Monday, December 4, 2017

The Chronicles of Dali

Salvador Dali’s career is one characterized by constant evolution and inspiration. Of Spanish origin, his career began in Europe where he was inspired by other European artists such as Pablo Picasso. While in Europe, Dali played a role in the major artistic movements beginning with Realism, then Cubism, and finally Surrealism. While Dali is most arguably known for his work in Surrealism, his earlier and later works serve major roles in the scope of his artistry.

Just as Dali did not stick to one movement, he also did not place himself permanently in Europe. After being renounced from the Surrealist movement because of the controversiality of his work, he transitioned to the United States. While in the United States, Dali was known through many facets of art and media and served as a cultural icon. This geographic transition also marks a transition in his paintings and career as a whole. While traces of Surrealism are still present in his later works, Dali’s inspiration evolved to include religious and scientific imagery and style.

Dali’s career was one which stretched over multiple artistic movements, continents, and sources of inspiration. This exhibition includes paintings which chronicle the span of Dali’s dynamic career and his sources of inspiration, styles, and subjects.  

Girl's Back
Artist: Salvador Dalí
Date: 1926
Medium: Oil on wood panel
The Dali Museum
Accession Number: 1980.6

Completed towards the beginning of his career, this portrait is a reference to Dali’s work in the Realism movement. The woman is Dali’s sister Anna Maria who can be seen in many of his earlier works before Dali met his partner, Gala, who was a huge source of inspiration for his later works.

In this painting, Dali is showcasing his mastery within the Realism movement. The composition’s naturalism as seen in the hair and the dramatic contrast of light and shadows brings the viewer into the scene.  

The Accommodations of Desire
Artist: Salvador Dalí (Spanish, Figueres 1904–1989 Figueres)
Date: 1929
Medium: Oil and cut-and-pasted printed paper on cardboard
The Met
Accession Number:1999.363.16

Dali’s work in the Surrealist movement is highlighted in this work in both its subject matter and style. Dali contrasts a naturalist style with an idealized subject matter that creates a visual dissonance.

This work highlights Dali’s inspirations from his dreams and fantasies. Specifically, this work is inspired by Dali’s love affair with Gala, who was married at the time. The image includes seven round shapes which are filled with lion heads, ants, and a toupee. Three figures are portrayed intertwined and several other idealized images are spread throughout the picture plane.

The scrambled organizing of the composition is typical of Surrealism and points to the emotionally disordered state Dali was wrestling with at that time.

Portrait of Gala
Artist: Salvador Dalí
Date: 1932-33
Medium: Oil on panel
The Dali Museum
Accession Number: 2001.7

Gala is depicted in this image in a way that refers back to Dali’s work during the Realism movement. This piece stands out starkly against the Surrealist work Dali was doing at this point in hiscareer. This highlights the fluidity in which Dali worked, in that he would be inspired and his work would openly reflect whatever was serving as his inspiration at that time. Gala is depicted in olive tones, which is a reference to her olive skin, for which Dali gave Gala the nickname "Olivette". Dali also uses a wood panel as his medium to emphasize this effect.

Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus)
Artist: Salvador Dalí (Spanish, Figueres 1904–1989 Figueres)
Medium: Oil on canvas
The Met
Accession Number: 55.5

This piece is one in which Dali’s blending of religious and scientific inspiration is most apparent. Christ being crucified is portrayed, however, his body is without blemishes. The cross has also been rendered as a compilation of several floating cubes, which were inspired by mathematical and scientific principles. However, there are also remnants of Dali’s surrealist work in the dreamlike composition created by the dark background and checkerboard floor. Gala is once again depicted as the woman observing Christ’s crucifixion, a continuation of her inspiration in Dali’s work throughout his career.

Artist: Salvador Dalí (Spanish, Figueres 1904–1989 Figueres)
Date: 1958
Medium: Oil on canvas
The Met
Accession Number: 1987.465

The Madonna is another nod towards Dali’s use of Catholic iconography. The Madonna and Child figures, inspired from Raphael’s Madonna in the Sistine Chapel, are concealed within a gigantic ear, which is a reference to the passion of Christ.

The hundreds of tiny dots that make up the composition of this piece create an optical illusion, which is characteristic of Dali’s later works. Dali’s technique of painting dots also is inspired by his interest in nuclear physics.

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