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



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 about 1934 by Caillet for an article in Minotaure during the winter of 1934-35


New York, New York

Exhibition followed hard upon exhibition. Dali was out to reach as wide a public as possible. On 2 February 1934 he exhibited The Enigma of William Tell at the Salon des Independants. To Charles de Noailles he wrote gleefully of his decision to do so, observing that from a strictly experimental point of view it would be of great use for him to place his work before the broader public, out in the real world. At the same time he had shows of the drawings and graphics for Albert Skira's illustrated edition of Lautreamont's Chants de Maldoror at Julien Levy's in New York and the Librairie des Quatre Chemins in Paris. Looking ahead, he accepted a commission to illustrate Georges Hugnet's Onan. He covered the plate with automatic writing, and then wrote on it: "Espamo-graphiphism, done with the left hand while I masturbate with the right, to the blood, to the bone, to the propellers of the chalice!"

Surrealist Poster



On 20 June, commenting on another Dali show at the Galene Jacques Boujeau in Paris, Louis Cheronnet wrote in Art et Decoration: "Astounding painting, which has the cruel rawness of colour prints, or the clean-shaven shamelessness of eunuchs. Sickly tendrils and sexual deformities, inspired by the art of 1900, are seen in combat with complex monsters that seem straight from the pages of Renaissance books. And to paint all this, Dali dreams of using the brush of Millet or Meissonier. The impressive thing is that this coup seems to come off. Not even Dante had greater cosmic imagination than this painter. The Musee Dupuytren holds no greater horror than do his works. And nonetheless, once one reaches these shores where whitened bones lie scattered, slack bodies are crawling with obscene insects, various things are rotting in the stifling heat, a heat so palpable one feels one might touch it with a feverish finger; once one reaches that isle of the dead with its immutably clear weather, its monumental cypresses and its perverse serenity; once one is there, one is enthralled by a strange magic..."

Dali was winning awards as well. At "The 1934 International Exhibition of Paintings" at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, he received an honourable mention for Enigmatic Elements in the Landscape. Then in London he had his first solo show at Zwemmer's, and Douglas Goldnng noted in The Studio that the fame of the Parisian Spaniard had gone before him, preceding public familiarity with his work: hence the considerable interest in the exhibition at Zwemmer's. Goldring was reminded of paintings by William Holman Hunt and Millais (and Orwell, some time later, found Dali positively Edwardian) - it was only when one considered Dali's subject matter, rather than his technique (Gold-ring astutely noted), that he seemed surprising or revolutionary. Goldring meant this as a compliment, adding that Dali's was one of those few exhibitions one wanted to visit again, and which exerted a compelling fascination. Herbert Read, noting the analogies that were often drawn with Bosch, was less convinced. In The Listener he conceded that both artists had drawn upon deep strata of the unconscious for their inspiration, but questioned whether Dali was (as the more enthusiastic followers claimed) more intense than Bosch, and suggested that, once the unconscious had been admitted as a source for art, what was done with it by the artist was no longer of great significance. Read, one of the most influential art critics of his time, was to remain a Dali sceptic, and in his seminal Concise History of Modern Painting (1959) consigned Dali to the margins, and accused him of cynicism, sentimentality and sensationalism (in his later, religious works), exhibitionism, and "an ultra-retrograde technique" which, by the time Read was writing, had become "an Academicism which calls itself Classicism on its own authority alone". The serious reservations expressed by many in Britain over the years, not only Orwell and Read, could do little to stop the popular impact of showman Dali, of course.

Enigmatic Elements in the Landscape


Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano


Skull with Its Lyric Appendage Leaning on a Night Table which Should
Have the Exact Temperature of a Cardinal's Nest


Untitled (Study for Parts of "Invisible Harp, Fine and Medium" and Parts of
"Skull with Its Lyric Appendage Leaning on a Bedside, Table...")
c. 1933


The Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition


Study for the Nurse in "The Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition"



The thorn in Breton's flesh, and in that of all the Surrealists, was the fact that Dali was coming to be seen worldwide as the sole authentic Surrealist. The key to Dali's supreme success was his recognition of the great importance of America.

He decided that "what was going to make the most impression on them was precisely myself, the most partisan, the most violent, the most imperialistic, the most delirious, the most fanatical of all. Europeans," he wrote in the Secret Life, "are mistaken in considering America incapable of poetic and intellectual intuition. It is obviously not by tradition that they are able to avoid mistakes, or by a perpetual sharpening of 'taste'. No, America does not choose with the atavistic prudence of an experience which she has not had, or with the refined speculation of a decadent brain which it does not possess, or even with the sentimental effusion of its heart which is too young [...] No, America chooses better and more surely than it would with all these things combined. America chooses with all the unfathomable and elementary force of her unique and intact biology."

The desire to go to the U.S.A. became an obsession with Dali. The problem was that he did not have the money for the Atlantic crossing. His contract with Pierre Colle was not renewed because Colle was in financial difficulty. The collectors who were loyal to Dali had his work all over their walls already; and Port Lligat had already devoured all the proceeds of his sales. "I thus found myself at a moment when I "was simultaneously at the height of my reputation and influence and at the low point of my financial resources." In a rage, Dali went knocking at doors - and "after three days of furiously jerking fortune's cock it ejaculated in a spasm of gold!" And Dali and Gala had their fare. On this occasion, Fortune had appeared in the guise of Pablo Picasso. Dali later admitted that he never paid back the money he borrowed - nor did his fellow artist from Malaga ever ask for it back.

Caresse Crosby accompanied Dali and Gala, and later described their inauspicious departure and arrival m her book The Passionate Years. Once Julien Levy had left for the States, she recalled, the steam seemed to go out of Dali, and he lost the energy to tackle an Atlantic crossing, least of all with his precious pictures. Not till a year later when Crosby offered to escort Dali and Gala aboard the Champlain, and to deliver them in person to Levy, did the artist take courage to go ahead. Crosby recalled the morning they met at the station, to depart for the coast and embarkation. She found Dali pale and quaking in a third class carriage near the locomotive, crouched behind stacks of pictures that were tied to his person "with cord. He had chosen a seat near the engine, he told her, in order to arrive the sooner. The pathetic Dali even refused to lunch on the way, for fear that someone might make off with one or two of his soft watches.

When at last the party arrived at New York, Caresse Crosby and Gala were on deck to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building; but Dali refused to leave his cabin. He had had his cases packed on the third day of the crossing, and "felt that the boat was too large and too complex to be able to make the crossing without a catastrophe," as he himself remembered later. "I attended all the life-saving drills and I was always on the spot minutes ahead of time, my life-belt attached with all the regulation straps. [...] I continually drank champagne, to give myself courage and in anticipation of seasickness, which, however, did not occur."


Exquisite Cadaver




Consequences: Dali, Gala Eluard,
Valentine Hugo, Andre Breton
c. 1930


Consequences: Gala Eluard, Valentine Hugo,
Andre Breton, Dali


Consequences: Valentine Hugo, Andre Breton,
Gala Eluard, Dali


Consequences: Valentine Hugo, Dali,
Andre Breton, Gala Eluard

Consequences: Gala Eluard, Dali,
Andre Breton, Valentine Hugo



When the liner reached New York, the press came out on the pilot's boat, and Caresse Crosby, posing for the photographers, urged the journalists to talk to Dali. They found him emplaced anew amidst his paintings. Crosby gave the gentlemen of the press an introduction to Surrealism, then whispered to Dali in French that the ball was now in his court - whereupon the Dali show began with a vengeance. During the crossing, he and Crosby had talked the captain of the Champlain into having a fifteen-metre loaf baked for him when they arrived in New York. Or, to be exact, a two-and-a-half metre loaf - since the oven on board could not handle anything longer. Dali proposed to distribute the bread to the waiting journalists as St. Francis had scattered it to the birds. Things went differently, though. "It may appear astonishing," he wrote in the Secret Life, "but it is a fact that not one of the reporters asked me a single question about the loaf of bread which I held conspicuously during the whole interview [...] On the other hand, all these reporters were amazingly well informed as to who I was. Not only this. They knew stupefying details about my life. They immediately asked me if it was true that I had just painted a portrait of my wife with a pair of fried chops balanced on her shoulder. I answered yes, except that they were not fried, but raw. Why raw? they immediately asked me. I told them that it was because my wife was raw too. But why the chops together with your wife? I answered that I liked my wife, and that I liked chops, and that I saw no reason why I should not paint them together."


Hairdresser Depressed by the Persistent Good Weather


Portrait of Rene Crevel (Dedicated to Julien Green)


Untitled - Young Girl with a Skull


Portrait of Rene Crevel (Man with a Cigarette)


Bust of Joella Lloyd


Hysterical and Aerodynamic, Nude - Woman on the Rock


To Dali's eyes, New York looked like "an immense Gothic Roquefort cheese". (He was careful to add that he loved Roquefort.) He saluted New York as a new Egypt: "But an Egypt turned inside out. For she erected pyramids of slavery to death, and you erect pyramids of democracy." In his pamphlet New York Salutes Me, which was handed out at his exhibition at the Julien Levy gallery, Dali quoted Andre Breton's definition of Surrealism: "Pure psychic automatism, by which it is intended to express, whether verbally or in writing, or in any other way, the real process of thought. Thought's dictation, free from any control by the reason, independent of any esthetic or moral preoccupation." In the pamphlet, describing the wave of Surrealism then flooding the art world, Dali saw Surrealists as the mediums of an unknown world, adding that he himself had never had the slightest idea what his own paintings meant. He simply transcribed his thoughts, he insisted - specifying his most intense, most fleeting of visions, giving form to all things mysterious and personal and unique that came to mind. A painting, he declared, must be a snapshot in colour, recording the incredible, delirious irrationality of the unconscious with obsessive precision.

Atavistic Vestiges After the Rain


Paranoiac Astral Image



Both Dali's show and his pamphlet were a triumphant success. Henry McBnde in The Sun acclaimed his art as controversial and difficult, while Edward Alden Jewell wrote in Time that as a craftsman, artist and magus of the brush, Dali's place was among the greatest. Jewell added that he saw Dali as a miniaturist, and that the larger format works seemed less persuasive. The impact of Dali's charisma, Jewell remarked, led one to overlook whatever was mannered or banal in his art - and the fact remained that the Spaniard was a masterful colounst and draughtsman.

While the Americans were deciding what they thought of Dali, Dali was deciding what he thought of America. New York brought out the most astonishingly lyrical, almost expressiomstically incoherent strain in Dali: "New York, granite sentinel facing Asia, resurrection of the Atlantic dream, Atlantis of the subconscious. New York, the stark folly of whose historic wardrobes gnaws away at the earth around the foundations and swells the inverted cupolas of your thousand new religions. What Piranesi invented the ornamental rites of your Roxy Theatre? And what Gustave Moreau apoplectic with Prometheus lighted the venomous colors that flutter at the summit of the Chrysler Building?

New York, your cathedrals sit knitting stockings in the shadow of gigantic banks, stockings and mittens for the Negro quintuplets who will be born in Virginia, stockings and mittens for the swallows, drunk and drenched with Coca-Cola, who have strayed into the dirty kitchens of the Italian quarter and hang over the edges of tables like black Jewish neckties soaked in the rain and waiting for the snappy, sizzling stroke of the iron of the coming elections to make them edible, crisp as a charred slice of bacon. [...]

And on Fifth Avenue Harpo Marx has just lighted the fuse that projects from the behinds of a flock of explosive giraffes stuffed with dynamite. They run in all directions, sowing panic and obliging everyone to seek refuge pell-mell within the shops. All the fire alarms of the city have just been turned on, but it is already too late. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! I salute you, explosive giraffes of New York, and all you forerunners of the irrational - Mack Sennett, Harry Langdon, and you too, unforgettable Buster Keaton, tragic and delirious like my rotten and mystic donkeys, desert roses of Spain! [...]

No, a thousand times no - the poetry of New York was not what they had tried in Europe to tell us it was. The poetry of New York does not lie in the pseudo-esthetics of the rectilinear and sterilized rigidity of Rockefeller Center. The poetry of New York is not that of a lamentable frigidaire in which the abominable European esthetes would have liked to shut up the inedible remains of their young and modern plastics! No!

The poetry of New York is old and violent as the world; it is the poetry that has always been. Its strength, like that of all other existing poetry, lies in the most gelatinous and paradoxical aspects of the delirious flesh of its own reality. Each evening the skyscrapers of New York assume the anthropomorphic shapes of multiple gigantic Millet's Angeluses of the tertiary period, motionless and ready to perform the sexual act and to devour one another, like swarms of praying mantes before copulation. [...]

The poetry of New York is not serene esthetics; it is seething biology. The poetry of New York is not nickel; it is calves' lungs. And the subways of New York do not run on iron rails; they run on rails of calves' lungs! The poetry of New York is not pseudo-poetry; it is true poetry. The poetry of New York is not mechanical rhythm; the poetry of New York is the lions' roar that awakened me the first morning. The poetry of New York is an organ, Gothic neurosis, nostalgia of the Orient and the Occident, parchment lampshade in the form of a musical partition, smoked facade, artificial vampire, artificial armchair. The poetry of New York is Persian digestion, sneezing golden bronze, organ, suction-grip trumpet for death, gums of thighs of glamor girls with hard cowrie-shell vulvas. The poetry of New York is organ, organ, organ, organ of calves' lungs, organ of nationalities, organ of Babel, organ of bad taste, of actuality; organ of virginal and history-less abyss. The poetry of New York is not that of a practical concrete building that scrapes the sky; the poetry of New York is that of a giant many-piped organ of red ivory - it does not scrape the sky, it resounds in it, and it resounds in it with the compass of the systole and the diastole of the visceral canticles of elementary biology. New York is not prismatic; New York is not white. New York is all round; New York is vivid red. New York is a round pyramid. New York is a ball of flesh a little pointed toward the top, a ball of millennial and crystallized entrails; a monumental ruby in the rough - with the organ-point of its flashes directed toward heaven, somewhat like the form of an inverted heart - before being polished!"


The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table


The Ghost of Vermeer van Delft
c. 1934



Dali liked going into drugstores with an immense loaf tucked under his arm, ordering fried eggs, and then eating them with a small piece of bread cut off the loaf - to the great amusement of anyone who happened to be there at the time. His paintings sold well: eight in New York, three of them to museums. For the return trip, the Dali's were able to treat themselves to a luxury cabin on the Nor-mandie. Before they departed, Caresse Crosby threw a Dream Ball in Dali's honour. The Americans vied fiercely to out-Dali each other. Dali confessed that even he (who was so rarely impressed by anything) was astounded by the notousness of the ball at the "Coq Rouge". Simply to please Dali, ladies would appear with a birdcage on their heads, say, and otherwise practically naked. Others pretended to be wounded or mutilated in frightful ways, or stuck safety pins through their skin to do cynical violence to their own beauty. One young woman — slender, pale, cerebral — wore a satin dress with a "living" mouth. On her cheeks and back and in her armpits she had eyes like terrible tumours. A man wearing a bloody nightshirt had a bedside table balanced on his head. When he opened the door of the bedside table, a flock of hummingbirds flew out. On the staircase there was a bathtub filled with water, so shaky that it threatened to tip over and flood the merrymakers at any moment. In the course of the evening a huge flayed ox was dragged into the ballroom; its slit belly was supported on crutches and contained a dozen gramophones. Gala was done up as a "choice corpse": on her head she had a doll (which made a very real impression) that looked like a baby with its belly eaten away by ants, its head in the claws of a phosphorescent lobster.

Eclipse and Vegetable Osmosis


Allegory of an American Christmas


Apparition of My Cousin Carolinetta on the Beach at Rosas




Study for "Cardinal, Cardinal!"


Surrealist Knight for a
Four-part Screen


The Ship


The Signal of Anguish

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