At eleven oclock this morning in the Loggias Room at the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí
presented its latest acquisition of work by the artist, an oil-on-wood painting entitled Study for Honey is Sweeter than Blood. The presentation was given by Antoni Pitxot, Director of the Dalí Theatre-Museum, and Montse Aguer, Director of the Centre for Dalinian Studies.
The Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí has since 1991 been implementing an intense policy of work acquisitions aimed at filling out the Dalinian universe that is kept behind the walls of the Dalí Theatre-Museum.
The objective of the Foundations acquisitions policy is to maintain the Figueres museums status as the fundamental place for understanding the pictorial evolution, thought and life of Salvador Dalí. And within that evolution we present today a key work in the painters trajectory: his Study for Honey is Sweeter than Blood, dating from 1926.
The work will be exhibited in the Treasure Room of the Theatre-Museum from Tuesday 12 April 2011.
Context of the work
We know from correspondence with Federico García Lorca and other friends of the painter such as Sebastià Gasch that Dalí used to refer to the now-disappeared painting as the Apparatus Forest, while on this oil painting we can clearly read in the lower left-hand corner: Etude pour "Le miel est plus douce que la sang" [sic]. The highly poetical expression of the title takes its inspiration, as Dalí explains in The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, from words used by Lídia de Cadaqués: [
] Lídia began to pluck it, and soon the whole room was covered in feathers. When this operation was over, she cleaned the chicken, and with her fingers dripping with blood, she began to pull out its viscera which she arranged neatly on a separate dish on the crystal table, where I had laid a very expensive book of facsimiles of the drawings of Giovanni Bellini. Observing that I jumped up anxiously to remove the book against the possibility of splashing, Lydia smiled bitterly, and said, Blood does not spot and then she immediately added this sentence, which a malicious expression in her eyes charged with erotic hidden meanings, Blood is sweeter than honey. I, she went on, am blood, and honey is all the other women! My sons
(this she added in a low voice) at this moment are against blood and are running after honey.
This work is also of great interest due to its being the study for a now-disappeared painting called Honey is Sweeter than Blood, dating from 1927 [cat. no. 194]. In the Study we present today we might particularly note the same iconographic features that make the finished work so special: the apparatuses, the severed head, the blood, the rotting donkey, etc., features that refer us back to the painters new aesthetic and in which we can observe the first clear references to Surrealism. This new aesthetic is the one formally announced in some of his articles published in LAmic de les Arts, such as Sant Sebastià or La meva amiga i la platja, and also discussed with his friend the poet García Lorca in the letters they exchanged over that period.
We are likewise aware that Dalís pictorial work cannot be separated from his written work. This characteristic trait of the painters trajectory arose at this very time, while he was gestating Honey is Sweeter than Blood and therefore engaged in this study for that work. These paintings and the text are indicative of a turning point in Dalís art following a period of several years in which he had been experimenting with a broad diversity of modern and contemporary styles.
Honey is Sweeter than Blood and the study for it are thus works that mark a process of stylistic change in which there appear some elements from the previous period, such as the severed heads that reveal to us the stamp of his new classicism, and particularly the influence of Picasso (Table in front of the Sea, 1926 [cat. no. 187]; Still Life by Moonlight, 1926 [cat. no. 196]; Composition with Three Figures. Neo-Cubist Academy, 1926 [cat. no. 171]); objects that become pieces of apparatus and that show Dalís interest in machinism, such as Depart. "Homage to Fox Newsreel", 1926 [cat. no. 154], Still Life by Mauve Moonlight, 1926 [cat. no. 186] or Still Life. Invitation to Dream, 1926 [cat. no. 172]). We also have the initial influences of other contemporary artists such as Joan Miró, Yves Tanguy and particularly Giorgio de Chirico.
An attentive reading of the article Sant Sebastià leads us directly to the interpretation that Dalí attached, particularly, to De Chiricos works. It was they that provided Dalí with the basis for Apparatus and Hand, 1927 [cat. no. 195] and for Honey is Sweeter than Blood and the study made for it. The visual impact is also evident in the apparatuses to be found in these works, as well as in their strong, harsh lighting and dark shadows. The result is this new scenario furnished with elements that have a stylistic affinity with Tanguy and Miró (though not necessarily deriving directly from them). We have those shapes, strange little organisms, rods like needles, fragmented bodies and so forth, evoked in certain passages of Sant Sebastià, thus turning the text and the work into a single unit, into a whole that will become a habitual aspect of the painters work.