spider or giraffe legs!


What is the idea behind this unusual and amusing treatment of the mighty pachyderm, anyway? In three words: ambiguity, paradox, contradiction. All, in effect, underpinnings of Dali’s approach to his art and, to a large extent, the way he lived his life. By doing the exact opposite of what people expected, Dali provoked us in exciting, amusing, sometimes unsettling, but always memorable ways.


In Celestial Elephant, the paradox is boldly and colorfully evident: a multi-ton animal supported by skyscraper-tall chicken limbs! It is an undeniably funny sight, and Dali clearly intended to elicit a smile or two in creating this whimsical work. Trumpeting cherubs herald the strong presence of the elephant, which, together with its riders, is already high enough to be in the heavens (celestial, as it were), as it moves along an Egyptian desert featuring a brick-walled pyramid in the middle distance, on top of which a crutch-carrying, victorious-looking figure stands. Colorful dragonflies, butterflies, and the jeweled garment on the elephant itself add to the pageantry and mystique of the scene.


Important images in Dali’s work, such as the elephant, often find an echo in other works of his, sometimes in a variety of mediums. In the case of Dali’s elephants, there is a long line of sensational works in which the animal is found.


An early and dramatic appearance of elephants – used to extraordinary double-image effect – was Swans Reflecting Elephants of 1937. This masterful oil painting shows four swans on a small lake, which, at the same time, reveal reflections that are in the shape of elephants (the painting sold at auction for upwards of $3 million in the 1990s).


Another dramatic canvas by Dali, and one of his most celebrated, is The Temptation of Saint Athony (1946), where various temptations (sex, riches, etc.) are carried upon the backs of three elephants, whose sky-high spider-like legs are perhaps the most dramatic of any of Dali’s paradoxical elephant portrayals.


Dali introduced his interest in the elephant into other mediums, too. In the late 1960s, Air India commissioned him to design a promotional ash tray for the company; Dali came up with a design that was both a swan and an elephant, depending on whether it was right side up or upside down. The skinny-legged pachyderm also showed up – with an obelisk on its back, similar to the one in Temptation of St. Anthony – in Space Elephant, a dramatic jeweled object designed by Dali.


Dali even counted among the unusual, surrealistic props strewn about his unconventional property at Port Lligat, Spain, an actual elephant’s skull!


Among other serious paintings in which his utterly unique brand of elephants appears are Triumph of Dionysus and Melancholy, Atomic, Uranic, Idyll. The year Celestial Elephant was created, 1979, was a time when Dali was playing visual “games” in another way, as well. He was involved in optical explorations that began a few years earlier with his interest in holography and stereoscopy. His 1979 Searching for the Fourth Dimension canvas was another step on the road to discovering new visual phenomena in the medium of oil painting.


Taken in context, then, Celestial Elephant finds plenty of company within Dali’s prolific career. The graphic has a cheery, optimistic, jubilant quality about it and is a splendid example of how Salvador Dali could take a comparatively normal subject and give it that special paranoiac-critical twist that made it uniquely Dalinian!


We might be bold enough to say here that, just as Gala told Dali that once someone sees the soft watches in The Persistence of Memory they will never forget it, so too can it be said of a work like Celestial Elephant. After all, are you ever going to forget so contradictory yet compelling an image?

“Alsace” from The French Railways- Salvador Dalí

By Paul Chimera

Dali Historian

(Mr. Chimera worked directly with Dali Museum founder Reynolds Morse, as the publicity director of the original Dali Museum when it was located in Beachwood, Ohio)



The French Railways


Alsace from The French Railways by Salvador Dali 1969

Alsace from The French Railways by Salvador Dali 1969


There’s really no mistaking a Dali! The Surrealist master had a distinctive style and flair that made everything very much his own – very much “Dalinian!” This interesting print – “Alsace,” based on Dali’s original gouache and collage and produced to help promote train travel on behalf of the French National Railway – is no exception.

Alsace is one of the main stops for France’s rail system, along with five others for which Dali produced unique images: Auvergne, Normandie, Alpes, Roussillon, and Paris.

In “Alsace,” Dali has focused on the fantastic Romanesque and Gothic architecture of Strasbourg in this historic and beautiful region of France. In collage, we see part of the Strasbourg Cathedral or Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. Dali’s surrealist twist here puts a kind of red cape around the image, giving it human-like characteristics, together with butterfly wings that fan out loosely on either side of the central figure. (In fact, this 6-piece print portfolio has alternately been called the “Butterfly” series.)

In some ways “Alsace” is a bit darker than the others in the series, in that Dali used heavy black for the suggestion of the butterfly wings, and the scene appears under an overcast if not storm-threatening sky. Perhaps all the more reason to be comfortable inside the modern French Railway system’s cars!

As is often the case with Dali, from the standpoint of technique, in “Alsace” he melds a fairly tight rendering of the background cathedral with a looser spontaneity of brushwork in the foreground. It adds up to that Dalinian earmark that makes a work by this 20th century master exclusively his own, predictably fascinating, and eminently collectible!


© 2009 The Salvador Dalí Society®. All rights reserved
© Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation All Rights to Dalí’s Image, likeness, and works of art.
For more information and pricing contact: Joseph Nuzzolo, 888-888-DALI (3254)



Tristan Fou Costumes- Salvador Dali

Tristan Fou Costumes

Salvador Dalí

Lithograph, 1970

0809_tristan_fou_costumesMention Salvador Dali and his irrepressible melting clocks spring immediately to mind. Dali the painter, as well as Dali the showman, is doubtlessly what most people think of when the artist’s name is mentioned. The man whose flamboyance was as prominent as his iconic images of the 20th century: burning giraffes and floating Madonna’s and impossibly limbed elephants and, of course, those soft-as-Camembert time pieces, oozing down the sides of ledges and tree branches and in many other settings – real or imagined.

But Dali had an extraordinary career as a set and costume designer of some remarkable ballets and other theatrical productions, too. And here, in this magnificent lithograph, Tristan Fou Costumes (Mad Tristan), we see an example of Dali’s inimitable surrealist vision as it informs a most unusual costume design.

Dali, in 1937, contracted with Leonide Massine of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo to produce Tristan Fou. Costumes were to be produced by Elsa Schiaparelli. The story was loosely based on the life of mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria – a blend of myth, fantasy, and reality.

The lithe and sinewy women feature four distinctly Daliesque touches that make them unmistakably the products of the Catalan painter’s vivid imagination. The heads of roses recall several paintings and sculptures by Dali that used this device to add a surrealist twist that exploits the symbolism of roses as representing the female sex. The nine fish tails strapped onto the body of the woman at left, supported by crutches, not only provide a visual incongruity, but nod to Dali’s interpretation of fish as a phallic symbol. This fact is dramatically illustrated in a drawing in the Dali Museum collection in St. Petersburg, Florida, where an exaggerated phallus is simultaneously and clearly also a fish. This fish motif was seen in various other works by Salvador Dali, most notably his 1941 oil painting, Costume for a Nude with a Codfish Tail.

The crutches – possibly the most ubiquitous of all of Dali’s personal images, even considering the famed soft watches – have been widely interpreted in two plausible ways: Dali’s comment on the weakness, frailty and degeneration of society in general – but also as a kind of sublimated allusion to his own alleged impotence. This latter explanation may be most significant, considering how Dali made unabashed declarations that eroticism was among the top driving forces in his remarkable life and work. Even if, in Dali’s case, it may have been more voyeuristic in its manifestation.

Finally, of course, we consider the outrageously peculiar appendages jutting from the middle figure and the woman at right in Tristan Fou Costumes. Once again, the phallic symbolism cannot be lost on even the most minimally discerning observer. It may also be a reference to at least one resident of Cadaques, Spain, when Dali was a young man, whose hydrocephalic deformity made an indelible impression on the young artist. The same sort of paradoxical elongation is seen, for example, in Dali’s 1932 canvas, The Average Fine and Invisible Harp, and, among others, in Meditation on the Harp, 1932-1934. What’s more, a similarly looking figure was depicted in the lower right of Dali’s 1945 painting, Napoleon’s Nose, Transformed into a Pregnant Woman, St rolling H is Shadows with Melancholia Among Original Ruins.

An examination of this lithograph would be incomplete if one didn’t also draw parallels between it and the costumes Dali created for his infamous Dream of Venus pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair, in which the scantily clad women in that spectacle sported similar fish-themed regalia.

It may be an understatement to say that “Dali was different,” but indeed, a lithograph such as Tristan Fou Costumes immediately telegraphs to the viewer a distinctive difference that makes Salvador Dali’s work as eye-opening as it is memorable. A true kind of persistence of memory, because – as Gala famously said of Dali’s soft watches, when she first saw them in his career-defining 1931 masterpiece, “Once someone sees them, they will never forget them.” The same might apply to this dramatic lithograph, Tristan Fou Costumes – so different in content and execution, and so improbable for anyone to forget. That must surely be one of the great gifts of Surrealism – a movement whose powerful visual force has continued to have such lasting and memorable effects.


© 2009 The Salvador Dalí Society®. All rights reserved
© Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation All Rights to Dalí’s Image, likeness, and works of art.
For more information and pricing contact: Joseph Nuzzolo, 888-888-DALI (3254)

The Lady and the Unicorn


by Peter Lucas of the Lucas Gallery

The unicorn is a legendary animal from folklore, predominantly European, that is much like a white horse except for its large, pointed, spiraling horn that projects from its forehead.  It sometimes has a goat’s beard and cloven hooves. The Greeks were the first to mention such a creature.  In the Middle Ages and Renaissance it became an important imaginary animal.  It was said to be very wild, to have lived in woodlands.  Considered a symbol of purity and grace, it could be captured only by virgin.  Its horn was believed to have had the power to render poisoned water drinkable and to heal sickness.

Dali himself was fascinated with horns especially that of the rhinoceros, which he believed held scientific and mystical secrets.  During the artist’s Atomic period, roughly (1945 to 1960), Dali believed that his paintings could be deconstructed into rhinoceros horns.  D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form was one of the texts that caused him to focus on the rhinoceros horn’s morphology with regard to the Golden section and the related logarithmic spiral.  He identified logarithmic spirals in rhinoceros horns, cauliflower heads, sunflowers and Vermeer’s painting The Lacemaker of 1669-1670. Whereas the unicorn was indeed associated with sexual innocence and purity, Dali associated the rhinoceros horn with chastity, too.  This was ironic to say the leastconsidering the phallic shape and fabled aphrodisiac qualities of the larger, real animal.

The unicorn even became a symbol of the Virgin Mary. From the 1950’s on Dali created paintings which included in them unicorn or rhinoceros.  Among these are ASUMPTA CORPUSCULARIA LAPISLAZULINA (1952),  and YOUNG VIRGIN AUTO-SODOMISED BY THE HORNS OF HER OWN CHASTITY (1954).  Although the latter piece has the words Virgin and Chastity in its title the work hardly seems to be chaste.  However this work brings out the telling point that the thoughts and feeling of a virgin may well be anything but virginal. This work might put some of  us in mind of the sentiments of one of Dali’s intellectual heroes and mentors,  Sigmund  Freud.  In his brilliant critique of modern Western civilization and the Western way of life titled CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS (1930).   Freud pointed out that we repress our basic drives to such an extent that we deny ourselves much chance of happiness in life.



© 2016 The Salvador Dalí Society®. All rights reserved
© Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation All Rights to Dalí’s Image, likeness, and works of art.
For more information and pricing contact: Joseph Nuzzolo, 888-888-DALI (3254)