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Grimaldi Forum Monaco opens a major thematic exhibition dedicated to Salvador Dalí
Installation view. © JCVINAJ / Grimaldi Forum Monaco, 2019.

MONACO.- Every summer, the Grimaldi Forum Monaco produces a major thematic exhibition, dedicated to a major artistic movement, to a heritage or civilisation theme, to a public or private collection, or to any subject in which the renewal of creativity is expressed. This provides an opportunity to highlight its assets and its specificities: the offer of a space of 4,000m² to create in complete freedom, making available the most powerful technological tools for the scenography of the event, being able to rely on the best specialists in each field to ensure the scientific quality of its exhibitions.

In line with the great monographs of twentieth-century artists presented at the Grimaldi Forum Monaco (Super Warhol in 2003, Monaco celebrates Picasso in 2013 and more recently Francis Bacon, Monaco and French culture in 2016), the exhibition of summer 2019 is being dedicated to “Dalí, a history of painting” (from 6 July to 8 September), curated by Montse Aguer, Director of the Musées Dalí. This event is supported by the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí.

In this year that commemorates the 30th anniversary of the death of the artist (1904-1989), the Dalí, a history of painting exhibition offers the public an exceptional journey through the painter’s artistic production. The selection brings together paintings, drawings, documentation and photographs dated from 1910 to 1983 and reveals the different stages in the artist's creativity. It not only offers a retrospective view of Dalí's work, but reveals how the painter himself saw himself in the history of twentieth-century painting. The public will be able to discover the various stages of his creativity and recognise the imprint of the different painters who influenced him and to whom he paid tribute. After the first experiments, he immersed himself in the European avant-gardes: Impressionism, Cubism, metaphysical painting and abstract art. Dalí’s work in the surrealist world features such exceptional paintings as The Memory of the Woman-Child of 1929, The Spectre of Sex Appeal and Enigmatic Elements in a Landscape of 1934. The corpus of Surrealist paintings selected for this exhibition shows Dalí’s specific reaction André Breton’s movement. Whether it is the paranoiac-critical method, a system invented by Dalí to make the invisible manifest through a controlled delirium of the mind or the application of the double image, it is the DNA of this artist that makes it possible to decipher his thinking and constitutes his true contribution to Surrealism.

Under the influence of Gala, in the 1940s and ’50s, Dalí devoted himself to the observation of classicism in his paintings, through works by Renaissance artists. The culmination of this passion for classical culture can be found in his literary production and especially in 50 secrets magiques, his treatise on painting published in 1948.

Shortly after, in 1951, Dalí reiterated his admiration for the Renaissance, for classicism and religious painting in the Manifeste mystique. This marked the beginning of a new period of creativity: the mystico-nuclear.

During the 1970s Dalí revealed an interest in American art. His proximity to American mass culture and his friendship with Andy Warhol highlight his affinities with these new styles. Dalí’s desire to exhibit works by hyperrealist artists in his own museum, the Dalí Theatre Museum, is s+ll evident today in the Mae West Hall.

Dalí had an amazing ability to anticipate, and was able to combine tradition and innovation. He was interested in science, the third dimension and op+cal effects and this gave rise to his stereoscopic paintings. In the last stage of his career in the 1980s, Dalí was already ill and his painting is full of evocations and his reflections about death, immortality and his passion for painting.

A final sec+on will be devoted to the influence of the great masters of art history in the artistic analysis of Dalí. In 50 secrets magiques Dalí published a table with a comparative analysis of the most remarkable painters in the history of art. In his classification, Vermeer, Raphael, Velazquez, Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso were the highest-rated painters.

The selection includes, to date, about a hundred works: paintings, drawings and photographs, mostly from the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí in Figueres, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Soqa in Madrid, The Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida and the Brassaï Estate.

The approach adopted for this exhibition is that of a chronological presentation of works covering the period from 1912 to 1983 and which established Salvador Dalí in the history of painting, confirming the fame of a great master in his own right throughout his artistic career, who was inspired by and then broke free of all the European avant-gardes.

The exhibition begins with the presentation of works related to Cadaqués landscapes and family portraits of his father, such as Portrait of father and house at Es Llaner of circa 1920, and of his grandmother. He was then painting in the impressionist manner, as revealed by his early landscapes of Cadaqués. It was a true contemplation of this village by the sea that taught him to be a painter, as evidenced by his first works, which clearly lay bare the soul of this landscape marked by a truly Mediterranean mildness. Cadaqués is the family place where the myths of his double personality are founded. On the one hand, the shadow of his late brother hovers there, a tragedy that in some sense had stolen the artist’s own life, hence the need to impose himself as someone unique. And on the other hand, his admiration for this isolated territory explains how he experience it as somewhere magical; he loved the plain of Empordan, the sea, the rocks, the colour of the light, and all those shadows. These places are present in Dalí’s painting and thinking. And tried to translate this incomparable beauty into his painting. Borrowing from the Impressionist manner, he used pink and vermilion tones in Cadaqués seen from behind of circa 1921, in which his study of the light is en+rely palpable. While portraiture interested him technically, he worked colour and feeling as though for a landscape or a still life.

He also experimented with Cubism, under the influence of Juan-Gris and Picasso. In the years between 1920 and 1926 he received some important European art magazines such as Valori Plastici and Art Nouveau. He was also interested in metaphysical painting. Abstraction also appealed to him, and Four fishermen’s wives in Cadaqués of circa 1928 in the Reina Sofia Museum thus represents an important work in Dalí’s abstract phase.

This was followed by Dalí’s surrealist period; he embraced this movement in 1929 and became one of its leading proponents. His adherence to surrealism led him to produce his first blasphemous works, marked by transgression. The identity crisis from which he suffered resonated as a revolt against the authority of the father. It allowed him to develop his creativity fully, to express his fears and desires, and it is indeed his own humanity that is revealed in his artistic creation. It led to the creation of works that captivate the viewer, like the important The Spectrum of Sex Appeal of 1934, presented in the exhibition. It presents an enigma+c element in a landscape marked by the specific geological features of Cape Creus whose strange rocks inspired the ar+st. Likewise Millet’s Architectural Angelus of 1933 which was a very important work for him throughout life. He began to theorise his paranoiac-critical method in his essay “L'Âne pourri” (“The Roven Donkey”), published in 1930 in La Femme visible, and developed his double images, creating masterpieces of visual ambiguity with Millet’s Angelus as paradigm, about which he wrote in his book “Le Mythe tragique de l'Angélus de Millet: interprétation “paranoïaque-critique”” :

“To bring out the unsuspected drama, hidden under the hypocritical appearance of the world, in the obsessive, enigmatic and threatening simulacrum of the so-called crepuscular and lonely prayer that is officially s+ll called ‘Millet's Angelus’”.

Dalí set himself up as art historian and decided to seek out scientific verification to support his delusional interpretation of Millet’s painting. However, he was repulsed by the surrealist movement, as he was considered too whimsical, and even suffering from mental disorders. Cast out, he continued his research and established a new method of work called “paranoiac-critical” in which his paintings represent dreamlike symbols, fantasies stacked in the form of pictorial puzzles depicted with an irreproachable technique. His greatest works are born from this method.

Dalí's great contribution to surrealism was his paranoiac-critical method, by which he asserted that reality is never as we see it but that it must be investigated further; looking at a picture for a long time is essential to understand all its meaning. At the same time whoever looks at the painting must complete the work himself because his own vision brings a wealth of meaning to the painting he is looking at. It is therefore necessary to contemplate paintings with a great deal of avention and all the senses thus enrich the painting.

The paranoid-critical method developed by Dalí owes much to the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Starting from the concept of paranoia, Dalí developed a method consisting in extracting the conscious elements of the inner world from the paranoiac Dalí materialised this through a double image, creating a representation without transforming its external appearance, and realising a second image so that the viewer looking at them might see both. Thus the supreme application of the paranoiac-critical method of images consists in transforming them by force of observation!

His small-format paintings also date from this period, a little like those of Vermeer. In his surrealist period, he spoke of painting in terms of a hand-painted photograph, requiring the greatest precision and meticulousness.

The photos and drawings presented throughout the exhibition are essential to complete this vision of Dalí. In it, we can discover fantastic drawings such as the Female nude of circa 1941 whose technique confirms the artist as a great master in the technique of the line, in passant evoking Ingres and his vision of the female body, but also the probity of art and drawing.

In 1934, he married Gala, Paul Eluard’s former wife. Gala was his muse, the woman who accompanied him in life and helped him write his texts. She also encouraged the artist’s return to classicism: “It is Gala who has re-inspired the Renaissance of classicism that has been slumbering in my breast since my adolescence, surrounding me gradually almost without my being aware of all the rare architectural documents of the Renaissance”, wrote Dalí in his book, 50 secrets magiques.

Dalí had a deep admiration for great painters such as Vermeer, Raphael, Velasquez, Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, perhaps because he was aware of being a part of the history of art too. He was the first to give his own indications to understand the History of Art through the ‘Dalinian’ prism, illustrated by beautiful paintings like Two pieces of bread expressing the feeling of love, 1940. In the years between 1940 and 1950, Dalí felt very close to Italy; he admired Italian architects like Bramante and Andrea Palladio whose achievements he greatly appreciated. As soon as he was able, he travelled to Italy, keen as he was to immerse himself in a culture that was an essential feature of Europe.

The 1950s and ’60s correspond to the period of nuclear mysticism and large-format works. The bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki deeply affected Dalí, and deeply influenced his work. His goal was to use his extraordinary weapon – mysticism – to understand the forces and the hidden laws of things to take final possession of them. The Dematerialisation near the Nose of Nero of 1947, illustrates this research.

Subsequently he examined American Art, Pop Art and hyperrealism, marked by a meeting with Andy Warhol. This section is illustrated by original photographic prints, and an audiovisual work: Andy Warhol, Dalí Screen Test, 1965-1966, a short, slow-motion camera portrait and some documents such as Andy Warhol’s Interview of 1973 whose cover immortalises Dalí holding a book the cover of which is the portrait of Another important facet of Dalí’s career are his optical illusions and stereoscopic painting.

From the 1960s until the end of his life, Dalí’s interests continued to grow. His fascination with science and new technologies is reflected in the exploration of the languages of the future such as stereoscopy and holography with Dalí Seen from the Back Painting Gala from the Back Eternalised by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected by Six Real Mirrors. Stereoscopic Work, 1972-1973. Apart from the five senses, hyperreality was very important for Dalí because it allowed him to go further than reality. Stereoscopic painting shows us a third dimension, seeking the fourth dimension, combining the sense of perspective with depth. This was the time of a courtly love story at the castle of Púbol, which he offered as a gift to Gala. It was also the refuge of his last years, marked by his struggle against illness and the place in which he declared his love for painting.

In his last years, Dalí focused on the evocations of artists like Michelangelo in such works as Giuliano de Medici after "Giuliano de Medici's tomb" by Michelangelo circa 1982, or Velasquez, whom he deeply admired. Like him, the Spanish painter used to paint on the actual site of the scene. And like him, the fine moustache he sported was worthy of Velasquez’s which figured in his collection of portraits of moustachioed characters. In his studio in Portlligat one can still admire the squared-off reproduction of Las Meninas. He contemplated sickness and immortality through these classics. Dalí knew better than anyone that painting would render him immortal...

The exhibition ends with a series of portraits: a total of forty original photos of the artist, revealing all his concentration and his passion when creating. ! Gala.

They lay bare all the importance of this sacred space, made up of imagination, thinking, analysis, reading and looking. They also illustrate the private dimension, that which was hidden by this painter craftsman and reflected in opposition to his public dimension with the extravagant character seeking to provoke and attract avention. This helps to understand how Dalí worked, how much time – a great deal – he took in his paintings, the concentration he needed. Thus is revealed the resume as Dalí the painter...

This exhibition acquires its greatest significance as it seeks to understand Dalí and the sense of immortality that he obsessively sought. Finally, it presents some illustrations from his treatise on painting, 50 secrets magiques, written in 1948. The book gives an account of his experience as a painter. In it, he gives his ‘recipes’, forming a comparative analysis of the values an artist worthy of the name must have, writing of technique, inspiration, colour, drawing, composition, originality of genius, mystery and authenticity. He added some notes about great masters of painting such as Leonardo da Vinci, Meissonier, Ingres, Velasquez, Bouguereau, Picasso, Raphael, Vermeer, Mondrian ... and himself!

This personal vision of art is necessarily revealing: it is not an official discourse but quite simply his own ‘Dalinian’ approach.

The last part of this history of painting shows the influence of the great classical masters that Dalí integrated or even assimilated in his own creative process. Vermeer inspired his landscape paintings (Phantom cart, 1933), Raphael influenced him with his very academic compositions (Self-Portrait with Raphael’s Neck circa 1921), as did Leonardo da Vinci (Copy of a Rubens copied from a Leonardo, c .1979), while Velasquez, like himself a great Spanish master, also nourished the creative work of Dalí (Untitled. After “The Infanta Margarita of Austria” by Velázquez in the Courtyard of El Escorial, circa 1982) as did Picasso (Figures lying on the sand, 1926). Dalí wanted to be himself remembered as one of the great masters of painting; he wanted to embody its perfect synthesis. And we may agree that he succeeded when we contemplates this œuvre that synthesises all the most important classical influences.

This Monegasque exhibition offers a privilege: that of browsing the history of art in a completely different way, following the new and different artistic paths drawn out by this exceptional artist. It also aims to present a new self-portrait of Salvador Dalí, in like manner to his Theatre-Museum in Figueres.

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