Salvador Dali, Figueras, Spain 1904 - 1989 Figueras, Spain (ARCHIVED)

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Salvador Dali, Figueras, Spain 1904 - 1989 Figueras, Spain (ARCHIVED)

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Gala and the Angelus of Millet immediately preceding the arrival of the conic anamorphoses, 1993

Oil on panel 24 x 19 cm

Acquired by the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

In 1929 Dali left Spain to settle in Paris, where he was welcomed by the Surrealists and officially invited to become one of their number. ‘For three or four years’, wrote André Breton, ‘Dali incarnated the Surrealist spirit. his genius made it shine; and this could only be done by one who had not participated in the often ungrateful episodes of its birth’.

Above the open door, in this tiny, jewel-like painting of 1933, hangs Millet’s The Angelus. The praying figures, familiar to Dali from his schooldays, seemed to him to disguise a fierce, erotic energy and thus to become symbols of sexual repression. They were one of his obsessive themes and appear in a number of works of the early 1930s. The distant, smiling woman is Gala, his wife, formerly married to the poet Paul Eluard. It has been suggested that the figure facing Gala is Lenin and the one behind the door is Maxim Gorky. Such an allusion to Marxism would have been typical of the Surrealists at that time. The lobster on the head of the Gorky figure and his shell-like moustache show Dali’s growing interest in the fantastic art of the 16th-century Italian painter, Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

Dali uses his extraordinary dexterity as a painter to represent irrational images with such realism that their validity cannot be questioned. ‘I believe the moment is at hand’, he wrote in 1930, ‘when by a paranoiac and active advance of the mind it will be possible … to systematise confusion and thus help to discredit completely the world of reality.’

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