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Salvador Dali Surrealism

Salvador Dali Surrealism


Surrealism (from French surrealisme - supernaturalism) - a modernistic

direction in the art, appeared after the First World War in France, during

1920s. Its founders considered surrealism as a way to recognize

subconscious, or supernatural. By definition of the founder, and the

ideologist of this direction Andrй Breton the surrealism is " the pure

mental automatism, the purpose of which is to express, either orally, or in

writing, everyday ideas. Surrealism is a dictation of ideas beyond any

control of mind, beyond any aesthetic or moral imaginations." (Ades 28)

Artists weren’t only creating new style in art and literature, but, first

of all, they were modifying the world and life. Surrealists were sure that

inconceivable was beginning to incarnate the earth.

The formation of Surrealism takes its roots from Dadaism. The impudent

art arisen in conditions of horror and disappointment of the artists before

the major catastrophe – the European revolutions (1916-1918). This event

shattered Switzerland, Austria, France and Germany. Dadaism basically

rejected any positive aesthetic value, and offered an “antiaesthetic” value

for everything. For Dadaists everything " reasonable, kind, eternal " had

failed, and the world appeared to be unfair, mean, and ugly. The values of

Dadaists were to destroy any style of beauty by means of "ugliness". Revolt

of Dadaist had somewhat settled in the middle of 1920s. Dadaists mainly

relied on “accidental effects” as a main working tool. Artists began

dripping paint on canvas, and forming irrational configurations. The

surrealistic attitude towards inconceivable, or to the elements of chaos is

directly grown from Dadaistic roots. But surrealists trend in art wasn’t

simply to destroy, but create through destruction. The bohemian anarchism

of Dadaists had a strong affect on Dali, and therefore he became a true

follower of their scandalous behavior. (Faerna, 32-40)

Surrealists hunted for unpredicted in order to free from the control

of the mind. (For example, they placed a sheet of a paper on rough surfaces

and rubbed a paper with dry paints, and received fantastic configurations

reminding of thickets of a fantastic wood.) But great masters weren’t

satisfied with such primitive methods of painting. They had to achieve

internal irrationality or mindless state of mental life. For this purpose,

forms of visual self-hypnosis were practiced. They created "bewitching"

forces by staring at the movement of fire, or the movement of clouds, or

etc. Transition from "mechanical" perceptions to "psychological” (or

psychoanalytical) perception, gradually influenced all masters of

surrealism. (Descharnes, 8)

Surrealists assembled meetings or "trainings" which were named as

sommeils – or "dreams in reality ". They played during these meetings. They

were interested in accidental and unconscious semantic combinations, which

occurred during "bouts-rimes (word game).” Each of them made a phrase, not

knowing about the words made by the other participants of the game. So,

once they came up with a phrase "The refined corpse will drink a fine wine

" was invented. The purpose of this game was to train to free your

consciousness and logic. By doing so they were able to gain chaotic forces

from the chasms of subconscious. By this way, ideas of surrealism had

really turned into an explosive: destroying everything on its way,

shattering any truth or a principle based on a reason, belief, virtue, or

ideal beauty. It destroyed beauty that was viewed by radical innovators as

art. They viewed life as a synonym of deceit, and lifelessness. Many

surrealists did not focus much on techniques of painting, they were

interested in the outcome of the painting. The burst of nihilism was

formed among young artists during those times. Not having faith in

anything, they also drew this “ANYTHING."

Dali’s surrealism, doesn’t present any politics, an intimate life, an

aesthetic beauty, a history, or anything else. In his art there is only a

Surrealistic Creativity, which transforms everything into something new as

it contacts it. Dali painted about everything that was essential for the

person of that time. The themes of his painting varied from sexual

revolution to preparation of meal. Some of other themes of his paintings

were civil war, nuclear explosions, Nazism, Catholic beliefs, science, or

classical art. For sane people, Dali’s art was something inconceivable and

shocking. Somehow he even built a so-called “surrealistic object,” which

was absolutely not suitable for actual use. This was his embodiment of his

obsessive ideas, and manias. This object was called “the astral chair.” The

chair’s leather coating was replaced by chocolate coating, a door handle

was screwed on one leg, and other leg stood on a mug with beer. Surely such

a chair would simply collapse by the impact of a door swing, spilling the

beer all over the floor, and causing an alarm and confusion for the people

around it.

Dali alienated himself from his colleagues. Therefore they turned

against Dali. His friends started denying Dali’s art. Andrй Breton after

another disagreement with the artist, made an anagram of letters of his

name “Avida Dollars – Dollar Thirsty.” He hinted that all that Dali

created, had an advertising character, and are directed strictly at making

money, and that art itself had no value for him.

Dali sometimes proclaimed to be the only unique surrealist. And at the

same time he said that, "Painting is the color photo made by a brush ". But

it’s useless to blame Dali for inconsistency, because irrationality – was

his value and element of thinking and painting. This method was the true

description of Dali’s style both in life, and in art. Dali has literally

treated all those ideas, principles, values, and people with whom he

associated with impudently, and disrespectfully. He implemented the ideas

of surrealism to the extent. Dali is dangerous to the silent human nature;

he is dangerous for humans’ "well-being" because he discredits senses and

values of human culture. He discredits both religion and godlessness, both

Nazism and antifascism, both admirations of art, and avant-guard revolt

against them, both belief in the humanity and disbelief in it.

Dali searched for new decisions, and forms of art starting from his

childhood. Once, he painted a still life painting with only three colors on

an old worn-out door. He used the door instead of canvas. It surprised him

that this still-life painting amazed his friends and relatives. It was the

image of a handful of the berries put under the sun. Then someone from

spectators had noticed, that at cherries were missing tails. The young

artist had forgotten to paint them. He quickly ate the berries that he was

drawing earlier, and attached the real tails to the still-life painting. He

pulls out the woodworms of old door, and attached them to berries, and he

created painting with live woodworms and real berry tails. At seeing this,

the spectators were overwhelmed.

Having entered the School of fine Arts in Madrid, Dali hoped to find

worthy teachers. He hoped to find someone who could teach him the sacred

craft of drawing, but he very soon got disappointed. He publicly declared

that he didn’t want to be tested by those teachers who "knew almost

nothing, and incapable of anything.” Therefore he got expelled from the art

school. He admired the great masters of Italian Renaissance. He explained

how his surrealistic creativity began. He wrote, "The inevitable happened

-here comes Dali. The core surrealist, moved by "will and authority." He

proclaimed unlimited freedom from any aesthetic or moral compulsions, and

declared that it is possible to go up to the extreme limits of any artistic

experiments, as long as you don’t care about any consequence. (Gibson, 6-9)

All this wasn’t only his private affair; it was the purpose of

surrealism. Dali truly was the surrealist to the core. Everything he

touched or spoke about turned into surrealistic images. Dali in his life

mainly focused on his surrealistic "ego.”

The artist has created some sort of "password" that led to the secrets of

his creativity and personality. His masterpieces and graphic works are

constructed like texts. In his works, he presents the history of World’s

culture as a series of metaphors. And same kinds of citations are

applicable to his masters of the past. In his painting "Spain", we see the

resemblance to Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings. And in his portraits and still-

life drawings we can relate to Italian painter of XVI century Arcimboldi

Giuseppe. (Descharnes, 27)

Dali perfectly managed to change the format of an art on an easel

painting. The extended horizontal canvas are full of narration, that

contain consecutive display of metamorphosis ("Metamorphosis of Narcissus."

Oil on canvas, 20 1/8x30 3/8 inches, 1937)

The vertical stretched canvas changes the dynamics of the picture,

adding solemnity to it Dali thought that horizon in the paintings were very

essential.” The low horizon gives an image some sort of theatrical look

(for example, "The Sacrament of the Last Super.” Oil on canvas, 65 5/8x105

Ѕ inches, 1955)

In his compositions with high horizon, the features close to the

folklore beginning are seen. The images have ornamental - symbolical

character. The artist loved big canvases. His wide canvases are similar to

those of medieval masters. The main value of works of Dali consists of

creation of magnificent picturesque and graphic images. The artist presents

himself in his paintings, as the refined colorist, brilliant painter,

master of complexity, and yet architectonically conceivable painter (Ades,

17). Those paintings, in which Dali transforms the sign into artistic

images, are authentic masterpieces of paintings and graphics. The tragic

gift of Salvador Dali has found its bright reflection in his one of the

most famous painting called " Soft construction with boiled beans –

Premonition of Civil War." (Oil on canvas, 29 5/16x39 3/8 inches, 1936)

The background of the painting is covered with cloudy sky. There is an

inconceivable figure that has human body parts, and the face that is in

total agony. The hand is holding the breast that doesn’t have a body, it

has a head, and a neck with inflated veins, and from there onward comes a

leg that is standing on the other part of human body that stretches out

diagonally. And in the middle of this diagonally stretched body part, there

is a small locker – a design that Dali frequently presented in his

paintings as an illusion of stability of ordinary life. There are beans all

over the ground, and an ordinary man, near this figure looking down to the

ground. The horizon is given low in this picture, covering only small part

of the ground. The picture has an enormous anti-war pathos. It has a very

expressive message in its composition, contrast color combinations, and a

linear composition.

The unusual gift of Salvador Dali, his overwhelming creativity makes

him a genius of his age. His art presents the humanistic symbol of his

century. Surrealism is not an artistic movement; it is an artistic thinking

of how to interact with world. When one journalist asked Salvador Dali

“what the surrealism was, Dali answered that Surrealism is Dali himself,

and he had a full right to say so.

Works Cited

Ades, Dawn. Dali’s optical Illusion. Wadworth Athenaeum Museum of Art in

association with Yale University Pres Ney Haven and London, 1999.

Descharnes, Robert. Dali. Harry N. Abrams Publishers, New York 2000

Faerna, Jose Maria, ed. Dali. Trans. Teresa Waldes. Harry n. Abrams, Inc.,

Publishers 2000.

Gibson, Ian. The Shameful life of Salvador Dali. W. W. Norton & Company:

New York, 1998.


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