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

_______

appendix

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

 


 


 




If You Act the Genius, You Will Be One!





1910 - 1928




 


The Sick Child - Self-portrait in Cadaques
c. 1923

 


Work, Salvador, Work
 

Dali continued his five finger exercises, coming to terms with the major aesthetic movements of the Modernist era, with the art of Seurat and Picasso, Matisse and Bonnard and Juan Gris, and many other contemporaries and mentors. His approach was imbued with his characteristic humour, though: playful, indeed mocking, he imitated and burlesqued Picasso, Matisse, himself. Above all, he worked constantly. Dali told the story that, even before he went to the Academy, he used to go walking with a girl to whom he showed off with copies oi L'Esprit Nouveau, a magazine edited by Le Corbusier and Fernand Leger: "she would humbly bow her forehead in an attentive attitude over the Cubist paintings. At this period I had a passion for what I called Juan Gris' 'Categorical imperative of mysticism'. I remember often speaking to my mistress in enigmatic pronouncements, such as, 'Glory is a shiny, pointed, cutting thing, like an open pair of scissors'. She would drink in all my words without understanding them, trying to remember them." This girl brought out the cruelty in Dali, that cruelty which so repelled George Orwell when he reviewed the Secret Life: when Dali commanded the girl to show him her breasts, and she did, he promptly announced that when he went to Madrid he would never write to her again, and rejoiced in the girl's tears. "Work, Salvador, work," he told himself; "for if you were endowed for cruelty, you were also endowed for work."

 


Cadaques (Seen from the Tower of Creus)
1923

 


The Windmil - Landscape Near Cadaques
1923

 


The Jorneta Stream
1923

 


Figures in a Landscape at Ampurdan
1923

 


Cadaques
1923

 


La Jorneta
1923

 


Group of Women
1923

 


Cottages
1923

 

The obsessive dedication to his work, which had caused Dali's parents to worry that he was not living his youth to the full, remained with him at the Academy, where he pursued every ism with the thoroughness that lay in his nature. One day, he recalled, he took in a monograph on Georges Braque, to show his fellow students. "No one had ever seen Cubist paintings, and not a single one of my classmates envisaged the possibility of taking that kind of painting seriously. The professor of anatomy, who was much more given to the discipline of scientific methods, heard mention of the book in question, and asked me for it. He confessed that he had never seen paintings of this kind, but he said that one must respect everything one does not understand. Since this has been published in a book, it means that there is something to it. The following morning he had read the preface, and had understood it pretty well; he quoted to me several types of non-figurative and eminently geometrical representations in the past. I told him that this was not exactly the idea, for in Cubism there was a very manifest element of representation. The professor spoke to the other professors and all of them began to look upon me as a supernatural being."

Dali's unflappable confidence in his own superior understanding made him contemptuous of his tutors and fellow students. He felt he was "the only painter in Madrid to understand and execute Cubist paintings", that he had already outstripped the others: "The students thought me reactionary, an enemy of progress and of liberty. They called themselves revolutionaries and innovators, because they were allowed to paint as they pleased, and because they had just eliminated black from their palettes, calling it dirt, and replacing it with purple! Their most recent discovery was this: everything is made iridescent by light - no black; shadows are purple. This revolution of Impressionism was one which I had gone through at the age of twelve, and even at that time I had not committed the elementary error of suppressing black from my palette. A single glance at a small Renoir which I had seen in Barcelona would have been ample for me to understand all this in a second. They would mark time in their dirty, ill digested rainbows for years and years. My God, how stupid people can be!"

 


Still Life: Fish with Red Bowl
1923

 


Purist Still Life
1923

 


Still Life
1923

 

Still Life
1923

 

Cubist Composition -
Portrait of a Seated Person Holding a Letter
1923

Cubist Self-Portrait
1923

 

All Shapes Derive from the Square
1923

 


Grandfather Clock
1923

 

 

Contemptuous though he was, Dali had the application of the true artist; and his early work is not to be despised, even if it remains true that the greatness of the mature Dali was a product of 1929. Dali had begun to paint (and behave) as a Surrealist even before 1929. Guillermo de Torre, who got to know Dali in a student residence in Madrid in 1923, wrote in the Madrid periodical Arte in 1933: "His adventurous mind and hunger for discovery took him within five years, between adolescence and the full bloom of youth, through vast areas of the visual arts, different not only in their tendencies but indeed in their very natures." Later the same year, he added: "The path Dali took, new and unique as it was,

nonetheless was implied in what went before, and was not so utterly unpredictable. In him, even more than in his pictures, there is an instinctual force, a leaning to emotionalism, an uninhibited predilection for all things mysterious and adventurous, all so deep-rooted in him that he was inevitably predestined for the aweinspirmg, imaginative fragmentation that Surrealism stands for. His rebellious spirit led him to force open the door to an unforeseen dimension, nor did he flinch from plunging headfirst into the Freudian realm of the dream." De Torre added: "In order to put this matter to the test, Salvador Dali was willing to dispense with delicate brushwork and his customary virtuosity. Or rather, he grasped how to adapt them to the new structure and meaning of his pictures."

Venus was early established as one of Dali's favourite subjects, culminating in the 1936 Venus de Milo with Drawers. It was Venus he saw on the beach at El Llane when the bashful girls and strapping madams stripped before his hungering eyes, exposing flesh that was normally kept from sight. It was Venus he took apart and re-assembled in his carefully observed early paintings of women, in which the goddess is generally seen from the rear. He painted women in the style of Seurat, Picasso or Matisse; he painted them in his Cubist phase, in classical mood, in pre-Surrealist manner, and on, till the time came when his Venus invariably bore the features of Gala. Still a student, he painted Bathers of the Costa Brava - Bathers of Llane, a vision of twenty-four girls - or, to be more precise, of the same girl in twenty-four different positions. It was the Wagnerian dream vision of Dali as Parsifal, a vision of physical opulence in which even the coils of thick glossy hair have the sensual fullness of breasts and buttocks. Sailboats are out on the Pointillist sea; the waves lap with carefree abandon; all things conduce to the pleasuring dance of naked bodies. The painting is a cocktail of Picasso and Matisse, with a dash of Seurat.
 





Bathers of La Costa Brava - Bathers of Llaner
1923

 


Nude in a Landscape
c. 1923

 


Seated Woman
c. 1922

Study of a Nude
1923

 


Study for "Woman with a Child"
1923

 


Venus and Memory of Avino
1923-24

 

 

Satirical Composition ("The Dance" by Matisse)
1923


 




 


Portrait of my Cousin Ana, Maria Domenech
c. 1923

It is worth noting that Dali's eye lingers over the derriere, and in his art he returns time and again to the rear view. In his sister, and Gala, and women in general, it is the posterior that interests him most. As Luis Romero has observed: "He painted a vast array of derrieres, in the most various of positions, of every shape and size and significance. Men's behinds, women's behinds, behinds of indeterminate sex, angelic behinds, shapeless behinds, a resplendent array of chaste or lascivious bottoms, expressionist or harmonic or demure, even strangely reduplicated, abstract bottoms with four cheeks. The hind parts of his horses, too; the shape and colour of certain fruits; and other things, all come in eloquent, anthropomorphic forms. One might well see Salvador Dali as the first painter of behinds in the history of art, and in the history of the human derriere."

Until Gala entered his life, Dali was clearly afraid of young women, with the fear of fascination. In his Secret Life he recalls (doubtless with the aid of fantasy) a scene at Cambrils when he was five years old and out walking with "three very beautiful grown women" - one of them, who wore a veil, "miraculously beautiful". At a deserted spot, the women began to titter and whisper, and urged the boy to run off and play - he did, "but only to find a point of vantage from which to spy on them". Dali reports: "The most beautiful one was in the center, silently observed from a distance of a few feet by the other two. With a strange look of pride, her head slightly lowered, her legs very rigid and outspread, her hands by her hips delicately and imperceptibly she raised her skirt, and her immobility seemed to convey the expectation of something that was about to happen. A stifling silence reigned for half a minute, when suddenly I heard the sound of a strong liquid jet striking the ground and immediately a foaming puddle formed between her feet. The liquid was partially absorbed by the parched earth, the rest spreading in the form of tiny snakes that multiplied so fast that her white-colored shoes did not escape them in spite of her attempts to extend her feet beyond their reach. A grayish stain of moisture rose and spread on the two shoes, the whiting acting as blotting paper. Intent on what she was doing, the 'woman with the veil' did not notice my paralyzed attention. When she raised her head and found herself looking right into my face she tossed me a mocking smile and a look of unforgettable sweetness, which appeared infinitely troubling, seen through the purity of her veil. Almost at the same moment she cast a glance at her two friends with an expression that seemed to say: T can't stop now, it's too late.' Behind me the two friends burst out laughing, and again there was silence. This time I immediately understood, and my heart beat violently." This scene is followed by the notorious one in which Dali bites into a wounded bat crawling with ants - as a kind of vengeance directed at the woman in the veil, whom he by some obscure childish logic blames for the bat's condition.
 


Dali (below, middle) at the San Fernando Academy of Art, Madrid, in the academic year 1922-1923.
He was finally sent down in October 1926

 


Self-Portrait
1923

 


Self-Portrait with L'Humanitie
1923

 


Coffee House Scene in Madrid
1923

Satirical Portrait of Trotsky
c. 1923

 


Woman Nursing her Son
1923

 


Domestic Scene
1923

 


Figueras Gypsy
1923

 


Luis Bunuel and a Toreador
1923

 


Head of a Man with a Child
1924

 

 The instinctual force and adventurousness attested by De Torre, the sensual preoccupations, the quirkmess and perversity, can all arguably be traced to the confusions and psychological turmoil of Dali's childhood, then. What this implies is that we must make a tolerant effort of understanding - and must also be prepared to find that even the weirdest elements of Dali's art have an origin in real, uninvented fact. Dali tended merely to translate or metamorphose what memory furnished forth. His art and life alike seethe with displacement: in his behaviour to the young woman who showed him herbreasts, for instance, we see that cruelty that Freud considered an inseparable component of the sex drive. He kept this woman at his beck and call, but without sexual intimacy, for five years (his "five-year plan", as he called it), in order to savour all the variations on "sentimental perversity". He would arouse her but deny her any fulfilment, driving her to the brink of breakdown in the process: "Unconsummated love has appeared to me since this experience to be one of the most hallucinatory themes of sentimental mythology. Tristan and Isolde are the prototypes of one of those tragedies of unconsummated love which in the realm of the sentiments are as ferociously cannibalistic as that of the praying mantis actually devouring its male on their wedding day, during the very act of love." Thus the author of the Secret Life. "'Show them to me,' I said. She undid her blouse and showed them to me. They were incomparably beautiful and white; their tips looked exactly like raspberries; like them they had a few infinitely fine and minute hairs. [...] Finally I said, 'Come on.' She buttoned up her blouse again and got up, smiling feebly. I took her tenderly by the hand and began the walk home. 'You know,' I said, 'when I go to Madrid I won't ever write to you again.' And I walked on another ten steps. I knew that this was exactly the length of time it would take for her to start crying. I was not mistaken. I then kissed her passionately, feeling my cheek burn with her boiling tears, big as hazelnuts." George Orwell, shocked like many by the ethical dereliction of passages such as this, tried in his essay "Benefit of Clergy" to relate the moral delinquencies of Dali to the premisses underlying his art, and fastened on ambition as the key: "And suppose that you have nothing in you except your egoism and a dexterity that goes no higher than the elbow; suppose that your real gift is for a detailed, academic, representational style of drawing, your real metier to be an illustrator of scientific text-books. How then do you become Napoleon? There is always one escape: into wickedness. Always do the thing that will shock and wound people. At five, throw a little boy off a bridge, strike an old doctor across the face with a whip and break his spectacles -or, at any rate, dream about doing such things. Twenty years later, gouge the eyes out of dead donkeys with a pair of scissors. Along those lines you can always feel yourself original. And, after all, it pays!"

 


Portrait of my Sister and Picasso Figure
1923

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