Salvador Dali, a born artist with an appetite for creativity, created some of the most famous surreal art pieces known to man. The Spanish artist’s ideas, yet extreme, caught the attention of millions of people as he experimented to push the limits of art as far as possible. Wandering into the subconsciousness of his mind he began to explore places of the mind that would be unbelievable to the typical person. Dali did this by using a method called The Paranoiac Critical Method, which he later converted to The Oniric-Critical Method.
Many of his paintings can be deeply analyzed while others are a pure creation of fantasy that lack meaning or truth. I have chosen “Vision of Hell” and “Daddy Longlegs of the Eveninga€¦ Hope! ” to analyze as the two oil-canvas paintings come from two different periods of his art career. The first, painted in the 30’s, deals with his more surreal side whereas the second painting was painted near the end of his career, after he reintroduced himself to religion. The two types of paintings are most notably different in theme and style.
I will also analyse, “Un Chien Andalou” a€“ The Andalusian Dog, a short film created by Salvador DalA and Luis BuA±uel in 1929. Dali uses many reoccurring symbolic elements in his works. I will describe the different symbols that are used and what they represent to Salvador Dali, himself. Surrealism Surrealism is a form of art, which involves the artists to use his subconsciousness the part of the mind below the level of conscious perception. An example of the subconscious state of a person is while they’re dreaming. Surrealists base their art upon fantasy and use it as a tool to discover their mind on a higher level.
They believed that a dream or thought not interpreted was like a book not read. Surrealism emerged from an earlier style of art known as Dadaism. Dadaism started as a scandal to society in order to punish them for the monstrosity of war. They believed that a society that could create war did not deserve beautiful art, so instead they created ugly art. The surrealist, Manifesto, began dominating the surrealist movement in Paris in 1924 shortly after the Dada movement. Dali joined the surrealist movement in 1930 but shortly after was looked down upon by many surrealists.
They believed he was more interested in publicizing his work than the actual surrealist ideas. Slowly, two distinct groups of surrealists emerged from the surrealist movement: Automatism and Veristicism. Automatism Automatism is the way of expressing your subconscious in the way that it comes to your conscience and not making any interpretations or connections with it to the real world. These artists believe in suppressing the consciousness in favor of the subconscious. The thoughts are recorded in the painting in the way, which the images of the subconscious reach the conscience.
There is no connection between consciousness and subconsciousness seen in the painting. Veristic Surrealists Veristic surrealists try to make sense of their subconscious and paint with influence from the conscious state of mind. The Paranoiac Critical Method The Paranoiac Critical Method, which was developed by DalA in the early 30’s, was simply an attempt to arrange irrational things into a way that made sense. He wanted to bring light upon the unreliability of perception, conception and understanding. Dali once described it as: “…
A spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on the systematic objectification of associations and delirious interpretations… ” He states that it is just an impulsive technique, which involves breaking down the barrier of the mind’s way of thinking, so we can create our own perception of objects. While DalA painted an active process of the mind would allow him to visualize images, which he would include in his painting and help him achieve his final product. Biography Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali Domenech was born in a small agricultural town called Figueres in Spain on May 11th 1904.
He discovered his talents at a very unusual age and had a lot of support from his parents. They founded his first small art studio at home. He began visiting the School of Art at the young age of thirteen, where he made some of his first paintings. During the years of 1921 to 1925 he attended The San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, where he developed his endowment. Salvador was really first recognized for his remarkable talent in a small one-man show, which took place in Barcelona in 1925. Three years later, three of his paintings were shown at the third annual Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh.
This was primarily his starting foundation to his art career. In the year of 1929, he once again held a one-man show in Paris and it was during this year he met Gala Eluard, his wife to be. She became his business manager and his source of inspiration for the many years to come. Together they joined the Surrealist Movement in Paris in 1930. Dali was abolished only four years later as others in the movement noticed his that he had begun painting in a more traditional style during his visit to Italy. During the years of World War II Dali and his wife took refuge in America and waited for the war to end.
They returned shortly after the war had ended and Spain was free again. Salvador continued painting, sculpting and drawing for many more years but what a lot of people did not know was that he was also a poet, fiction writer and film producer. His fame for surrealist paintings rose through the years. In his later years he became religious again as he was in his childhood years. This influenced his paintings as he took on a classical style of religious mysticism. After his wife’s death in 1982, his health began decreasing. He developed heart and respiratory problems.
Seven years later Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali Domenech died at a proud age of eighty-five in his home town of Figueres. Freud and Dali Salvador Dali applied Freud’s psychoanalytic device of free association in order to interpret the symbolic meaning of dream imagery by painting from his subconscious. According to Freud the concept of time is a feminine symbol and Dali uses watches in his painting “The Persistence of Memory”. The watches, according to a Freudian analysis are closed, solid and unconquerable. In DalA’s book, “The Secret Life of Salvador Dali” he discusses his own anxieties of sexual dysfunction.
Freud stated that trees, elevated and erect represent the male penis, but surprisingly the tree in this painting is undernourished and lifeless. This painting could represent all the sexual fears Dali has since the feminine symbol is dominating and the masculine symbol is overpowered. Reoccurring Symbols Lion Heads: Lion heads appear throughout DalA’s paintings and represent a sexual desire and curiosity, which frightened him. He gave them a grotesque and gruesome form to explain his terrible sexual fears. Lions Not only did lions represent sexual cravings but it also represented Salvador DalA’s father.
With the whole lion’s body standing in the picture acting as an authoritarian figure, Dali felt scrutinized and guilty. Perhaps Dali was ashamed of these sexual desires of his, while his father watched over him like a hawk. Grasshoppers Dali described grasshoppers as horrible, loathsome creatures, which caused him terror. He developed this enigma as a child after catching a fish, called a ‘slobberer’. As he held this fish closer and closer to his face he realized that it had the face of a grasshopper. This was believed to be what started his puzzling fear and hate for these insects.
This insect not only posed a fear but also was filled with sexual content in DalA’s eyes, due to its bisexual nature. Devices Placed in many of DalA’s imaginary landscapes are perfect, clean devices, which serve no mechanical, purpose, only an anesthetic one. These devices were opposite to the putrefaction that lay within numerous of his paintings. They produced black, contradictory shadows across the fantasy inspired scenery. They combated romanticism and were exact geometry of mass produced items. Putrefaction Rotting animals and corpses covered in ants and flies filled DalA’s early paintings.
They were so anti-sentimental and filled the viewers with horror and question. Putrefaction was raised in deeply poetic models. Autonomy Deformed bodies, headless women, heads with no bodies, flying breasts, veins, arteries and lungs were works of the young Dali. He was opposed to the representations of the female body. He had once said that limbs are freed from the body because nothing obliges them to stay attached. The Great Masturbator DalA’s paintings are usually autobiographical. They describe his fears, passions and visions of the world. His self-portraits reflect his inner-state.
He described the Great Masturbator as a large head that was yellow like wax with very fleshy cheeks that had long eyelashes. His large nose was pressed up against the ground and instead of a mouth he had a grasshopper, which was decomposing, and full of ants. Vision of Hell 1962 “Vision of Hell”, painted in the early sixties, reflects Salvador DalA’s new influence of religion in his life. He transformed his surreal style into a more classical style of religious mysticism although he still uses many of his earlier elements, such as noses, crutches, eyes, hands, bones, blood, mountains and soft bodies.
The first thing we notice in the painting are the eight forks piercing a body of which only the chest and left arm are made visible. We understand this painting to be DalA’s interpretation of death. It seems very brutal but we should expect this when an artist seriously deals with the theme of death. We can compare this painting to his earlier work, “Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man” from 1943. The first painting deals with birth and life while “Vision of Hell” deals with hell and death. Both bodies centralized in the center of the painting take form in a fetal position.
Large drops of blood are present in both paintings, representing pain. Only the chest and left arm are revealed in both bodies in the paintings. As I mentioned earlier, crutches seem to be a reoccurring symbol in his paintings. In this painting we can see the ‘evil’ red/orange spirit seeping from the corpse in the middle of the painting has two crutches. To Dali the crutches represent the line between life and death. A lot of his paintings are actually self-portraits. In this particular painting there are three self-portraits hidden in the image. The corpse in the middle is meant to be his own, representing his own death to come.
The second is difficult to see in the painting unless you increase the brightness and contrast. It is hidden in the puff of smoke in the bottom of the painting. The third self-portrait is very complicated to find, but it actually dominates the entire painting. Somewhere in the painting you should see an eye and a nose being pierced by two of the forks. These few lines are what inspired Dali for this painting: “Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form… raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves… ” The fire which the demons and souls were plunged into is Hell.
This quote describes Hell, and they are referring to the sinners on Earth to demons, which is a metaphor. We see the tone of the picture is red, orange and black, which represent Hell and fire. A lady stands in the top right corner bringing lightness and hope in over the painting. In her right hand she hold the crucifix, in her left, a shepherd’s staff. It is said that this lady represents Lucia, one of the three children who saw Our Lady of Fatima. If you look closer at this solitary woman you can see a glow white light in the center of her figure. We can say that this represents Jesus.
Daddy Longlegs of the Eveninga€¦Hope! 1940 When first seeing this painting, one may think that it is filled with death, decay and destruction. The drooping corpse and the melting shapes reveal the feeling of melting away and dying. This painting is filled with so much more than pain. No matter how ugly the situation is, there is still hope and this is what Dali wants to prove to us with this surreal painting. Painted in 1940 in the beginning of the Second World War, Dali wanted to examine dismay of the war and enlighten the viewer with hope. To the left of the canvas we see a giant canon held up by a crutch.
As I mentioned earlier, crutches are a metaphor that Salvador uses in many of his art works as a symbol for existence and fatality. The canon simply represents the destruction of the war. Firing from the canon into the lonely blue sky is a single white horse. The horse, full of dominating speed, could resemble one of The Four Horsemen from the Apocalypse, as the events occurring in Europe at that time could bear a resemblance to the legendary Apocalypse . Dali expressed the winged victory figure as “Victory born of a broken winga€¦” He also thought of flying and air power as an element of war.
The corpse strung over the tree is really a self-portrait of Salvador Dali, as he often includes self-portraits in his paintings. Resting on the top of the figure are two inkwells, which generally represent the signing of the treaties but Dali often uses them as a sign of sexuality. Devouring the soft melted face are tiny black ants. The ants emphasize they decay and decomposing of the painting. Ants are another common element in his paintings. In the bottom left corner, a cupid figure sits alone. The symbol of purity and innocence is thrown into this painting, horrified of the monstrosity of the destruction.
The cupid resembles a little light but also brings pain into the picture, as it appears like a young child crying in fear. Lastly, in plain view we see a spider, which is a Daddy Longlegs. The black spider is placed in the center on a very light background making it the center of focus. Daddy Longlegs, when seen in the evening, are French symbols for hope. DalA wants to express that amongst all the tragedy; there will always be hope and that is the one thing that can never be stolen from you. “The Andalusian Dog” 1929 Salvador Dali and Luis BuA±uel came together to create a short, 17-minute film in 1929 called, “The Andalusian Dog”.
This experimental movie was intended to shock, horrify and confuse its audience. The purpose of this was to attempt to interplay surrealism into a movie. This short black and white film begins with the most horrific event in order to alarm us with what we did not expect. It is a warning to the viewers that this movie is going to abuse our regular way of seeing. The music accompanying the dramatic, surreal film is so polite that it seems fierce. It brings to mind the Apache dances and speaks to urges rather than expectations.
It is fast paced and suspenseful. The music makes us fear what is going to happen next and question whether the scenes of events will be come more morbid than what we have already seen. The first scene features a man sharpening his razor blade. As a cloud passes the full moon in the naked sky, the man becomes over come with insanity. There comes a close up of a young lady’s face as the man holds her eye open. He then slices her eye with the razor. This was the warning in the movie, telling us that what we are about to see will be absurd and unpleasant.
A man looks at his ant-infested hand. Overwhelmed, he just stares at his hand. The ants in this content are trying to express ‘the pins and needles’ you feel after your hand has fallen asleep. The tingly feeling of blood rushing back to your hand resembles that of ants crawling under skin, according to DalA. The question that was asked many times before making this movie by DalA and BuA±uel was how to express a feeling, visually. A man and woman look from their window to see a crowd of people swarming a severed hand.
The idea of the hand falling asleep is still working here but now instead the people are the ants and they are infesting the hand. Lust over comes the man as he pursues after a young woman. It turns into a game of ‘cat and mouse’ . Finally reaching the lady he begins caressing her breasts, which feel like a female’s buttocks with eyes shut. This is shown by the fading effect in the film, as the lady’s breasts transform to her buttocks. Suddenly, to his back, is attached the remains of a dead donkey, a piano, and two monks. This resembles his ‘baggage’ that he is carrying into the relationship.
The dead donkey is meant to be the basis of desire and this is difficult to understand but the image of this animal is illuminated with the symbols of strength, blood and death. The piano resembles beauty, whether it is inner or outer beauty. The two monks represent the church and religion. Again we find the symbol of the hand falling asleep when the woman shuts the door on the man’s hand. We see ants once again invading his the palm of his hand due to the lack of blood circulating to his hand. It is clearly stated that normal measurements do not exist in this world.
In other words we cannot rely on our normal sense of perception here. We see various devices such as, a measuring tape and a watch, thrown away and made useless. The woman flees and opens another door, which used to lead to another room of the house, but now leads to the beach. She finds another man and they frolic along the beach together to happy ending or rather what we think is a happy ending. We are meant to believe that is the end, but it’s not. The text, “In Spring” appears and we see that the beach has turned into an endless desert and both the lady and her lover are buried in the sand to their chests.
Comparison of Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte There is one quote made by Magritte, which makes him, and Dali seem completely opposite. Magritte explains how his paintings are a mystery and mysteries are meaningless. “My painting is visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures one asks oneself this simple question, ‘What does that mean? ‘ It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable. ” Magritte knows that his paintings give the impression that there is meaning and mystery behind it but that is all a charade to make you think.
The picture has no mystery, for it is what it is and this is what makes Magritte different than Dali. Magritte and Dali have the same style of surrealist painting. They both use all sorts of deformed body figures and imaginary landscapes. Magritte’s paintings although do not seem as complex as DalA’s. I noticed also that Magritte likes to use the lion as a symbol in a few of his paintings, only the lion does not seem to be stalking and observing but seems more domesticated. This might be a sign of strength for the painter as he has domesticated the lion, giving him power.
Magritte changes his style of painting whenever he wants, sometimes using contrasting colors, such as red and green, to fill the painting, whereas Dali usually harmonizes the painting and does not use loud colors but rather softer colors. Comparison of Salvador Dali and Max Ernst Ernst, like Salvador Dali, enjoys painting decaying animals and floating objects. A lot of Ernst’s paintings include only primary or secondary colors, whereas Dali would use a whole spectrum of colors. Like Dali, Ernst places his objects on an imaginary landscape. Ernst uses very basic, simple shapes and this could relate to DalA’s use of devices.
Either than that it does not fully relate to DalA’s complex paintings. These two surrealist painters use two very different methods of painting. Conclusion Dali was a man who was ahead of the average thinker. He tried to enlighten us with his visions of the world. He wrote many books trying to let us into his world and his ideas, yet it is impossible to fully understand the mind of this brilliant, complicated artist. Nobody will ever know what exactly Dali was trying to portray in his paintings. Since he had let his subconscious influence his paintings and I’m sure that he only understands very little of what is going on in his art.
His works leave people wondering and thinking of some sense that must be in the picture. I have tried to make doing so a little clearer by explaining his way of thinking and his symbols within the paintings. I have obtained a more knowledgeable opinion on his pieces of art in relation to his thoughts and his elements in the painting. I am able to identify from which period of his life that his paintings are from by identifying symbols, themes, and style. It is undoubtedly true that Salvador Dali is a unique painter, who takes after no one else.