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




Paths to Immortality  



Dali with his wax figure in the Musee Grevin, Paris, 1968


The Hallucinogenic Toreador

It is a cliche that those who are about to die, in the instant of death, see their whole lives before them, as if in a film. Dali's The Hallucinogenic Toreador is like one of those films, projected by Dali before setting out on the dusty road to death himself. The film (so to speak) bears the same relation to Un Chien Andalou as a full length feature film does to a commercial. The April 1970 issue of Art Magazine found that "In Dali's The Hallucinogenic Toreador, a major work, he has chosen diverse elements - the duality of the image, the illusion of space reminiscent of his Spectre of Sex Appeal. He uses the Venus de Milo, as in his Venus de Milo with Drawers. In this painting he exhibits the whole dictionary of metaphors which he has compiled in his 'paranoiac-critical' system: the bee, the bull, his wife Gala, Dali as a small child, space, its creative and destructive powers; the imagery is as complicated and clear as Dali's technique affords; it is lucid illusion, the breathtaking swirl juxtaposed on the hidden image in his all-encompassing fantasy of time. This is perhaps one of Dali's most remarkable works in years. In it he has freed himself of painting his heraldic image of God."


The Hallucinogenic Toreador



Sketch for "The Hallucinogenic Toreador"



Study for the Toreador's Face in "The Hallucinogenic Toreador".
The Likeness Suggests That It Could Well Have Become Gala's Face



Study of Flies for "The Hallucinogenic Toreador"


Light and Shadow



Tauromachia I - The Torero, the Kill (third and final round of the bullfight)


The Face



Dali himself must have felt The Hallucinogenic Toreador to be of great importance, since he urged Luis Romero, author of Tout Dali en un visage (Barcelona, 1975) to take the painting as both his point of departure and his set of coordinates. And the book did indeed prove a resume of the subjects that obsessed and disquieted Dali, in that one painting and in general: Gala, angels, rocky cliffs, flies, Venus, petrifaction, landscape, tears, the moon. Bullfight subject matter was rare in Dali, in contrast to Picasso — curiously, since Dali was so much the typical Spaniard, and saw himself as such. He had once toyed with the idea of organizing a bullfight together with Miguel Dominguin, it is true, at which the major noveltv was to have been that the dead bull, instead of being dragged from the arena by mules, would be lifted out by helicopter.



The Cosmic Athlete



Study for "Cosmic Athlete"



The Hallucinogenic Toreador is once again a Dalinian picture a clef. The toreador himself- "who is to die, indeed is already dead" - represents the painter's dead elder brother, the Salvador Dali Domenech who was born, and died, before Dali himself was born. Dali's parents had wanted the second son to be an exact copy of the first, lost boy. Dali had already painted Portrait of my Dead Brother - a venture into the Benday dot technique that was so frequently used by American Pop artists. The toreador, however, also represents a large number of dead friends, from Garcia Lorca to Rene Crevel, and including Prince Alexis Mdivani (who died when he crashed in his Rolls-Royce), Pierre Batcheff (who acted in Un Chien Andalou), and even the Kennedy brothers. The toreador (as Luis Romero wrote, recording Dali's own view) makes a calm and sovereign impression. His stoicism is apparent in a single tear of resignation. He is the sum and paradigm of all the young friends Dali had left behind, all who had gone on to the realm of the dead, and so the toreador becomes a kind of funerary figure in the pantheon of friendship - and perhaps (Romero suggested) Dali's way of warding off the fear of death. The death of a toreador in the arena is of course one of the standard subjects in Spanish art and life. Dali's toreador came from the picture on a packet of British Venus brand pencils, where his eye discovered the hidden dual image. He showed the picture to Gala; and she showed it to others; no one but Dali, though, could see the image that was so clear to him. There is a link across the years, surely, between The Hallucinogenic Toreador and The Invisible Man: we might even see the later painting as the successful, completed version of the earlier picture, which Dali had abandoned at the time because he was dissatisfied with his work (though he nonetheless ascribed magical powers to it, powers that would protect Gala and himself). The new, patchwork picture brought together components from earlier works, from grandmother Ana sewing to the boy we have already seen in The Spectre of Sex Appeal.


What was it that that boy, almost as old as the century, saw? From his vantage point at bottom right, he cannot view the entire picture, yet still he seems entranced by it all - by the flies, huge autogiros of flies; by the diminutive figures of Venus; by the roses; the face of Gala, aureoled like Christ's and even resembling His, and positioned diagonally opposite the boy. It is a whole brave new world he sees, a world where the senses are deceived, where illusion is a shape-shifting chaos, a realm that seems substantial one moment and hallucinatory the next. Are these statues living flesh, or marble? Some have windows in their backs, like the nurse in The Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition. The figures of Venus are of various sizes, some of them glowing, and recall the starry patterns we see when we rub our eyes - such as Dali described in connection with the heads of Lenin in Partial Hallucination. Six Apparitions of Lenin on a Grand Pian. Dali generally referred to these phosphenes as recollections of his intra-uterine paradise, which he lost on the day he was born. The matronly Venus de Milo, replicated numerous times in this painting around a bombastic architectural arena that recalls a Roman circus rather than a bullfight, had long been an element in Dali's personal mythology. Hers was the first female figure he had ever modelled in clay, from a reproduction in his parental dining room, and she was the Venus he had discovered on a box of British pencils bought in New York.



Debris Christ

Dali's immense sculpture in an olive grove at Port Lligat
consisted of an old boat, branches, stones, roof and other found items.



Dali found her facial expression stupid but opined that stupidity, after all, was inseparable from feminine beauty — though it was not suitable for a woman of style, whose gaze should be or at least seem intelligent. For a young lad, the Venus was the peak of erotic attraction; and Dali, as we have seen, was partial to the female anatomy. He was also obsessed with the quest for God; and The Hallucinogenic Toreador, replicating the Venus to infinity, might plausibly be read as an attempt to marry his two obsessions. Enthroned at top left amid the architectural pomp, at the opposite end from the boy Dali, is Gala: her head dominates the picture, while at the same time appearing outside and independent of it. Toreador-Dali is offering up the death of the bull in her honour. She is Gala the omnipresent, Gala, with whom Dali galloped at the head of the Moorish horsemen in The Battle of Tetudn, Gala who appeared as St. Helen in The Ecumenical Council, Gala who was given features a la Leonardo da Vinci in Anti-Protonic Assumption, in The Apotheosis of the Dollar, in Impressions of Africa, Gala who became ever more obsessively present in Dali's work as he neared the end. She was a face, a profile, a back, or architecture. She was a waterfall or a cliff or crag, a Muse and a saint, a stone wall and a shower of gold.



Fisherman of Port Lligat Mending His Net



Dali squared up the picture, and every square metre is a picture in its own right. It is an exhibition of Dali, a kind of retrospective in a single painting. And of course there were inevitably those who - when confronted with the Venus de Milo, with cliffs and crags, with a bull stuck full of banderillas and thrusting its jaw into the sand of the arena and (at once) the clear waters of the bay at Cadaques - said that Dali was repeating, copying, self-parodying himself. Solitary bathers, busts of Voltaire, Venuses, the shadows of the woman peasant from The Angelus - all of it struck some observers as too familiar for comfort. Luis Romero's book may be taken as conveying the gist of Dali's riposte. Dali was not so much indulging in self-plagiarization as using materials from his own psychological and visual world, parts of his personal cosmogony. In this one might compare him with Balzac, the French novelist, who re-used characters in several novels and thus established unity and consistency in the fictional world he was creating. Dali's work, like Balzac's, might be seen as adding up to a Comedie humaine - a painted human comedy in which the imaginative powers of the unconscious invaded the turbulent scene of given actuality. The Hallucinogenic Toreador might to some extent be seen as an architectural work built with costly materials from torn-down architectural wonders designed by one and the same architect, built by the same craftsmen, or sculpted by the same sculptor - though with the difference that, in the making of Dali's painting, nothing needed tearing down.



Untitled (Still Life with White Cloth)



We have yet to consider the appalling flies, an entire squadron of which are bearing down upon the boy Dali - though he seems too self-possessed to flinch. It is apt to recall not only Beelzebub but also the mystical bodegons (a genre Velazquez and Zurbaran practised), which are votive offerings placed by the faithful at the foot of statuettes in niches, and in which flies (according to van der Ast) symbolize death. Spam, of course, has always been a country of flies. Dali paid tribute to flies in his Diary of a Genius, calling them the Muses of the Mediterranean. From flies, he claimed, Greek philosophers lying in the sun derived their inspiration. Elsewhere he said that he imagined Velazquez surrounded by flies as he painted. And when Dali grew his moustache beyond normal size, he insisted it had the virtue of attracting and trapping flies, like flypaper, so that he could paint in peace. There was also a scientific reason for Dali's interest in flies, though. He was fascinated by the structure of their eyes, and the parabolic curves involved; and for Dali the vision of flies was connected with his own vision of the railway station at Perpignan as the charismatic centre of the world where he made prophesies and important discoveries. In The Hallucinogenic Toreador, Dali's flies also bear a strong resemblance to helicopters - or rather, to vertical take-off and vertical landing autogiros of the kind developed by the Spanish inventor La Cierva in 1923. Another Spanish scientist Dali admired and who gave his name to the street where Dali (and the scientist himself) were born was Narciso Monturiol, who invented a kind of submarine inspired by watching coral divers off the coast of Cape Creus. Monturiol's craft, the "Ictineo", dived for several hours to a depth of thirty metres, years before Jules Verne dreamt up the "Nautilus". The autogiro and the submarine were two Spanish inventions Salvador Dali was particularly proud of. In a welter of symbols and interpretations, he defined the autogiro as the mystical flying body par excellence which represented the most exalted and angelic property of human kind: sublimation. The submarine, on the other hand, stood for the unconscious and its impenetrable vagaries. For Dali, Spanish mysticism led directly and vertically from the depths of the submarine to the lofty heights of the autogiro: his whole life, he declared, had been led between the diametrically opposed ideas of exalted height and bottomless depth.



The Patio of Port Lligat


L'Important C'est la Rose




Hour of the Monarchy


Untitled (Surrealist Angel)


Study of a Male Nude - Saint Sebastian


Illustration for

Secret Poems by Guillaume Apollinaire
- 1967




Nude at the Fountain


Nude, Horse and Death


The War 1914 - 1918


The Trenches


Nude with a Guitar


The Beach at Sete


Nude with Snail


Nude with Parrot


The Drawers



see also:

 Illustration for

Marquis de Sade


Biblia Sacra






Illustration for

"Alice in Wonderland"

by Lewis Carroll in an Edition Published by Maecenas Press, New York, 1969


Down the Rabbit Hole

The Pool of Tears


A Caucus Race and a Long Tale

The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill


A Mad Tea Party

The Queen's Croquet Ground


The Mock Turtle's Story

The Lobster Quadrille


Who Stole the Tarts

Alice's Evidence


Advice from a Catterpillar


Pig and Pepper


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