Final Rough Draft
Surrealism and Salvador Dali
Surrealism is defined as an art style developed in the
1920’s in Europe, characterized by using the subconscious
as a source of creativity to liberate pictural subjects and
ideas. Surrealist paintings often depict unexpected or
irrational objects in an atmosphere or fantasy , creating a
dreamlike scenario ( www.progressiveart.com 2004). The word
Surrealism was created in 1917 by the writer Guillaune
Apollinaire. He used it to describe two instances of
artistic innovation ( Bradley 6). In 1924, in the
Manifeste du Surrealisme which launched the surrealist
movement, the writer Andre Brenton and his friend Philippe
Soupault adopted the word,”baptised by the name of
Surrealism the new mode of expression which we had at our
disposal and which we wished to pass on to our friends.”
Brenton adopted the word Surrealism to describe the
literary and artistic practice of himself and his
“friends.” Some examples of Surrealist art are; M.C.
Escher’s “Drawing Hands,” Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence
of Memory,” (1931) , and Salvador Dali’s “Remorse.” (1931)
One of Dali’s more famous paintings, “The Persistence
of Memory,” was first shown June 1931 at The Pierre Cole
Gallery in Paris. Essentially the soft watches demonstrate
that one aspect of the paranoiac critical method is it’s
capacity to link objects to qualities normally associated
with other, completely different , elements .Dali painted
the setting first, a deserted landscape at Port Lligat
where he and Gala had bought a fisherman’s hut the previous
summer. in the foreground the self-portrait motif reappears
in the form of a foetus abandoned on a beach. This refers
to Dali’s professed memories of intrauterine life and
suggests the trauma of birth. A watch sagging across the
foetus and another hanging from a plinth evoke the feelings
of timelessness associated with the experience or pre-
birth. The title of the painting thus refers to prenatal
memories and it’s subject is “the horrible traumatism of
birth by which we are expunged from paradise”. The title
also refers to Gala’s response when Dali asked her whether
in three years time she would have forgotten this painting.
She replied “no one can forget it once he has seen it”(Dali 49).
Another popular Dali paintings from the 1930’s
is “The Atavism of Dusk” .Sex, cannibalism and death were
linked in Dali’s mind. By paranoiac association , precisely
these anxieties were inspired by Millet’s painting
depicting the piety of two laborers. In The Atavism of Dusk
Dali expressed more explicitly this irrational significance
which he divined in The Angelus. The posture of the two
peasants is reproduced faithfully. The male stands to the
left , his hat concealing his sexual arousal, but his face
has been transformed into a skull, an image which invokes
the consequences of his fatal sexual encounter with the
female peasant standing at the right. The threat posed by
the woman is evident in the way she assumes the attitude of
a praying mantis. This alludes to the practice of the
female insect of the species devouring the male after
coition (Dali 63).
Dali also created “The Wearing of Furniture-Nutrition”
in the 1930’s. This painting represents a further variation
in the capacity of the paranoiac critical method to
“interpret”reality by establishing irrational connections
between disparate elements. Unlike Dali’s image , in which
several elements may be recognized within a single
configuration, here the same configuration is repeated in
various parts of the canvas but with different visual
significance. As a result, associations are made between
disparate objects on the basis of repetition of outline or
form. The setting of this painting is the bay or Port
Lligat. This figure seated in the foreground and seen from
behind has a composite identity. the woman is Llucia ,
Dali’s childhood nurse, who was notable for her “immense
stature”. The night table , by virtue of it’s outline
shape, appears to have been formed from the nurse’s body. A
smaller cabinet, on which the bottle of wine stands, seems
in turn and for the same reason to have been formed from
the larger cupboard. This again manifests the paranoiac
phenomenon of flesh being transformed into inert objects.
The implication is that the wine bottle is associated with
the nurse’s breast and has been formed from it. This
connection completes the circle of association by returning
to Llucia who was Dali’s wet nurse; hence the nutritive
quality of the furniture in the title (Dali , 67).
One of Dali’s most famous paintings “Swans Reflecting
Elephants” was also created in the 1930’s . The end of the
1930’s saw the Spread of Dali’s reputation to America. He
was officially recognized on December 14th 1936 when he
appeared on the cover of Time magazine. “Swans Reflecting
Elephants” demonstrates the development which occurred in
Dali’s style since the beginning of the decade. In contrast
to the disorder of his earlier paintings this work was
created with extreme clarity. It’s hallucinatory force
achieves potency by being integrated within a natural ,
almost photographic precision. The swans and the twisted
trees behind them are invested with hidden, irrational
meaning. This is revealed in the repetition of these forms
as reflections in the lake beneath, in which images of
swans and trees have been transformed into elephants. This
manifests the power of paranoia; the domination of reality
by tyrannizing , subjective forces (Dali 85).
The last painting I would like to talk about is
“Metamorphose of Narcissus” . In “Metamorphosis of
Narcissus” the repetition of a formal configuration not
only links two different images, but alludes to the
transformation of one into the other. In Greek mythology
Narcissus was a beautiful youth who fell in love with his
reflection in a fountain; he was drowned after jumping into
the fountain in order to embrace his own image. No body was
ever found, only a flower which became known by his name.
In Dali’s painting , the youth is shown before and after
his metamorphosis into a hand holding a cracked egg from
which grows the narcissus flower. The nature of this
transformation derives from a particular train of paranoiac
thought, revealed in Dali’s poem of the same title which
was published in 1937.Dali’s painting connects with his
earlier obsession with onanism and is invested with
personal significance. However, Dali wrote: “When that head
slits, when that head splits, when that head bursts, it
will be the flower , the new Narcissus, Gala , My
Narcissus’.” The implication is that Gala had become the
object of Dali’s self-love, a paradox which could only be
resolved by the fusion of the separate identities of Gala
and Dali into one. This development is evident in the way
that Dali began to sign his paintings after this point as
“Gala Salvador Dali (Dali 89) .”
Dali was born in 1904. However, the first Salvador Dali
was born before his famous brother but passed away during
infancy. Dali was born into a wealthy family ,as a child
Dali was violent and threw tantrums often. From early on,Dali was drawn to displays of power, either by authorities or of his own. In his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, he described himself as a self-absorbed, often cruel child who enjoyed exhibitionism and voyeurism. In one incident, he recalled kicking his sister in the head when she was a toddler–and his “delirious joy” in doing so (The Persistence of Memory, 7). He chose to be
a painter at the age of ten, when he spent a summer at the
Moli de la Torre (the tower mill) , a farmhouse near
Figueras belonging to the Pichots, a family of musicians
and artists (Dali 10). Ramon Pichot introduced Dali to
impressionism and turn-of-the-century French painting. In
1925, when Dali was barely in his twenties, Galeria Dalmau
in Barcelona organized the first two Dali solo exhibitions.
After going through stages of Cubism, Futurism, and
metaphysical painting, Dali began Surrealist art in 1929.
He described his paintings as “hand painted dream
photographs.” In 1937 Dali visited Italy and adopted a more
traditional style; this along with his political views led
Brenton to expel him from the Surrealist ranks. Dali moved
to the United States of America in 1940 and stayed until
1955. During this time his paintings revolved around mostly
religious themes, although sexual subjects and his wife
Gala were also continuing preoccupations. In 1955 Dali
returned to Spain and in old age became reclusive. Apart
from panting, Dali created sculptures, book illustrations,
jewelry designs, and even work for the theater. Dali worked
with Luis Bunuel to create the first Surrealist films, Un
Chien Andalou (1929) and L’age d’or (1930). Dali also
created a dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound
(1945). Dali wrote a novel , Hidden Faces ( 1944) and
several volumes of autobiographies.
In the United States of America , many things were
happening in the 1930’s. For example The Great Depression,
The Great Depression was an economic slump in North
America, Europe, and other industrialized areas of the
world that began in 1929 and lasted until about 1939. It
was the longest and most severe depression ever experienced
by the industrialized Western world. Though the U.S.
economy had gone into depression six months earlier, the
Great Depression may be said to have begun with a
catastrophic collapse of stock-market prices on the New
York Stock Exchange in October 1929. During the next
three years stock prices in the United States continued
to fall, until by late 1932 they had dropped to only
about 20 percent of their value in 1929. Besides ruining
many thousands of individual investors, this precipitous
decline in the value of assets greatly strained banks and
other financial institutions, particularly those holding
stocks in their portfolios. The result was drastically
falling output and drastically rising unemployment; by
1932, U.S. manufacturing output had fallen to 54 percent of
its 1929 level, and unemployment had risen to between 12
and 15 million workers, or 25-30 percent of the work force.
The Great Depression began in the United States but quickly
turned into a worldwide economic slump owing to the special
and intimate relationships that had been forged between the
United States and European economies after World War I. The
United States had emerged from the war as the major
creditor and financier of postwar Europe, whose national
economies had been greatly weakened by the war itself, by
war debts, and, in the case of Germany and other defeated
nations, by the need to pay war reparations. The Great Depression had important consequences in the political sphere. In the United States, economic distress led to the election of the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt to the presidency in late 1932. Roosevelt introduced a number of major changes in the structure of the American economy, using increased government regulation and massive public-works projects to promote a recovery.
Another big dilemma the United States of America was
facing was prohibition. Prohibition is a law forbidding the
sales of alcoholic beverages.”Prohibition did not achieve its goals. Instead, it added to the problems it was intended
to solve” (Grolier, 15). On Midnight of January 16, 1920, one of the personal habits and customs of most Americans suddenly came to a halt. The Eighteenth Amendment was put into effect and all importing, exporting, transporting, selling, and manufacturing of intoxicating liquor was put to an end. Shortly following the enactment of the Eighteenth Amendment, the National Prohibition Act, or the Volstead Act, as it was called because of its author, Andrew J. Volstead, was put into effect. Prohibition was meant to reduce the consumption of alcohol, seen by some as the devil’s advocate, and thereby reduce crime, poverty, death rates, and improve the economy and the quality of life. The Prohibition amendment of the 1920s was ineffective because it was unenforceable, it caused the explosive growth of crime, and it increased the amount of alcohol consumption. The sales of medicinal alcohol, which was 95 percent pure alcohol, increased 400 percent between 1923 and 1931. Another factor that proves the increase of alcohol consumption is the increase in deaths and drunkenness
Moorhouse , Paul
PRC Publishing Limited.
All material displayed or broadcasted from this website are under strict copyright regulations.
Copyright 2002 – The Salvador Dali Museum – All Rights Reserved.
Text from “ART20, The Thames and Hudson Multimedia Dictionary of Modern Art.”
Grolier Encyclopedia of Knowledge
Danbury Connecticut, 1993 .
Grolier Encyclopedia of Knowledge
Danbury Connecticut, 1993 .
vol. 1 issue #5.
The Persistence of Memory: A Biography of Dali.
N.Y. , Da Capo Press, 1995.
The Surrealist Parade
N.Y. , New Directions Publishing Corp. , 1988.
Cambridge university Press.
United Kingdom, 1997.
Great Modern Masters Dali
Harry n Abrams inc Publishers.