Thursday, April 6, 2017

Salvador Dalí: Surrealist and Classicist

Fabergé Museum, Saint Petersburg (Russia)
1st April until 2nd July, 2017

The Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí announced that a new Dalí temporary exhibition opened at Fabergé Museum in Saint Petersburg (Russia). It’s devoted to his Surrealist and his Classical production. The show is on view from 1st April until 2nd July. It was previously seen at Palazzo Blu in Pisa, Italy, from 1st October 2016 until 19th February in a version adapted to the Italian audience.

Contents of the exhibition Salvador Dalí. Surrealist and Classicist
The exhibition emphasizes the different periods of the artistic career of Salvador Dalí, from Surrealism and Classicism to the importance of the Italian Renaissance in his work. It includes 145 works ranging from 1934 to 1982: 142 from the Dalí Foundation, one from the Tate Modern in London and two works from Russian private collections. The Foundation loans 22 paintings, 100 photogravures of The Divine Comedy and 20 original illustrations for The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. During the show, the documentary Dalí, the last masterpiece will be displayed, a film produced by the Foundation and executed by DocDoc Films that will allow the public to delve into Dalí’s life and work. Surrealism

The exhibition begins with a selection of surrealist oil paintings (1934-1937) that include elements arranged in an enigmatic landscape of the Empordà region. Through his paranoiac-critical method, Dalí represents his obsessions in the landscape, a landscape that evokes childhood memories, ghostly spectrums, characters hidden or revealed. The landscape is a leitmotif in the work of Dali, an ultra-local element to which Dalí gives a universal value. A good example of which is the painting Enigmatic Elements in a Landscape, included in the show.

Since he was expelled from the Surrealist group at the beginning of the 40s, the Catalan painter adopts a classicist defence for Renaissance. Dalí’s intellectual interests continue to expand like those of a Renaissance humanist. It is in this context that the illustrations for The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini were executed, one of the most influential artists of the Florentine Renaissance whom Dalí liked for his rebel and controversial attitude. The illustrations for The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri were also produced in this period.

The core of the exhibition focuses on unfamiliar oil paintings, four of which are very unknown:

Untitled. After Michelangelo’s “Crouching Boy”;

Untitled. Moses after Michelangelo’s "Tomb of Pope Julius II”,

Untitled. Christ after Michelangelo‘s "The Pietà Palestrina";

Untitled. Giuliano de 'Medici after Michelangelo’s "Tomb of Giuliano de Medici".

These are part of his latest creations of the 80s, when the artist reinterprets Michelangelo’s masterpieces.

By presenting these works for the first time as a stylistic and thematic whole, we are allowed to investigate Dalí’s creative process at that particular moment in terms of technique and style, a period that is largely unknown. We see how his concerns are translated into artistic expression. He is basically in a desperate search for immortality. By reworking Michelangelo’s pieces, Dalí shows, on the one hand, a huge respect for tradition and the past and he, on the other hand, warns about the need to overcome them through constant innovation directed towards contemporaneity.

Dalí and Michelangelo 
The set of paintings inspired by Michelangelo’s creations corresponds to the last period of Dalí. They are works created throughout 1982, shortly before and shortly after the death of his wife and muse Gala, which occurred in June that year. Gala’s true name was Elena Diakonova Ivanovna. Born in Kazan, she was a woman of great mystery and intuition, able to recognize the artistic and creative genius and associated with many intellectuals and artists. Her influence can be seen in the signature of many of Dalí’s works since he signs with both names.

Dalí reinterprets Michelangelos’s characters: he takes them out of their original iconographic context and represents them isolated, providing them with their own strength. Dalí gets inspiration from Michelangelo’s sculptures and paintings and more precisely from the tension of titanic bodies with a lot of muscular strength and colossal structure.

With these works, the artist invites us to take a unique journey in search of his own self, his philosophical, artistic and humanist DNA.

The study on the technical procedures and working methods of the artist confirms that the execution of this set of paintings was fast. In over a year, Dalí painted about 25 works inspired by Michelangelo’s themes, plus 13 others by Velázquez. Antoni Pitxot’s, former director of the Dalí Theatre-Museum, opinion is very accurate, when he describes this particular moment of Dalí in terms of his vitality and creativity: "it’s pure expression, pure communication."

The Divine Comedy 

The Divine Comedy suite consists of 100 color wood engravings created between 1960 and 1964 after 100 watercolors painted by Salvador Dali between 1951 and 1960. More than 3,000 blocks were necessary to complete the engraving process.

In the early 1950’s Salvador Dali was invited by the Italian government to commemorate the birth of Dante, Italy’s most famous poet, by producing a series of illustrations for a full-text, deluxe edition of Dante’s masterpiece, the Divine Comedy. Ultimately, the illustrations were not well received by the Italians, as it was deemed inappropriate for a Spanish painter (rather than an Italian painter) to have illustrated the work of Italy’s greatest poet.

Even though the project was dropped in Italy, Dali and French publisher Joseph Foret continued to pursue publication of the Divine Comedy. Mr. Foret acted as broker between Salvador Dali and Les Heures Claires, a French editing and publishing house that ultimately took full charge of the project.

The Engraving Process

Working in conjunction with Salvador Dali, Raymond Jacquet, with his assistant Jean Taricco, created the blocks necessary for the engraving process. While frequently referred to as “wood” blocks, they were actually a resin-based matrix.

Salvador Dali directly supervised the production of the works and gave final approval for each of the finished engravings.

Once the project was complete, all of the blocks were destroyed. The engraving process required the block be cut, a single color applied, then printed to the substrate (e.g. paper, silk, etc.). The block was then cleaned and cut away for the next color.

As the engravings were made, the image was progressively “printed,” and the block was progressively destroyed. The process required great skill and resulted in works of spectacular beauty which cannot be reproduced in a manner that is not detectable as a reproduction, even to the casual observer.

The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini

More images
In 1945, Dalí was commissioned by publishing house Doubleday & Company to illustrate a new English edition of The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. The technique of these illustrations is watercolour and ink on paper. The artist shows great admiration for Cellini and his skill in many artistic fields. Cellini, who was a sculptor, goldsmith and writer embodies the multidisciplinary artist whom Dalí aspired.