Dali’s ‘Perpignan Railway Station’ Exudes Palpable Energy!

By Paul Chimera

Dali Historian & Writer

Certain Dali works speak to me. In fact, I can almost feel them – feel their grip – psychically and even physically. Sounds crazy, I know.

It’s impossible to explain. But maybe you’ve experienced it, too. There’s a consuming, compelling energy that certain works of art radiate. It’s a known phenomenon that some people get dizzy, even pass out, when they find themselves standing before immensely powerful, profoundly meaningful works of art.

Dali’s “Perpignan Railway Station” (a radically shortened version of its full title) has that effect on me. Ironically, its origins had the same kind of effect on Salvador Dali.

Dali had claimed he gained tremendous inspiration from sitting in the lobby of the train station at Perpignan, France. In 1963, he remarked,  in a proclaimed ecstasy: “It all became clear in a flash. There, right before me, was the center of the universe.”

It also ignited his long-standing desire to achieve the illusion of three-dimensionality on a flat surface.

Now toss in Dali’s preoccupation with his own immortality (and mortality); his obsession with the painting, “The Angelus” by Millet; and his growing devotion to Christian themes, and you have the remarkable and immense oil painting, fully titled: “Gala Looking at Dali in a State of Anti-Gravitation in  His Work of Art ‘Pop-Op-Yes-Yes-Pompier’ in which One can Contemplate the Two Anguishing Characters from Millet’s ‘Angelus’ in a State of Atavistic Hibernation Standing Out of a Sky Which Can Suddenly Burst into a Gigantic Maltese Cross Right in the Heart of the Perpignan Railway Station Where the Whole Universe Must Begin to Converge.”

A jaw-breaking 64-word-title that, I believe, is the longest of many bizarre if not amusing titles Dali assigned to some of his paintings.


But let me return to the visceral reaction this Dali work stirs in me. Certainly its size is a factor – a large space in which we’re drawn perhaps most powerfully by the Maltese-like cross, painted in a glowing gold hue. The impressive illusion of tremendous depth – indeed, of the three-dimensionality Dali sought – is effectively achieved, especially as we contemplate one of the two levitating Dali self-portraits at the center of the canvas.

What’s more, that image of Dali seems to be receding farther into distant space, furthering the illusion of great depth. And a feeling of ascension (anti-gravitation) is echoed in the other self-portrait at the top.

Speaking of 3-D, Dali had virtually achieved it in the small but wonderful detail of the wooden clog, which actually looks like it’s floating in front of the canvas! And the train car itself, which looks like a photograph.

Dali’s religious reference is seen in the radiant cross in the center of an image of Christ crucified, his head wreathed in thorns, his side bleeding from lancing. The male and female figures from Millet’s “The Angelus” – a painting with which Dali was forever obsessed– appear on either side of the tableau.


The glowing, three-dimensional effect of the Maltese cross; the tranquil body of water at the bottom, on which a boat restfully sits; the ethereal image of Jesus and the evocative view of Gala watching everything unfold, adds up to pop art and surrealism only Salvador Dali could have imagined.

Do you feel it, too?




Masterpiece Proves Dali was a Hyper-Realist Before Hyper-Realism was Cool!

By Paul Chimera

Dali Historian & Writer

It’s easy to see why many people consider “Nature Morte Vivante” (“Still Life, Fast Moving”) their favorite Salvador Dali painting. It’s a spellbinding canvas, largely because Dali painted it with a technique rivaling Vermeer or Velasquez.

I saw this stunning 1956 work for the first time in the home of Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, the late Cleveland, Ohio couple who were the benefactors of the Dali Museum in Florida. It looked amazing, hanging on their living room wall. Every object depicted looked so realistic, you felt you could remove them from the canvas and hold them in your hand!

Those of us who study and write about the Master persistently try to get inside his head, yearning to figure out what might have been going on in the mysterious mind of Salvador Dali. Virtually impossible. Especially when Dali insisted even he didn’t understand the images in his paintings!

But we cannot believe Dali completely. Despite claiming he was just as confounded as we were by his work, he sometimes provided insights that allowed us to go beyond personal interpretations.

Enter the “Dali difference,” which I’ve been blogging about in recent posts. It wasn’t enough to paint a still life; Dali’s still life would be “animated!” Apples and cherries and spilled liquid zip through space, lending a lively and dynamic energy to this astonishing picture.

Doing the opposite of convention was a hallmark of Dali’s art and life. Author Paul Wharton wrote that Dali’s reputation “was so aggressively established through self-promotion that it forms a barrier to the calm assessment of his art.” That was penned many decades ago, and it was undeniably true.

But now we can largely overlook Dali’s provocative behavior and calmly assess his prodigious career in surrealism and beyond. In doing so, we recognize in “Nature Morte Vivante,” as in so many of Dali’s prints, paintings, drawing, sculpture and other work, that he zigged while others zagged.

The Dali difference was his stock in trade – including painting a still life that isn’t still; everything is suspended in space, creating a palpable tension.


Was this simply a choice to be different? Or was more going on here? What was Dali’s inventive mind locked onto in 1956, when he painted “Nature Morte Vivante”?  Russia would launch Sputnik a year later: did Dali’s work – with its objects hurtling through space – anticipate that event? Discoveries in nuclear physics continued to make headlines. Dali’s Nuclear-Mysticism – an artistic melding of science, religion, and mysticism – was in over-drive.

So here we have a remarkable synthesis of current scientific influences with Dali’s allegiance to mathematical principles in painting, plus his lifelong reverence for classical traditions in art.

The masterpiece expresses a still life through the lens of nuclear physics, which revealed that, at the atomic level, matter is discontinuous; nothing touches. “Everything is rumping and jumping about!” Dali colorfully observed.

At the same time, Dali pays homage in a restatement of a 1617 still life by Floris Van Schooten, showing us that a modern painter can take an unconventional approach to a traditional subject; infuse it with new revelations in cutting-edge science; link it to a work by a 17th century painter; and — through his formidable painting talent – anticipate the vogue for hyper-realism years before that movement began!

That, folks, is genius.




Dali’s ‘Last Supper’ a Triumph of Precision, Symbolic Perfection

By Paul Chimera

Dali Society Historian/Writer

Almost every person I know has had a similar reaction to Salvador Dali’s 1955 painting, “The Sacrament of the Last Supper,” when they see it in person: “Damn! It takes your breath away!”

It’s true.

This large 1955 canvas, which has hung in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., since esteemed art patron Chester Dale donated it, is one of the most painstakingly perfect Dali paintings you’ll ever see. It is nearly photographic in technique, which – while not everyone’s chalice of tea – is, for this blogger, one of the chief reasons I find it so impressive.

Virtually all Dali painting share a common quality: a precision of technique that allowed whatever illusion Dali was serving up to come off with uncanny believability. And make no mistake – painting is an illusion.


Like a Hollywood movie, where numerous still shots zip by our eye fast enough to make us believe we’re seeing actual movement on the screen (we’re not), so too is a painting a manipulation of form, color, perspective, space and dimension in an effort to make us see something that really isn’t there.

I think this point cannot be overstated. It was Dali’s draftsmanship, his technical mastery as a painter, that allowed him such success in dazzling us on canvas – not to mention in Dali prints, Dali drawings, Dali watercolors…just about everything Dali!

So as we consider the breathtaking “Sacrament of the Last Supper,” we see what almost looks like a very large color photograph. But how can this be? We are seeing the body of Christ! The body is transparent! An equally transparent male form rises above the holy repast!

The illusion could only be achieved by someone with the skill of Salvador Dali.

In my previous post about another religious Dali work, “Ascension,” I spoke of what I call the “Dali difference.” His inimitable way of seeing the world far differently from the rest of us. His special way of imagining a subject through an entirely different lens.

The present painting is another example of this. Dali’s aim was not to depict how the actual Lord’s supper must have looked (thus deviating from Da Vinci’s famous rendition), but instead to glorify the perfection and unity of the sacrament itself.

So he places the iconic event within a dodecahedron – a 12-sided geometrical figure that symbolizes harmony and perfection. The number 12, of course, also represents the 12 Apostles, as well as many other worldly truths: the 12 months of the year; the 12 signs of the Zodiac, the 12 Tribes of Israel.

Despite it all, some folks have disparaged the famed painting. I’ll never forget when, for a period of time, it was actually hung on an obscure wall in the Gallery gift shop! When I inquired of a desk attendant why such a world-famous masterpiece was quartered in this manner, she said, “If I had my druthers, it would be put in the basement!”

You can’t please everyone.

But Dali just about did, with his “Sacrament of the Last Supper.” Because it’s fact that more reproductions of Dali’s painting are sold in the National Gallery’s gift shop than any other work of art. And I think we can be confident it will never hang in the basement.

Amen to that.








Salvador Dali’s Razor-Sharp Technique Made His Portraits Pop!

By Paul Chimera

Dali Society Historian & Writer


I want to look at two things in today’s blog post: Dali’s portraiture, and Dali’s technical brilliance.

Let me address the technique question first. It’s pretty much a cliché by now, but it still means as much as when it was first articulated: Dali paintings, Dali drawings, Dali prints – virtually everything about the surrealism and post-surrealist works of Dali – reveals superb draftsmanship.

Dali possessed a technical virtuosity reminiscent of the Old Masters. There’s no denying it, and even his most ardent detractors concede that the crazy mustachioed Catalan could paint! And paint magnificently.

Simply put, Salvador Dali never could have pulled off the illusions he did, had he not had the ability to produce “hand-painted color photography,” to use his own description. He was a brilliant technician, pure and simple.

I think I’ve made my point. But why is it important?

For at least two reasons, one already stated: his spectacular technical skill was so photographic in quality that Dali made the unreal seem real! Things just don’t float like that in mid-air. And yet there they are – knife, leaf, glass of wine, giant cauliflower – in a remarkable work like “Nature Morte Vivante” (1957, Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida).


Secondly, great craftsmanship is always admired and appreciated, no matter how it’s demonstrated.

Which brings me to a Dali portrait of great craftsmanship – the portrait seen here of Madame Ortiz de Linares, painted in 1942 (private collection).

Can you say stunning!


Look how Dali handled the lacy transparent veil, the lush clouds, really everything in this exquisite portrait. It is one of many society portraits Salvador Dali painted, which typically featured a faithful likeness of the sitter within an often wildly surrealist background.

Of course, not everyone was thrilled with what became a somewhat commercial turn on the road Dali began to travel around this time. It’s not that he didn’t continue to produce important art for the ages – he certainly did – but some (jealous?) contemporaries and others felt Dali was becoming too seduced by dollars and less guided by inspired ideas.

Not surprisingly, Dali had a brilliant explanation. He reasoned that most people work to get money. But, in his case, he earned money in order to work! He meant, of course, that the hefty paychecks that poured in from society portraits – and all manner of other lucrative commercial projects – meant he now had the financial freedom to devote more time to what he loved best: creating great art!

It worked beautifully. Dali became a wealthy man. And, yes, he flaunted it. The stereotype of the brooding, starving, bohemian artist, dressed in tattered clothing and enduring the millstone of poverty never visited Dali’s lifestyle.

Instead, he was effusive; dined generously; dressed flamboyantly in brocade vests and classic capes, brandishing an assortment of walking sticks and watching that iconic mustache twitch all the way to the bank! “Bravo! Bravo!” he’d surely exclaim.

Dali knew that being a great artist, while also attaining great wealth in his chosen profession, were not mutually exclusive paths!


“Ascension” Demonstrates the Dali Difference!

By Paul Chimera

Dali Society Historian/Writer


Among the many things Salvador Dali did that one can safely call mind-blowing is how he played with spatial relationships in his paintings.

This man wanted to be remembered as the dean of DIFFERENT!

Think about it. Everything Dali did was counter to “normal.” Of course, anyone expecting normalcy from Salvador Dali was about as wise as the person who tries to thread a camel through the eye of a needle! It’s not going to happen.

So here, in Dali’s stunning 1958 “Ascension of Christ” (sometimes called simply “Ascension”), we have a Dali work that sort of messes with our sense of conventional perspective. Is the image of Christ rising? Is he traveling back into a distant vanishing point? Could he even be descending toward us? Our sense of space, and even time, gets a bit turned on its head here – a hallmark of Dali’s unique vision and perhaps his attempt to confound us a little.


Is the prominence of Christ’s feet suggesting he’s about to set foot on a temporal plain? Or are the feet of Jesus the last thing one would have seen before he ascended toward what is here an electrified sense of heaven? Surely the soiled feet symbolize the walks Jesus made with his Disciples.

So many questions — exactly what Dali intended. He also intended to share with us one of the most important sources of his creative inspiration: his dreams. He had explained that the genesis of this painting came to him one night in a dream, where the nucleus of an atom inspired his sense of “the unifying spirit of Christ.”

Perhaps no other Dali painting, Dali print, or work in other medium – intended to capture the spirit of the artist’s Nuclear-Mysticism period – does so quite as literally as “Ascension.” After all, we have the “nuclear” idea in the cell-like circle that dominates the backdrop behind Jesus, and the “mystical” aura in every other aspect of this large canvas.

One example is how Dali’s wife, Gala – often portrayed as the Holy Mother – mysteriously watches from the heavens, tears shed to perhaps convey the sadness of seeing her son departing the familiarity of the earthly world. Based on how she’s positioned in relation to how Christ is rising, Dali again toys with our perception through perplexing convolutions of space and time.

But the ultimate joy of appreciating great Dali art – any art, really – is that we’re free to float our own interpretation of what the artist meant. Or at least what we think and feel as we consider the work of art. Certainly the large nuclear sphere may also symbolize the sun, which gives life to all. And the florets of a sun flower, arranged in the logarithmic curve by which the mathematically adept Dali was fascinated, are undeniable.

Maybe there’s the suggestion of a sea urchin shell, too – a common element in Dali’s work.

It adds up to what I’m calling the “Dali difference.” He sought to be different because he knew no other way – in art and in life. It is, for me, one of the most fascinating and impressive characteristics of the man: he saw beyond the obvious, dove deeper below the surface, imagined beyond the rational — and beyond the irrational!





Ask the Dali Guru, Joe Nuzzolo: A Weekly Conversation


Mr. Nuzzolo is president of the Salvador Dali Society, Inc. and co-author – with Peter B. Lucas and Lawrence Saphire – of Salvador Dali Prints: The Catalogue Raisonne, to be released in early 2017. He chats below with Dali Society historian and blogger Paul Chimera, in another installment of our weekly feature, “Ask the Dali Guru.”


PC:  The Salvador Dali Society, Inc. has moved its headquarters from Redondo Beach, California to Torrance, California. Why the move and how does that affect your operations as the major U.S. dealer dedicated to the art of Dali?


JN: That was a while back. I purchased an 8000-sq. ft. solid brick building on Carson Street. The brick had been painted over, so we spent months using an environmentally friendly stripper to remove it. Now it’s back to its original look: red brick walls inside and an unusual cream-colored brick on the exterior.  I weld and do iron work, so I added nice details in iron. I always liked the buildings in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona; many of my ideas came from there. Most of our business is still all over the world, but the building makes for a very cool headquarters. Right now we have only a few dozen works hanging, as we’re in the process re-configuring the open space to hang some 200 works by Dali.


PC: Your definitive print catalog raisonne is due out early next year. Give us an example of how a collector will be able to use it to determine authenticity of Dali works they own.


JN: The book is very well researched and can certainly be used by Dali collectors to navigate the market. But I recommend that before someone enters into any financial transaction for a Dali print, they send that print to me for an evaluation. If you wish to buy something from a dealer, I recommend that as a condition of the purchase you insist the work be sent to one of we three authors (Joe Nuzzolo, Lawrence Saphire, or Peter Lucas) for an in-person inspection and subsequent opinion of authenticity. The dealer should not refuse. If they do, you have every right to be concerned.

Here are our emails:

Joe Nuzzolo – joe@dali.com

Peter B.Lucas – daliprices@aol.com

Lawrence Saphire – 16025@comcast.net


PC: Talk about the Dali Society’s Facebook presence. Is it true you have several million members of your Salvador Dali Page?

JN: Our Dali page on Facebook at present has just under 6,000,000 fans. We have an eclectic following from all over the world. We offer interesting anecdotes about Salvador Dali as well as history and information for collectors. It is not a forum for commercial activity. We do occasionally offer a work for sale on the page, but it’s not one of those Facebook fan pages that really fronts for a commercial entity.

We always have Dali in mind when we make our posts. We give consideration to his comical persona and some posts are quite humorous. An example is a recent picture of a dog dressed up as Dali, which had millions of hits. Other posts provide historical information about the artist, of which the public is likely unaware.  Based on the growth of the page and the response from fans, I’d say we have struck a chord with Dali aficionados around the world. The page speaks to the popularity not just of Dali’s work but also his cult of personality.  Here’s the link:




Dali’s ‘Soft Construction’ Has Geographic ‘Surprise’ in it!

By Paul Chimera

Dali Society Historian/Writer

You wouldn’t be reading this, had I not elected to take an art appreciation course my freshman year of college. That’s when the professor showed a large color slide projection of the Dali painting, “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans; Premonition of Civil War” (1936-’37).

I was hooked.

The bizarre, imaginative image mesmerized me. The fluidity of forms. The dazzling color palette and precision of technique. It was the start of a lifelong, possibly obsessive exploration of Salvador Dali’s world. And now people insist on calling me a Dali expert (if they must).

I’m still blown away by one aspect of this important painting – TIME magazine called it the most important “war picture” of the 20th century – which I learned of only within the last few years. I’m going to save it for later in this post.

Wait for it…wait for it . . .

Once again, we see that – despite what the uninitiated might hastily believe about a Dali work – they always had meaning: sometimes a clear and definitive one, other times an esoteric personal relevance. But nothing Dali did was random or meaningless.

The key in “Soft Construction…” is its subtitle: “Premonition of Civil War.” It presaged the outbreak of the brutal Spanish Civil War, what with the giant horrified figure tearing itself apart – a metaphor for the self-destruction inherent in civil war.

While Dali was largely apolitical, he didn’t shrink from making social statements pictorially. That he was ahead of his time as an artist and cultural phenomenon has been demonstrated time and time again. His premonition in the present painting is another example of that.

The contorted form of the convoluted, self-destructing human figure demonstrates the emotion Dali was capable of evoking in us.

You can practically hear the anguish this work evokes.

The figure of Lenin walking aimlessly in the barren landscape; the beans strewn about, doubtlessly symbolizing war rations and the general austerity of what war typically brings; and what is apparently red-hued excrement draped on a dismembered buttocks – it all speaks of the tragedy, desolation and futility of civil war.


And now to that one marvelous detail about this Dali painting, alluded to earlier, that for some reason intrigues me to no end. Take a look at the space formed by the contour of the twisted body – the central space of the canvas. It is not at all a random space.

Any geography buffs out there? Does that shape look familiar?

That central space in “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans; Premonition of Civil War” is…the very shape of Spain itself!

Yes, run to a map. See! While I long admired this great painting for all the reasons previously stated, my respect for it has only grown since learning of this geographical surprise. Genius!

Dali’s public image was something of a mad genius. But make no mistake: Salvador Dali was crazy like a fox. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he always went beyond normal expectations in order to amaze us.

Little wonder he was the undisputed kingpin of Surrealism.




ASK THE DALI GURU, JOE NUZZOLO: A Weekly Conversation . . .

This is the first of a once-a-week interview with Dali guru Joe Nuzzolo, President of The Salvador Dali Society, Inc. Dali Society historian/blogger Paul Chimera will be asking the questions. Enjoy!

Paul Chimera (PC): You have an important Dali Catalog Raisonne coming out. When can we expect it to be published and why is it important for Dali collectors to have this resource?

Joe Nuzzolo (JN): I have been accumulating information for the book since 1993. To say it was a colossal task is an understatement. Dali created over 1,700 works in the print medium. He worked with many different publishers and his record-keeping was not the best. In fact, he relied on the publishers to keep the records. I engaged two other Dali experts I hold in the highest regard: Lawrence Saphire, who worked with and knew Dali and has a specialized knowledge of the early prints; and Peter B. Lucas, who also has business with Dali and has an intimate understanding of works from 1960-80.

This is a very well-researched book. It contains information that has never before been seen in print. Cumulatively, we authors have over 130 years of experience and it still took us nearly seven years of working together to bring it to completion. The book will be out in early 2017. It can be reserved at Dali.com. I strongly recommend that anyone interested get on the waiting list. We are not taking payment or even jotting down payment info. We are simply creating a priority list.

The first 500 will be signed by all three authors, and by getting on the waiting list you secure a sales price of $395. We intend to release the book at $495. This is a bargain when you consider that the Chagall books are nearly $10,000 and the Picasso books are over $5,000. In fact, I recently saw the Dali sculpture book on sale for over $1,000 and it has much fewer entries than ours.

PC: What sets The Salvador Dali Society, Inc. apart from other groups that deal in Dali works?

JN: Many things. We only sell authentic Dali works. There are dealers out there who have admitted under oath to selling fakes, yet they still engage in the Dali business. Each one of our works comes with a third-party Certificate of Authenticity.

We not only offer only authentic Dali’s, we direct our clients to those works we feel are the most important within their budgetary range. So if you tell me you have $5,000 to spend, I will find you the best work you can own for $5,000.

PC: Why is it Dali for you and not, say, Pablo Picasso or Joan Miro?

JN: I always liked Dali. When I was barely 20 and hanging out in New York, it was all about Andy Warhol. Don’t get me wrong – I like Andy’s work and even have a collection of them, but  I was always intrigued by the works of Salvador Dali.

Each of his works had layered meanings and in my opinion he is the most technically sophisticated of the group. I was lucky, when I came to California in 1987, I was able to land a job at a gallery in Beverly Hills that sold the works by Salvador Dali. It just snowballed from there.





Dali’s Parental Disenchantment Clear in ‘Enigma of William Tell’

By Paul Chimera

Dali Society Historian/Writer

Who among us hasn’t had some conflict with our parents at some point in our lives? Especially when we were younger? Being, on occasion — sometimes extended occasions — disenchanted with parental authority is almost a rite of passage, yes?

Twenty-nine-year-old Salvador Dali was no different. In 1929, he found himself at a critical time in his personal and artistic life. He was on the cusp of courting the strange ethos of Surrealism. And of courting a Russian woman 10 years his senior. And, oh yeah, she was married.

It all left Dali’s father profoundly angry. Angry enough, in fact, to disown his son. So Dali took to his own unique brand of revenge: he represented his thoughts about the situation in one of the strangest Dali paintings ever — “The Enigma of William Tell” (Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden).

First — not unlike Dali’s “Celestial Ride” canvas, which I recently blogged about — you can’t help but react instantaneously to the absurdity of the image. A kneeling male figure with one cheek of his buttocks elongated to a preposterous length!  To think it was not intended to be hyper-phallic is to be hopelessly naive.

The disfigured derriere is so unwieldy that it requires propping up by a crutch, echoing the same requirement for the man’s hat brim, stretched beyond all reason like salt water taffy on steroids.

“Take that, dad!”

In effect, that’s what Dali was doing here, since — if you haven’t guessed by now — the man represents Dali’s father, depicted as Lenin to add to the menacing nature of his perverted form. Menacing and predatory — because the draconian father figure holds in his arms a young boy with a piece of meat on his head.

Any guess who that young, vulnerable young boy might symbolize?

The allegory here of William Tell — where a man’s son is put in the life and death position of having an apple on his head pierced by an arrow shot by his father — adds to the sinister nature of the scene.


I don’t know of any artist who has ever intentionally mocked (excoriated?) a parent in a painting to a more dramatic extent than what this Dali work does. Dali’s “father” is now reduced to a pathetic, exploited figure — naked from the waist down…piercing himself with a knife…his butt transformed into a phallic appendage that couldn’t be more demeaning — even draped with what appears to be red-hued excrement!

“Don’t mess with Dali!,” the artistic statement here seems, or you might have to deal with his surrealism! “A hero,” Dali once wrote, “is the man who revolts against paternal authority and conquers it!”

As a Dali expert, I’m often asked what my favorite Dali print, drawing, painting or other Dali work is. And people ask with the same eagerness which work I consider his most bizarre or peculiar. They even wonder which Dali picture, if any, I actually don’t especially like.

For now, I’ll answer one of those questions: “The Enigma of William Tell” is, in my view, the most outrageous Dali painting of them all. At the same time, it serves as a kind of open book to what the young artist was thinking and feeling at a most challenging time in his legendary life.



Celebrating Dali’s ‘Columbus’ on Columbus Day!

By Paul Chimera

Dali Society Historian/Writer

The late Reynolds Morse, Dali’s leading patron, Dali expert and benefactor of the Dali Museum in St. Pete, Florida, was an intense man. He spoke his mind. He was insistent in his beliefs. Even if it meant duking it out with Dali.

“I don’t like it. It doesn’t fit with the rest. You’re going to ruin it!”

That was Morse’s comment when he and his wife Eleanor stood inside Dali’s studio in Port Lligat, Spain and gazed upon the massive “Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus” (1958-1959). It was a Dali work in progress, shaping up nicely. But across the bottom eighth of the 14-foot-tall canvas was a band of bland. Or so Morse thought.

Contrasting with the Mediteranean-inspired colors and overall beauty of the majority of the Dali painting was a curiously monochromatic grayish-brown space at the bottom. Morse didn’t understand it but thought it was out of place. He didn’t hide his disappointment with that section of the work.

“You will see in time,” countered Dali,  speaking in the third-person, “that Dali is ahead of his time!” While those might not be his exact words, it’s close enough. The Morse’s left perplexed. Not happy. Perhaps they wondered, moreover, what Huntington Hartford would think, since the businessman, philanthropist and art collector had commissioned the painting for his gallery on Columbus Circle in New York.

“Discovery of America…” shows a young Christopher setting foot on the “new world,” his foot casting a shadow on that puzzling space Morse railed against. Until — of course! — it suddenly struck the Dali collector like a meteor. All the signs were there: a huge sea urchin with bands encircling it…a lunar-like landscape….a new frontier…the absence of any real color…deep, unearthly shadows…

This was Salvador Dali’s prediction — years before it happened — that an American would be the first to set foot on the moon!

Now it all made sense to the Morse’s, and to anyone else who would come to see the extraordinary prescience of what might otherwise be a kind of forgettable footnote in a remarkable pictorial story. Years before Neil Armstrong took that “giant leap for mankind,” Salvador Dali took his own giant leap, proving — not for the first time — that he really was ahead of his time.


But Dali also pays homage in “Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus” to the 4ooth anniversary of the death of Velasquez, the great Spanish Renaissance artist whom Dali long held as his single favorite artist. Those tall lances you see at right are quoted right out of Velasquez’s “Surrender at Breda.”

Look discerningly in the upper right and you’ll spot the image of Dali’s iconic religious masterpiece, “Christ of St. John of the Cross” cleverly revealed by additional background lances — and then its mirror image appearing as dots on the flags. Incredibly, the “St. John of the Cross” image appears a third time as a small Crucifix held by Dali himself, who kneels in the foreground to the right of the ship’s hull. Gala, of course, is reverently pictured on the huge banner Columbus carries in his hand.

Wow! So much to see, discover, and enjoy on this Columbus Day, thanks to the master of Surrealism — and a man who was a pretty good predictor of world events, too!