The Surreal Life ; Art Critics Are Often Dismissive of Salvador Dali, but a New Exhibition Suggests He Was Ahead of His Time

By Carol Strickland Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 25, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Surreal Life ; Art Critics Are Often Dismissive of Salvador Dali, but a New Exhibition Suggests He Was Ahead of His Time


Carol Strickland Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


When Salvador Dali died in 1989, his reputation had plummeted from heights of renown in the 1930s to a low point. His outrageous antics made him one of the most widely recognized artists of the 20th century. But his relentless self-promotion, buffoonish declarations of genius, and right-wing politics alienated the art world. By the 1960s, critics dismissed his work, outside its classic Surrealist period of 1929-39. Dali was considered a pathetic mountebank, a has-been.

Now, 101 years after his birth, the Philadelphia Museum of Art aims to reassess Dali's contributions. Without the spectacle of the living (and leering) Dali, the work speaks for itself in a retrospective titled simply "Salvador Dali," on display through May 15. According to Anne d'Harnoncourt, museum director, the exhibition offers a chance "to encounter a complete and complex picture of the artist's oeuvre."

The show's curator, Mark Taylor, believes the artist deserves to be seen as more than a footnote in prewar art history. "Dali's enormous impact on contemporary art has yet to be properly assessed. His late work ... redefined the boundaries of art, fashion, and popular culture in ways that we are only now beginning to understand." The retrospective, covering six decades of Dali's achievement, aims to give Dali "the proper recognition he deserves," says Mr. Taylor.

Salvador means "savior" and Dali said he was "destined for nothing less than to rescue painting from the void of modern art." Dali disparaged modernism (which he saw as lacking respect for craft) as a dead end. He rebelled by infusing contemporary art with virtuoso draftsmanship and painstakingly realistic technique.

He also injected a blast of color into the art world through the force and farce of his personality. With his floor-length capes, silver-headed canes, flowing ties, lacquered hair, and dashing mustache, Dali was a dandy and a showman. He gleefully commodified his image, transforming his life into a series of brand-name events.

The Catalan artist spoofed the New York Daily News with a self- authored publication called the "Dali News" and arrived for a news conference wearing green goggles and a boiled lobster on his head. On another occasion, he pulled up to a lecture at the Sorbonne in a white Rolls Royce stuffed with cauliflowers. Most notoriously, he made an appearance in London in 1936 in a deep-sea diver's suit with a jeweled dagger in his belt. As he delivered a discourse on mining one's subterranean depths for hidden imagery, Dali exhausted his supply of oxygen and had to be extricated from his diver's helmet.

Dali's plunge into show-biz commercialism won him the disdain of his early booster, the French poet Andre Breton, a founder of the Surrealist movement. Breton concluded that "Dali is like a man who hesitates between talent and genius."

Dali didn't care. He courted wealth and drew no distinction between high and low culture. In a 15-second commercial on French television, for which he earned $10,000, Dali rolled his eyes and proclaimed, "I am mad, completely mad" over Lanvin chocolates. He collaborated with Chanel and Schiaparelli on haute couture; invented a hallucinatory dream sequence for Hitchcock's film "Spellbound," and sold calendars, ashtrays, and oyster knives.

It's impossible to separate the life from the art because Dali's bizarre, mysterious paintings derive not only from his eccentric lifestyle but from his childhood traumas, phobias, and fantasies.

In 1929, at the age of 25, Dali came into his own. In that year, he painted "The First Days of Spring." A collaged photo of Dali as a child at the center of the canvas indicates the supreme position of autobiography as the fount of his disturbing imagery. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Surreal Life ; Art Critics Are Often Dismissive of Salvador Dali, but a New Exhibition Suggests He Was Ahead of His Time
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.