Art of the 20th Century



 



Art Styles in 20th century Art Map



 

   

 

 

 

 



Salvador Dali




If You Act the Genius, You Will Be One!  1910-1928
The Proof of Love  1929-1935
The Conguest of the Irrational 1936-1939
The Triumph of Avida Dollars  1939-1946
The Mystical Manifesto  1946-1962
Paths to Immortality  1962-1989

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appendix

Illustrations:
Biblia Sacrata, Marquis de Sade, Faust, The Art of Love,
Don Quixote, Divine Comedy, Decameron,
Casanova, Les Caprices de Goya

 


 





The Proof of Love



1929 - 1935




 



Dali photographed by Man Ray in 1933

Virtue and Vice
 

When Andre Breton was still well disposed towards the Catalonian, he praised Dali to the skies; but even at that point he warned him against the temptation to deviate. For Breton, Dali was an artist who was torn between talent and genius — or between virtue and vice. Dali (declared Breton) was an artist who took his place immediately, in a system of interferences, and the moths who attached themselves to his clothes would promptly declare that the man in shit-stained underpants in The Lugubrious Game was worth ten well-dressed men elsewhere, or a hundred naked men. Breton had his reservations about that controversial painting, to which Dali responded in the Secret Life: "I, then, and only I was the true Surrealist painter, at least according to the definition which its chief, Andre Breton, gave of Surrealism. Nevertheless, when Breton saw this painting he hesitated for a long time before its scatological elements - for in the picture appeared a figure seen from behind whose drawers were bespattered with excrement. The involuntary aspect of this element, so characteristic in psychopathological iconography, should have sufficed to enlighten him. But I was obliged to justify myself by saying that it was merely a simulacrum. No further questions were asked. But had I been pressed I should certainly have had to answer that it was the simulacrum of the excrement itself. This idealistic narrowness was from my point of view the fundamental 'intellectual vice' of the early period of Surrealism. Hierarchies were established where there was no need for any. [...] And these were the men who denied the hierarchies of tradition!"

 

Breton declared that the art of Dali - in his view the most hallucinatory yet created - represented a serious threat. It was an art that unleashed creatures unknown, with evil intentions: creatures that could be observed with dark joy as they went upon their way, multiplying, merging, concerned solely with themselves. This was a viable way of seeing Dali, surely; and before long the breach between them was complete. By 1949, Breton was adding these words to an anthology entry on Dali: "It should be understood that this entry relates only to the first Dali, who disappeared around 1935, to be replaced by a person better known as Avida Dollars, a society portrait painter who has recently turned anew to the Catholic faith and the 'artistic ideal of the Renaissance' and now declares the Pope to be an admirer and supporter of his work." (We shall be returning in due course to relations between Dali and Breton.)

Dali was busy. He was exhibiting at Juhen Levy's in New York. He published Vive le Surrealisme and was involved in the periodical Minotaure. His role in the Surrealist movement was a militant one, and was to have greater impact than that of any other Surrealist artist. He himself declared himself one hundred per cent a Surrealist: this, indeed, was to be the substance of the recriminations later levelled by Breton and the others. For Dali's efforts were not only going into paintings, films with Bunuel, texts, and objets d'art - in other words, his purely personal work; his energies were also being spent on the theoretical and practical group activities undertaken by the Surrealists. Breton himself conceded that for three or four years Dali epitomized the spirit of Surrealism, and gave it the appeal only someone who was not present at the critical hour of the movement's birth could have endowed it with. He and Dali still saw eye to eye at that time, and when Breton proclaimed at the close of his Nadia that beauty must be convulsive, or not be at all, he might have been taking the words out of Dali's mouth. Dali's "paranoiac-critical method" owed a significant amount to the widespread theory of convulsive creation; and the "spirit of Surrealism" referred to by Breton was closely connected with sexual provocativeness. Responding in 1932 to a questionnaire sent out by Yugoslavian Surrealists on the subject of lust and desire, Dali wrote that secret desires constituted the true future, and the true life of the mind.

 


The Phenomenon of Ecstasy
1933

 

 

No lust, he asserted, could be sinful. It could only be wrong to suppress desire. And Dali claimed that his own desires, far from being noble, were solely base and contemptible, and that the desires he himself considered noblest were the most perverse. He declared lust to be humanity's means of defence against the reality principle, and added that the Marquis de Sade struck him as the most suitable role model for the unleashed desires of the young.

Dali's fame was growing apace, and business with it. He was sure of selling at least a portion of his output to a group of collectors who sometimes called themselves the Zodiac. Caresse Crosby gave the names of these twelve people to Julien Green, who wrote in his diary (28 February 1933): "To Dali the day before yesterday, to pick up my painting, since it is my month. Twelve of us have agreed to pay the artist a kind of modest allowance this year, in return for which each receives either one large painting or a small painting and two drawings. We drew lots to decide which month we got. To my delight I had February, so that I did not have long to wait. I have a choice between a large painting with a wonderful rocky landscape in the background and in the foreground some sort of bearded Russian general, naked, his head bowed in sadness so that one can see the mussels and pearls crammed into his skull; or a small picture in splendid shades of grey and lilac, as well as two drawings. I settle for the small picture. Dali talks of Crevel, who is ill but 'stoical'. He expatiates on the beauty of his own art, and carefully explains to me the meaning of my picture, which is entitled Geological Destiny and which shows a horse in a desert, in the process of metamorphosing into a rock. Dali is going to Spain, and he talks with horror of the customs formalities and the thousand petty vexations of a journey by ferrocaril, for he is somewhat like a child afraid of life."

 


Geological Destiny
1933

 

 

Dali was presently able to write to Charles de Noailles announcing that that very afternoon he was to sign a contract with Albert Skira, to provide forty engravings for Lautreamont's Les Chants de Maldoror. This task of illustrating Lautreamont was one Dali found irresistible. The edition was to appear in the same series that had already featured Ovid's Metamorphoses illustrated by Picasso, and Mallarme's poems illustrated by Matisse. Dali told de Noailles that he would be starting on the Maldoror illustrations (the deadline for which lay a full year in the future) as soon as he arrived in Port Lligat. It was in fact Picasso who had introduced Dali to Skira and proposed him as an illustrator; and the two artists met again when Dali was at work on the Maldoror pictures at the Lacour-lere studio. In their breaks, they amused themselves with an engraving done jointly, working on the plate alternately and producing the Surrealist Figures.

 


Surrealist Figures, Joint Drawing by Dali and Picasso
c. 1933

 


Picasso/Dali.
Photographic double portrait by Philippe Halsman
1933

 


Untitled - Death Outside the Head/Paul Eluard
c. 1933

 


Poster advertising the regular meetings of the Surrealists
1935

 


Gradiva
1932


 

Gradiva
1933


 

 

At the Galerie Colle, Dali had a show which included a staggering collection of early masterpieces: The Invisible Man, The Lugubrious Game, Accommodations of Desire, Portrait of Paul Eluard, Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion, The Enigma of William Tell, Memory of the Child-Woman and The Persistence of Memory. Andre Lliote wrote of this exhibition, in the Nouvelle Revue Trangaise: "S. Dali is at once the Lalique and the Gustave Moreau of dream description. With precision tools he chisels shapes of high inspiration from those of the modern style we so liked in our infancy. His harmonies are often those of anatomy, where blood is king. The acrid hues of sulphur mixes with the purple of cold membranes and the blue of veins shimmering through dead skin. To be candid: what we see on these canvases are sadistically mutilated limbs, headless trunks, seething entrails and hopeless genitals. Like M. W. George, Salvador Dali directs us to his impure spring; but, being clearer sighted than the apostle of Rome, he is aware of the impurity: 'decorative art above all, highly stereotyped decorative art, particularly the art that employs once again, with but little conviction, the memories of far-off and different styles, mixing them, not without a certain imaginative power,' he writes in the foreword to his catalogue. And again: 'in an ugly street, the fantastic and wonderful ornamentation of Metro entrances done in the modern style strikes us as the perfect symbol of spiritual dignity'."

 

 


Bureaucrat and Sewing Machine - Illustration for "Les Chants de Maldoror"
1933

 

 


Cannibalism. Illustrations for "Les Chants De Maldoror" by Lautreamont
1933


 


Flesh Aeroplane. Illustration for "Les Chants De Maldoror" by Lautreamont
1933



 
 


Illustration for Les Chants de Maldoror by the Count of Lautreamont
1933-34

 


The Phantom Cart
1933


 

Moment of Transition
1934


 

The Phantom Cart
1933


 

Morning Ossification of the Cypress
1934


 

Persistence of Fair Weather
c. 1934


 



 


The Hour of the Crackled Visage
1934


 

The Little Theater
1934


 

Fossil Cloud
1934


 

The Sense of Speed
1934


 

The Tower
1934


 

Untitled (Dreams on the Beach)
1934


 

Untitled (Desert Landscape)
1934


 


Figure - Omelettes
1934


Omelettes with Dynamic, Mixed Herbs
1934


 
 

Omelette About to Be Irreparably Crushed by Hands
1934

Untitled
1933-34


 

The Temple of Love
1933
 

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