The entire art history is marked by various masters whose pioneering approaches and practices changed the course of art and inspired the generations to come. When it comes to the 20th century, the figure which moved the notion of the artistic persona and the art itself was none other than Salvador Dalí.
This peculiar character constantly challenged the stereotypes related to the perception of what are artists like and pushed the boundaries by constantly rebranding himself. Although Dalí passed through different artistic stages, he remained mostly loyal to the specific aesthetic rooted in Surrealism, so it is no wonder he is often perceived as the founding father of this movement.
In order to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of the artist and reevaluate his complex, dense, and often controversial activity, The Grimaldi Forum in Monaco decided to organize a grandiose retrospective titled Dalí, a history of painting currently on display. It offers a full insight into the artist’s practice with a vast selection of paintings, drawings, and archival documentation made in a period from 1910 to 1983.
The exhibition is curated by the Director of the Musées Dalí Montse Aguer, and supported by the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí reveals various stages of Dalí’s unstoppable production by emphasizing all the possible influences which led him to establish such a powerful aesthetic; by showing how Dalí embraced and articulated the leading European avant-gardes tendencies such as Impressionism, Cubism, Metaphysical painting; by underlining the complexity of his lasting partnership with a muse, artist and peculiar persona Gala Dalí.
Director of the Dalí Museums Montse Aguer Teixidor explains her curatorial agenda:
More than an unknown side, we want to present the intimacy of Dalí in his studio to the public: alone, in his intimacy painting for long hours, observing the great masters but also observing the present and his contemporaries. Dalí has managed to integrate science fiction innovations into his work to express the complexity of his century. We want to show a Dalí who was viscerally passionate about painting, a passion he describes in his treatise on painting. A Dalí who begins in the school magazine in his hometown, Figueres, talking about the great masters of painting and who ends up being one of them. A great master who knew how to anticipate the future of art.
The exhibition is presented in chronological order and it begins with a selection of Salvador Dalí's early works featuring Cadaqués landscapes (the place where the great master was born) and family portraits made in the impressionist manner. On display are also his works which show the flirtation with Cubism and the influence of Juan-Gris and Picasso, as well as few works reflecting his interest in metaphysical painting and abstraction (such as Four fishermen’s wives in Cadaqués from circa 1928).
At the center of the show is Dalí’s specific contribution to the Surrealist movement. Starting from the initial interests proposed by the Surrealists, the artist invented a specific paranoiac-critical method which was an invisible manifest based on a controlled delirium of the mind or the application of the double image. During the 1930s, Dalí constructed his signature style expressed by the artist in different formats throughout his fruitful career. On display is his iconic 1933 work Millet’s Architectural Angelus which was a very important work for him throughout life.
During the 1940s and 1950s, under Gala’s influence, Dalí focused on the exploration of historical painting primarily the Renaissance production. Such a fascination was expressed in written form in his 1948 essay 50 secrets magiques - illustrations from this writing are on display, as well as in 1951 Manifeste mystique where he noted his admiration for religious painting.
The late 1950s and 1960s are characterized as the period of nuclear mysticism; the large-scale paintings were deeply influenced by the devastating effects of post WW II nuclear catastrophes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the early piece belonging to this phase The Dematerialization near the Nose of Nero from 1947 perfectly encapsulates this research.
Dalí was affiliated with Andy Warhol in mid 1960s so the exhibition includes original photographic prints, and an audiovisual work titled Andy Warhol, Dalí Screen Test, 1965-1966, slow-motion camera portrait and some documents such as the cover of Andy Warhol’s Interview from 1973 featuring Dalí holding a book whose covers hold the portrait of Gala.
The 1970s are characterized by Dalí’s stereoscopic paintings. Namely, he became infatuated with popular culture and so forth the American art; his approach was versatile and responded well to the shifting nature of the times, since the artist was able to combine tradition and innovation especially the third dimension and optical effects. Dalí's Seen from the Back Painting Gala from the Back Eternalized by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected by Six Real Mirrors. Stereoscopic Work made by the artist in 1972-1973 is one of the highlights. Reasonably, during the final stage of his career in the 1980s, Dalí incorporated the themes related to the articulation of death, immortality and his passion for painting.
A series of portraits wrap up the exhibition - about forty original photos of the artist on the spot while producing an artwork. As a matter of fact, these powerful photographs witness what was Dalí like in regards to his art – committed, and almost in the state of transcendence.
The current exhibition offers a one of a kind opportunity to experience Dali’s world to its entirety. This interpretation is unprecedented since it shows how art history and its legacy was important for the artistic growth of the Spanish master (especially the domains of the great Renaissance masters) who constantly experimented in a search for a new path. More importantly, this exhibition deconstructs his flamboyant and eccentric persona by underlining his immense craftsmanship.
Dalí, a history of painting will be on display at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco until 8 September 2019.
Featured images: Dalí, A History of Painting Installation views. © JCVINAJ/ Grimaldi Forum Monaco 2019.