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 Mystical Manifesto




Dali and Serge Lifar during a lecture at the Sorbonne in 1955.

Salvador Dali








Photographs: Philippe Halsman, from "Dali's Moustache", 1954


Dali Cyclops


Dali Mona Lisa


Dali Soft Watch


Dali Avida Dollars


Dali, 1953


Dali, 1954



The Amazing Adventure of the Lacemaker and the Rhinoceros

W as it perhaps a spirit of revenge that now impelled him to interpolate between Christ of St. John of the Cross and his version of the Last Supper, a painting which is arguably his most erotic of all, Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized by her Own Chastity? The history of the painting is closely connected to Dali's sister. In his scatalogical period — which to Dali's delight scandalized the Surrealists - he had painted a picture of his sister, a rear view which emphasized the girl's behind. To make sure that the point was not lost on anybody, he titled it: Portrait of my Sister, her Anus Red with Bloody Shit. It was an image that remained with him and which he expressed in a poem, Love and Memory, which he published in the "Editions surrealistes" in 1931. Why did he return to the subject in 1954, this time in a form that went far beyond the obscene poem? Was it revenge? True, twenty years on his memory rather glamourized Ana Maria, who was a short, plump woman; he reshaped her along the lines of a photograph in a soft-porn magazine. Still, it looks as if he were settling an old score with her. Continuity of this kind is indicative of the development of Dali's mind: starting with a memory that was still fresh, mental processes in him combined analytic intelligence with powerful erotic fantasy to produce, in the 1954 picture, a veritable lyrical feast. In the painting, Ana Maria's firm, attractive behind is related to a rhinoceros horn, which in turn is related to fantasy images of an erection that enables him to penetrate his sister's "anus red with bloody shit."


The Last Supper



Revenge in true Cataloman style - for Ana Maria's own memoirs, when all was said and done, contained little of an inflammatory nature. Expressing himself through the rhinoceros horn permitted Dali to respect the demands of chastity which, at that time, had become "an essential requirement of the spiritual life."

From then on, he used the rhinoceros horn in a number of ways - for instance, in a film he made in 1954 with Robert Descharnes titled L'histoireprodigieuse de la dentelliere et du rhinoceros. The title linked Vermeer's Lacemaker with a rhinoceros, which may well seem preposterous. Of course, Dali had been meticulous in the composition of his paintings since his youth. In the course of his work with Prince Matila Ghyka he became very interested in the dynamics of the mathematically self-perpetuating logarithmic spiral. At the same time, he came across the findings of recent research in nuclear physics, and was fascinated by the particles newly identified. The distinctive quality of Vermeer's art had intrigued him from early in his life; and in typical paranoiac style he concentrated on the one painting, The Lacemaker, a reproduction of which he had seen in his parents' home. The Vermeer made a peaceful impression; it was also striking for its compositional austerity and for the particle quality of the tiny brush strokes Vermeer had used. For Dali it represented the greatest power and the most arresting cosmic synthesis. Subsequently, in Pans, he delivered a remarkable lecture - "Aspects phenomenologiques de la methode paranoiaque-critique" - in which he examined the connections between the lacemaker and a rhinoceros. It is familiar enough nowadays to anyone who takes an interest in Dali's thinking; here, it will be worthwile quoting Dali's own words in the Diary of a Genius for 18 December 1955: "Yesterday evening, Daliesque apotheosis in the temple of knowledge, before a fascinated crowd. Immediately after my arrival in the cauliflower-covered Rolls, after being greeted by thousands of flashing cameras, I began to speak in the great amphitheatre of the Sorbonne. The trembling listeners were expecting decisive words. They got them. I have decided (I say) to inform you of the most hallucinatory experience of my entire life in Paris, because France is the most intelligent country in the world. While I, Dali, come from Spain, the most irrational country in the "world... Frenetic applause greeted these opening words, because no one is more receptive to compliments than the French. The intelligence (I said) only leads us into the coefficients of a gastronomic, super-gelatinous, Proustian, stale uncertainty. For that reason it is both good and necessary if a Spaniard such as Picasso or I comes to Paris from time to time, to thrust a piece of raw meat bleeding truth under the noses of the French.



The Lacemaker (copy of the painting by Vermeer Van Delft)



Dali and Gala bathing with Vermeer's "Lacemaker" at Port Lligat, 1959



At this point there was a commotion, as I had anticipated. I had won! I went on rapidly: One of the most important modern painters is doubtless Henri Matisse, but Matisse represents the after-effects of the French Revolution, that is to say, the triumph of the bourgeoisie and of philistine taste. Thunderous applause!!! I continued: Modern art has produced a new maximum of rationality and a maximum of scepticism. Today's young painters believe in nothing. It is only normal for someone who believes in nothing to end up painting practically nothing, which is the case in the whole of modern art, including the abstract, aesthetic and academic varieties." To the accompaniment of enthusiastic cheers, Dali began to demonstrate that the curve of a rhinoceros horn is the only one that is perfectly logarithmic. He then explained his paranoiac-critical copy of Vermeer's painting, which shows the lacemaker with an infinite number of rhinoceros horns. What he had to say about the rear end of the beast prompted mirth: "On the screen there appeared the rear end of a rhinoceros which I had recently dissected only to find that it was nothing but a folded-up sunflower. The rhinoceros is not content whith having one of the most beautiful logarithmic curves on its nose, no, even in its behind it has myriad sunflower-shaped logarithmic curves." Then Dali proposed a progression: Mist = lacemaker = rhinoceros horn = particle and logarithmic granularity of the sunflower, then of cauliflower = the granularity of the sea urchin, which accoring to Dali is nothing but a drop of water that gets goose pimples at the very moment it comes into existence, for fear of losing its original purity of form.

Silencing the tremendous applause with a gesture, Dali concluded: "After this evening's exposition I believe that in order to get from the lacemaker to the sunflower, from the sunflower to the rhinoceros, and from the rhinoceros to the cauliflower, one really needs a certain amount of brain."


Paranoiac-Critical Study of Vermeer's 'Lacemaker'


Rhinocerotic Portrait of Vermeer's "Lacemaker"




Dali painting the "Rhinocerotic Portrait of Vermeer's "Lacemaker", 1955


The Amazing Adventure of Vermeer's "Lacemaker, 1955

Blue Horns. Design for a Scarf

Ascensionist Saint Cecilia

Rhinocerotic Bust of Vermeer's "Lacemaker"


The Rhinoceros Dressed on Lace


Dali and the rhinoceros at Vincennes zoo, 1955


Dali and the Rhinoceros. Photograph by Philippe Halsman, New York, 1956.



Performances of this kind were generally preceded by "practical work" - in this case, a paranoiac-critical interpretation of Vermeer's Lacemaker in the rhinoceros enclosure at the Vincennes zoo. These events tended to rouse the critics from their lethargic slumbers and unsettle them. One of them, in an article headed 'Will Dali kill modern art?' wrote: "Everything Salvador Dali says, everything he does, and almost everything he paints, at least has the merit of embarrassing, bewildering, even annoying all those for whom modern art has its rules and frontiers and who would never dream of questioning their own certainty on the matter. Dali sets various movements going in a field where both critics and artists all too often tend to be cosily snoozing. Scandal, provocation and crazy eccentricity - all hallmarks of the dandy - serve him in the pursuit of critical ends which use sacrilege to help 'a truth' see justice done. For twenty-five years, Dali's work has been taking its bearings from the opposite of everything that is known as 'painting', and has been aiming to dimmish the value of whatever passes for current 'taste' - Cubism, abstract art, Expressionism and so forth. He makes no secret of it; quite the contrary, he loudly proclaims his wish 'to kill modern art'. It would be wrong to be deceived by the humorous or delirious nature of his statements. Dali is serious, very serious, and the 'first-class-intelhgence' which Andre Breton conceded in 1936 that Dali possessed is in the service of destructive activities which may cost 'modern art' the whole of its prestige."


Portrait of Laurence Olivier in the Role of Richard III


Rhinocerotic Figures


Combat (Microphysical Warriors)


Study for The Last Supper


Two Disciples (Study for "Sacrament of the Last Supper")


Illustration for "Tres Picos"

Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy