Before Photoshop Was Invented, There Was Dali; in the Latest in His Series on Striking Images, Our Columnist Looks at the Surreal Mind of an Artist and How Dreams Have Inspired Him and Others

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 21, 2014 | Go to article overview

Before Photoshop Was Invented, There Was Dali; in the Latest in His Series on Striking Images, Our Columnist Looks at the Surreal Mind of an Artist and How Dreams Have Inspired Him and Others


Byline: The Naked Eye Charles Saatchi

TAKEN in 1948 this image memorably depicted gravity defeated, a moment in time plucked from a chaotic convergence of flying cats, water, chairs, paintings and the magnificent showman Salvador Dali.

The image is in many ways a photographic rendering of Dali's paintings, with their trademark melting watches, looming telephones, minaturised landscapes and women's bodies in various worrying states of disintegration.

Named Dali Atomicus, this image was created by Austrian photographer Philippe Halsman, who collaborated with Dali throughout the 1940s.

The apparent levitation of furniture was an effect created through using various "invisible" supporting devices but it took 28 attempts to get all the moving parts working in harmony.

Halsman went on to capture Einstein in a miserabilist portrait that would eventually grace the cover of Time magazine, to accompany their article on the father of relativity being named the "Person of the Century".

Dali had his sights set very firmly on being a "person of the century" and dedicated his life to achieving fame and notoriety. He was undeniably a virtuoso artist and certainly one of the most recognisable painters of the era.

His eccentric moustache, bohemian dress and bizarre lifestyle earned him acres of column inches and press photographs but often obscured thoughtful analysis of his work.

As one of the founding members of the Surrealist movement in 1920s Paris, he was a flamboyant exponent of the Surrealist manifesto: the liberation of the human spirit through a release of libidinal desires and suppressed emotion.

Whether Dali was as strange a man as the persona he projected is moot but he certainly had a number of eccentricities that put him just shy of mental aberration.

Purportedly he had an intense fear of grasshoppers, was afraid to expose his feet and always carried a piece of driftwood around to ward off evil spirits.

His wife Gala suited his strange lifestyle perfectly. She met Dali in Spain having ended a three-way relationship with Max Ernst and her then husband Paul Eluard, both artists.

Gala's strong sex drive meant she had many affairs during her marriage to Dali, which he possibly encouraged given his practice of candaulism: a penchant for showing his naked partner to others for their voyeuristic pleasure.

Andre Breton, the leading light of the Surrealists, who largely formulated their approach to art and life, was profoundly influenced by his training in medicine and psychiatry. …

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