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Surrealist Composition [Inaugural Gooseflesh], 1928

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Surrealist Composition [Inaugural Gooseflesh], 1928


    Dalí gave this picture its title in 1964. Here the diagonal construction is again used. The visible material in the picture would seem to place it with the works painted in 1927 such as Blood Is Sweeter Than Honey in that series which Lorca called 'Apparatus Forest.' Inaugural Gooseflesh is painted in the same style but as an afterthought; it is the result of the works of this period and of the paintings done at the same time in 1928 such as Bathers with the gravel collage. The composition is already the product of a hypnagogic image similar to that which Dalí repeated often in his Surrealist works -we see an example of it in Portrait of Paul Eluard - little rodlike cells in suspension above an oblong object. Dalí has given an explanation of it in his book Le Mythe tragique de L'Angelus de Millet. 'In 1929, for the first time, one of those very clear images appeared to me, most probably following many others, although I cannot find any antecedent for it in my memory. This happened in Cadaqués when I was in the act of pulling violently at the oars, and it consisted of a white shape illuminated by the sun, stretched out at full length, cylindrical in form with rounded extremities, showing several irregularities. This form is Iying down on the maroon-purplish-blue soil. All its periphery is bristling with little black rodlike cells appearing in suspension in all directions like flying sticks.' Dalí continues, 'The numbering in the pictures probably corresponds to my unconscious interest in the metric system. In June 1927 I had written an article, 'The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian,' which appeared in L'Amic de les arts, about which Lorca had said that it was the most poetic text he had ever read. In this article I explained how one could measure the suffering of Saint Sebastian just as with degrees on a thermometer, each arrow being a sort of gradation adding and measuring the amount of suffering. It was at the same time that Lorca wrote in his 'Ode to Salvador Dalí,' 'A desire for forms and limits overwhelms us. The man who measures with the yellow yardstick comes.' At that time I was preoccupied with all the systems of weights and measures, and numbers were appearing everywhere I was already preoccupied with the metric system, the numerical division of worldly things.'

Unsatisfied Desires, 1928


    This picture was painted in Cadaqués during the summer of 1928. Dalí sent it along with another work, Female Nude, to the Salon d'Automne which was held at Maragall's Gallery in Barcelona. The directors, frightened in advance at the probable reactions of the public to the obviously sexual allusions contained in the paintings, preferred to withdraw them.
    'Then,' Dalí relates, 'in protest I gave a lecture at the Sala Pares which triggered a frightful scandal because I had insulted all the painters who were doing twisted trees. This was the first of three scandalous lectures that I was to give in Barcelona. The second took place a few years later at the Atheneo, where I thoroughly insulted the name of the founder of the society who organized the lecture-a man whose memory was respected throughout all Catalonia-by calling him the great pederast and the great hairy putrified man. Afterwards, I wasn't able to continue to say very much; everyone threw chairs and broke up everything. The police had to protect me so that I could leave and get as far as the car. The third one was a lecture given with Rene Crevel during the Surrealist era at a place where the anarchists met called the 'Popular Encyclopedia.' They had put a loaf of bread on me head just like that in Retrospective Bust. I spoke about sex, about testicles, about everything, to such a point that an anarchist got up and said: 'It's intolerable that you should use such obscene language in front of our wives, because we are accompanied here by our wives!' It was Gala's turn to stand up, and she replied: 'If he says this in front of his own wife, which I am, he can say it in front of your wives.'
    'It is one of the first pictures of the period when I used the gravel from the beach of Llaner as collage; I used to go rather to Sortell near the Pichots' house to fish for gobies or other things. I picked up cork floats, a little here and there, at random.' These pictures with the gravel and the cork floats were the beginning of a series which Dalí considered the most important before Surrealism: canvases which were practically white with only a few ideographic signs and feathers glued on them, such as Fishermen in the Sun.



The Enigma of Desire: My Mother, My Mother, My Mother, 1929


    This great composition, among the first works of the Surrealist period, is one of the most important. Dalí painted The Enigma of Desire in Figueras just as he was finishing The Lugubrious Game.
    'I did it at the same time as The Great Masturbator', he relatess 'immediately after summer. My aunt had a large dressmaking workroom and it was there that I did all these pictures. The Great Masturbator was taken from a chromo that I had which depicted a woman smelling a lily. Naturally the face is mixed with memories of Cadaqués, of summer, of the rocks of Cape Creus.' The Enigma of Desire was the first work sold by the Goemans Gallery during Dalí's first one-man exhibition there in 1929; the Viscount of Noailles bought it together with The Lugubrious Game. Just as he was painting this canvas, Dalí found a religious chromolithograph on which he wrote, 'Sometimes I spit with pleasure on my mother's portrait,' commenting that what he did then 'had a quite pschoanalytical explanation, since one can perfectly well love one's mother and still dream that one spits upon her, and even more, in many religions, expectoration is a sign of veneration; now go and try to make people understand that!'
    In the baroque appendage that elongates the visage, we recognize the geological structures of the rocks of the region near Cape Creus eroded by the wind, mixed with the fantastic architecture of Antonio Gaudi, 'that gothic Mediterranean,' whose work Dalí had seen as a child in Barcelona.
    The second part of the title, My Mother, My Mother, My Mother, was inspired by one of Tristan Tzara's poems, 'The Great Lament of My Darkness,' which appeared in 1917. Dalí considers The Enigma of Desire to be one of his ten most important paintings. The little group on the left depicts Dalí himself embracing his father, with a fish, a grasshopper, a dagger, and a lion's head.

The Great Masturbator, 1929


    The Great Masturbator is a self-portrait painted in July 1929. Dalí's head has the shape of a rock formation near his home and is seen in this form in several paintings dating from 1929. The painting deals with Dalí's fear and loathing of sex. He blamed his negative feelings toward sex as partly a result of reading his father's, extremely graphic book on venereal diseases as a young boy.
    The head is painted 'soft', as if malleable to the touch; it looks fatigued, sexually spent: the eyes are closed, the cheeks flushed. Under the nose a grasshopper clings, its abdomen covered with ants that crawl onto the face where a mouth should be. From early childhood, Dalí had a phobia of grasshoppers and the appearance of one here suggests his feelings of hysterical fear and a loss of voice or control.
    Emerging from the right of the head, a woman moves her mouth toward a man's crotch. The man's legs are cut and bleeding, implying a fear of castration. The woman's face is cracked, as though the image that Dalí's head produces will soon disintegrate. To reiterate the sexual theme, the stamen of a lily and tongue of a lion appear underneath the couple.

The Persistence of Memory, 1931


    Many of Dalí's paintings were influenced and inspired by the landscapes of his youth. Several in particular were painted on the slopes of Mount Pani, which was covered in beautiful umbrella pines at the time. Many of the strange and foreboding shadows in the foreground of many Dalí paintings is a direct reference to and result of Dalí's love of this mountain near his home. Even long after he had grown up, Dalí continued to paint details of the landscape of Catalonia into his works, as evidenced by such works as The Persistence of Memory, completed in 1931.
    Note the craggy rocks of Cape Creus in the background to the right. One of Dalí's most memorable Surrealist works, indeed the one with which he is most often associated is The Persistence of Memory. It shows a typical Dalínian landscape, with the rocks of his beloved Cape Creus jutting up in the background. In the foreground, a sort of amorphous self portrait of Dalí seems to melt. Three Separate Melting Watch images even out the foreground of the work. The melting watches are one symbol that is commonly associated with Salvador Dalí's Surrealism. They are literally meant to show the irrelevance of time.
    When Dalí was alone with Gala and his paintings in Cape Creus, he felt that time had little, perhaps no significance for him. His days were spent eating, painting, making love, and anything else he wanted to do. The warm, summery days seemed to fly by without any real indication of having passed.
    One hot August afternoon, in 1931, as Dalí sat at his work bench nibbling at his lunch, he came upon one of his most stunning paranoiac-critical hallucinations. Upon taking a pencil, and sliding it under a bit of Camembert cheese, which had become softer and runnier than usual in the summer heat, Dalí was inspired with the idea for the melting watches. They appear often throughout Dalí's works, and are the subject of much interest. In short, this particular work, is an important referral back to Dalí's Catalan Heritage, that was so very important to him.

The Architectonic Angelus of Millet, 1933


    The Architectonic Angelus of Millet shows how Dalí used the 'paranoia-critical' method, employing Millet's The Angelus as the catalyst. Dalí saw a reproduction of The Angelus in 1929, not having thought about it since childhood. He had been obsessed with the image as a child, finding parallels between that and two cypress trees that stood outside his classroom. Upon seeing this reproduction, he became very upset and distressed; to discover why he employed psychoanalytical methods. He also began to see The Angelus in 'visions' in objects around him: once in a lithograph of cherries, once in two stones on a beach. The Architectonic Angelus of Millet was based upon this latter 'vision'.
    Unlike Gala and The Angelus of Millet, The Architectonic Angelus has no reproduction of The Angelus. Instead, the Angelus couple are transformed into two huge, white stones that loom over the Catalonian landscape. Dalí pointed out that although the male stone on the left appears to be dominant due to its size, the female stone is the aggressor here, pushing out a part of herself to make physical contact with the male. The often-used image of the young Dalí with his father can be seen sheltering underneath the male stone.

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